7.13.2016

The Windows 8 Charms Menu

In this way, Windows 10 on a 2-in-1 can't measure up


Windows 8... the mere mention of that operating system triggers PTSD-like flashbacks for many; it was a touch-first operating system loaded onto millions of traditional computers. (That is, those that lack a touchscreen.) For that reason, Microsoft's operating system from October 2012 to July 2015 will live in software infamy. But Microsoft introduced a lot of new ideas in Windows 8 and not all of them were terrible.

Case in point: the Charms Menu. What was it? The Geek Squad describes it as “a combination of the old Control Panel and Search combined with the functionality that allows users to easily share content.” Microsoft used to brag (when not cached, the link redirects to Windows 10 FAQs) that “the Search charm uses Bing Smart Search so you can search your PC, the web, and OneDrive, plus some apps and the Windows Store.” 

"This vestige of Redmond’s forlorn OS should have remained in the Windows 10 tablet mode."

The Charms Menu was a genuinely useful interface mechanism on a touch display. Clearly, pointing your cursor to the top or bottom right-hand corner was unintuitive but this is a vestige of Redmond’s forlorn OS that should have remained in the Windows 10 tablet mode. All devices, touchscreen or otherwise, running Windows 10 have the ability to make the system touch-optimized. The Action Center, which according to Microsoft is “where you'll find app notifications and quick actions,” houses this toggle. 

The Action Center also serves as the successor to the Charms Menu by granting the user quick access to a number of commonly used features including the new Settings app and OneNote. But while it has the same purpose in mind, its execution is flawed. A unified client for incoming notifications is a welcome addition, but Bing Smart Search is now hidden inside the Cortana app, Microsoft's digital assistant.

"A unified client for incoming notifications is a welcome addition."

Moreover, the large and easily accessible Start Button once housed in the Charms Menu returns to its historical location, to much fanfare. Gone too is universal sharing; it can be added to the title bar of a Windows Store app but that responsibility is left up to developers. Sharing capabilities are buried in the ribbon menu of the File Explorer, but Modern UI applications use a different front-end to browse files.

On the whole, Windows 10 is a much more user-friendly operating system than its predecessor. However, no OS is perfect and Windows 10 is no exception. Alas, poor Charms Menu, we hardly knew ye.