Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top Ten Things I Miss in Windows

There is an old saying that goes "you can't miss what you never had" meaning that for those who have never had something of these things they will have no idea what they are missing out on. Typically I use Ubuntu or some Linux flavor as my operating system for every day tasks, however as most techs know using Windows is unavoidable at times. (Whether it be because I am fixing someone else's machine, at work/school, or queuing up some Netflix watch instantly on my home system) That being said the following are the top ten features/programs I find myself grumbling about/missing the most when I am working on the Windows platform:

10.) Klipper/Copy & Paste Manager - I use this one alot when I am either coding or writing a research paper for school. More often than not I find I have copied something new only to discover I need to paste a link or block of code again from two copies back. Having a tray icon where I can recall the last ten copies or so is mighty useful.

9.) Desktop Notifications - This is something that was first largely introduced in Ubuntu 9.04 and something I quickly grew accustomed to having. Basically it is a small message (notification) the pops up in the upper right hand corner of your screen for a few moments when something happens in one of your programs (a torrent finishes, you get a new instant message, ect.) or you adjust the volume/brightness settings on your system.

8.) "Always on Top" Window Option - This is something I find useful when I am instant messaging while typing a paper, surfing the net, or watching a movie on my computer. Essentially what it does is make sure that the window you have this option toggled on is always at the top of your viewing regardless of what program you have selected/are working in. It is useful because it allows me to read instant messages with out having to click out of something else that I am working on.

7.) Multiple Work Spaces - When I get to really heavy multitasking on a system having multiple different desktops to assign applications to is a god send. It allows for better organization of the different things I am working on and keeps me moving at a faster pace.

6.) Scrolling in the Window/Application the Cursor is Over - This one again is mostly applicable when some heavy multitasking is going on (but hey - its almost 2010, who isn't always doing at least three things at once right?). Basically in Ubuntu/Gnome desktop when I use the scroll on my mouse (whether it is the multi-touch on my track pad or the scroll wheel on my USB mouse) it will scroll in what ever program/window my mouse is currently over instead of only scrolling in what ever application I have selected.

5.) Gnome-Do - Most anyone who uses the computer in their everyday work will tell you that less mouse clicks means faster speed and thus (typically) more productivity. Gnome-Do is a program that allows you to cut down on mouse clicks (so long as you know what program you are looking to load). The jist of what it does is this: you assign a series of hot keys to call up the search bar (personally I use control+alt+space) and then you start typing in the name of an application or folder you want to open and it will start searching for it - once the correct thing is displayed all you need to do is tap enter to load it up. The best part is that it remembers which programs you use most often. Meaning that most times you only need to type the first letter or two of a commonly used application for it to find the one you are looking for.

4.) Tabbed File/Folder Viewing - Internet Explorer finally got tabs! Why can't the default Window's explorer for viewing files/folders join it in the world of twenty-first century computing? Tabs are very useful and are a much cleaner option when sorting through files as opposed to having several windows open on your screen.

3.) Removable Media Should Not Have a Driver Letter - The system Windows uses for assigning letters to storage devices was clearly invented before flash drives existed and I feel it works very poorly for handling such devices. It is confusing to new computer users that their removable media appears as a different drive letter on most every machine (and even on the same machine sometimes if you have multiple drives attached). A better solution is something like Gnome/KDE/OSX do: have the drive appear as an icon on the desktop and have the name of drive displayed not the drive letter (its fine if the letter still exists - I under stand the media needs a mount point, just it adds confusion displaying this letter instead of the drive name)

2.) Hidden Files that are Easy/Make Sense - I love how Linux handles hidden files. You simply prefix your file name with a "." and the poof its gone unless you have your file browser set to view hidden folders. I think it is goofy to have it setup as a togglbe option within the file's settings. Beyond that Windows has "hidden" files and "hidden" files to further confuse things.

1.) System Updates that Install/Configure Once - I've done more than my fair share of Windows installs and the update process it goes through each time irks me beyond belief. The system downloads and "installs" the updates, then it needs to restart. Upon shutting down it "installs" the updates again and then proceeds to "configure" them. Then once it comes back online it "installs" and "configures" the updates one last time. Why? On Ubuntu the only update I need to restart for is a kernel update - even then most times I stick with my older kernel most times unless I have a specific reason for changing to the new one.

0.) Wobby Windows - This one doesn't effect productivity or use-ability like the other ten, but I must say after using mostly Ubuntu for the last year and a half not having the windows wobble when I drag them around the screen is a huge kill joy.

I'm aware that a few of my above mentioned things can be added to Windows through third party software- however like I said most times when I am using Windows it is at work, school, or for a few moments on a friends system. Meaning I'm not about to go installing extra things on them/changing configurations.

Anyone else have some other key things/features they miss when using the Windows platform when coming from else where?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Gnome-Do: try launchy.

  2. oh man, 6) for sure! when i've got a terminal and a doc with instructions and a webpage. i wanna scroll all of them!

  3. I miss having a half decent shell and UNIX based tools. Especially when programming in Windows. The search sidebar just doesn't cut it when looking for a file or looking inside multiple files without opening them.

    Also, it is great that most distributions ship with a package management tool for easy of program installation and updating.

  4. Alt+F2, the lancelot launcher in kde4 and the always on top window feature (and generally better window managment under

    I can execute firefox from Alt+F2 faster than finding it in the start menu and I like the way lancelot launches the menu from a mouse hover, in windows I look like a newb sitting there with my mouse for a few seconds before I remember to click on the start button

  5. 5) Gnome-do
    You must be kidding right ?
    Since Vista, the exact same thing is built-in, and the shortcut isn't a 3 keys shortcut, it's just about openning the Start Menu, so the Window Key will do fine.

