I had a hard drive fail in a couple-year-old ThinkPad this week, so I decided to use the opportunity to install Windows 8 on a completely clean system. The installation was painless except for a bit of difficulty in getting Wi-Fi working. But there was one problem. The system was annoyingly going to sleep after too short an interval.
I’ve changed this setting dozens of times on previous versions of Windows. In Windows 7, you select Control Panel on the start menu, choose Power Options, and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.” This works, albeit in a clunky way, in Windows 8. You open Desktop, bring up the Charms bar, select the Settings charm, and click Control Panel. It takes a few extra clicks and is not at all intuitive, but it’s not too bad once you have figured it out.
But it seems to me that if Metro–or whatever Microsoft wants us to call it–is the user interface of the future, there ought to be some way to perform a basic function like this without falling back on the desktop. This is especially true on a Windows 8 tablet, where the touch-unfriendliness of the Desktop becomes a real issue.
The best I could do to stay in Metro was: From the Start screen, bring up the Charms bar and select the Search charm. Pick Settings as the search domain and start typing “sleep.” “Change when the computer sleeps” pops up; click it and the control panel opens. Of course, at this point, you are back in Desktop. Again, this method to perform a simple task seems totally unintuitive, especially since if you type “screen” or “display” in the search box you are not offered the sleep option.
This is just one more example of how Windows 8 often feels like two operating systems roughly bolted together. If you could work consistent in one of the UIs, say Desktop on a conventional laptop and Metro on a tablet, Windows 8 wouldn’t be bad. But if there’s a way to avoid jumping back and forth (without resorting to third-party UI modifications), I haven’t found it. And it makes Windows 8 a trying experience.