Windows 8 Metro Apps Need Close Buttons Too

Just as regular Windows 8 desktop apps, simply suspending them won’t do

By on September 27th, 2011 19:31 GMT

Early adopters that have played with the first public preview Build of Windows 8, whether on the Samsung Windows Developer Preview PC or their own test machine, have undoubtedly tried to close a Metro application, and found out that it’s not as easy as it seems.

Looking at the feedback shared on the new Windows Dev Center, it’s obvious that I’m not the only one missing the desktop mechanism for closing down programs.

“Exit Developer Preview Apps (aka Closing Metro Apps)” is the most popular forum post in the Windows Developer Preview: General OS questions category in terms of views, and I think it would have gathered input from even more early adopters running Windows 8, had it not been closed.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft released Windows Developer Preview, a pre-Beta release of Windows 8, namely Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3). At BUILD, the software giant also handed out some 5,000 units of the Samsung Windows Developer Preview PC to participants.

But regardless of the device on which testers are running Windows 8 pre-Beta, there’s only one way to close Metro apps for good. Users need to start the good old, albeit overhauled, Task Manager which still ships as a part of the traditional desktop in Windows 8, and then get rid of opened Metro applications by selecting each one and hitting End Task.

This process is tedious, and unnecessarily complex. Putting users through the pain of going to the Task Manager every time that they want to close a Metro app is easily avoidable by equipping such programs with a Close button.

It’s simple to understand what the Redmond company is doing, just by looking at alternative form factors that are available on the market today and their operating systems. Closing down applications is not really that big of a deal.

I don’t miss this feature on my smartphone, and I’m not sure that I even want it either. It feels natural to me to use a certain app, then go back to the main screen, launch another program, and then do it all over again.

Windows 8 does this with Metro apps. Whenever the user fires up a new application, any other Metro apps are pushed to the background and into suspend mode, which means they’re not using any resources, while for all purposes intended, still not being closed down.

I don’t have an issue with this mechanism per se. I believe that if users want to have one or two active programs, and a bunch of Metro apps suspended, but ready to resume in an instant, they should.

But going back and forth simply seems unnatural to me when I’m using Windows 8. So I also believe that Microsoft should supply an easy mechanism for closing down Metro apps when they’re no longer needed.

I want to share a bit of my own experience. The way I see it, navigation between Metro apps is the biggest problem.

When I got to play with the Samsung Windows 8 Developer Preview PC, I treated it, well, as I would any PC, and this means that I was multitasking just as I normally am. So I would very quickly end up with a number of Metro apps opened simultaneously.

Swiping my fingers sideways from the left hand side of the NUI Windows 8 device, was the easiest way to navigate between apps, only that it took me to the last app I opened, even if it was suspended.

Repeating the gesture again and again permitted me to effectively circle through all opened Metro apps. And this is the caveat of the system. It meant that on several occasions I had to revisit apps that I was no longer using, or wanted to use, just because they were just sitting there, suspended, between the apps that I was running.

Let’s say you open a Tweeter Metro app, then play nine games and then Internet Explorer 10. You’d have to resume all of the nine games in order to get from the Metro app you’re using to IE10, only because there’s no way to tell any of the applications you’re not using that you don’t want them to remain suspended.

There should be a way, and an easy one. And Microsoft could perhaps also consider a better mechanism to streamline navigation between Metro apps when multitasking.

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102 Milestone 3 (M3) is available for download here.

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