  6. Many of these things can be solved with add-ons to Windows. However, I don't use most of those add-ons due to the fact that those add-ons take resources. I find Windows to be resource-intensive enough.

    I do miss multiple workspaces for Windows. Microsoft has a Power Toys implementation for XP that I haven't tried yet.

    I use Cygwin for UNIX-like tools plus Emacs. These two additions to Windows allows me to be much more productive when I'm working in a Windows environment. I don't know if either works for Windows/Vista or Windows/7 since I use the tools on Windows/XP.

    Some applications implement an 'Always on Top' capability, but most don't. I think that this option would be useful when IM'ing someone while talking about code or helping someone with a computing task.

  7. Notification is one of the best from last 2 releases......

  8. Bang on. I totally agree with the points you've mentioned.

    I wanted to add ALT+left click to move the windows. Extremely handy to quickly move the window away or put it in focus where you need it. I keep doing it in Windows and then realize that I'm not on my system.

    I use parcellite instead of klipper and no wobbly windows. Talking about workspaces, if you don't use compiz and use metacity (with composting enabled for special effects), then you can drag your windows to another workspace from the taskbar only. No need to right click on the title bar or to ALT+right click and select the workspace.

  9. I miss KDE when using Windows. I miss KDE's KRunner ([alt][f2] launcher thing) and its capabilities. I miss KDE's awesome KIO-slaves for access to network file systems with smb:/ and sftp:/ and others. I miss KDE's great apps. I miss, in addition to Always On Top, the other settings I can do with KWin such as assign an app to always use a specific desktop, or placement. I miss the hightlight-to-copy, middle-click-to-paste that X has. I miss the great command line that Linux has.... yeah there is a lot I miss when on a Windows machine. One of many reasons I avoid them!

  10. You forgot to mention:

    1) useful applications pre-installed

    2) system utilities which do NOT time out after 60 days. This one is my favorite, when someone tries asking me ("computer guy") why their CD burner or photo manager "stopped working"... takes a look... hmm, a dialog box writtein in English, saying you need to purchase this software now that the trial ended.


  11. I use VirtuaWin on my Windows computer to fix both 8 and 7. Yes, it is a third-party add-on, but having those abiliities more than makes up for any resources it uses. Granted, it isn't perfect (sometimes the program moves desktops when I don't want it to), but I couldn't use Windows without it anymore.

    Oh, and the XP PowerTool provided by Microsoft is a joke. Yes, you can get four desktops, but you have two choices.... either don't move your programs from one desktop to another or have all of your programs on all of your desktops.

  12. I miss the 'click window header with middle button' feature that sends the window to the back, behind all the others.

  13. Replace gnome-do with krunner and I'd sign my name to such a list wholeheartedly. I suppose I'd show my geekiness by adding a usable command-line to the mix (installing bash on Windows via cygwin is nice, but doesn't magically make Windows easy to operate by CLI).

    I'm not sure I agree about the hidden file thing. File attributes seems like a cleaner way to handle things like that. But hey, dotfiles were first, and at least they don't require the filesystem to support the attributes, so it's not without advantages.

  14. Add to this list the scads of useful features that kde4's desktop effects includes (though I have now switched that off and started using Compiz) things like shading, window grouping, the many different ways to change the opacity at a click, shelf, etc.

    On top of all that, it is so useful to be able to create a real quick wrapper in bash, ksh, whatever for a system utility just to see what kinds of parameters are being passed in; it takes just a couple of minutes.

    When using Windows for work, it just irks me that I can't have just the slightest bit of control over my environment like I can in Linux.

  15. oh, and I can't believe I forgot krunner! I find it so useful that I created my own runner and can easily think of many more things that would be nice to have with an ALT-F2 and a few keystrokes that return back whatever information I need. I really find kde4 and Linux in general so productive over Windows that I work with day in and day out.

  16. When I look at mythTV in a small window as "Always on Top" while surfing and I need to see something covered by the mythTV window, I just double click the window title header bar to "shade" or pull it up so I can see what is under the window and then double click the header again and have easy...

  17. *IF* I am forced to use MS Windows for anything, I have absolutely NO confidence in anything secure. That is something that I'd personally say "I miss in MS Windows", however, it's never been there, and apparently, never will be in there.

  18. What I miss in MS Windows is Linux.

  19. I'll second virtuawin, at least on xp it worked. Slow and clumsy but it worked better than nothing.

    And 6 - is that 'sun mouse'/'focus follows mouse', there's a registry setting for that I found when I was using xp, which was thankfully some time ago (search).

    I missed bash the most, but cygwin fixed that.

  20. 1) Middle-clicking title-bar to send window to bottom/back

    2) Window-shading to "roll-up" or "unroll" a Window.

    3) "Unix-mode" window-focusing -- being able to type into a window that is partly or mostly behind another window which I'm referencing (and not force that window to the top by trying to type into it).

    4) Not worrying about "drive-by" malware downloads and exploits, or that merely previewing a possibly dubious e-mail will compromise my system...

    B Swiss

  21. Most people don't remember that nvidia drivers used to come with multiple workspaces extensions a while back (i think it was around v28 for windows) semitransparent windows and much more. I thought it was a genius move, but apparently the guys at Redmond didn't think it was worthy of development. Every app wanted to be placed in the first workspace anyways .. and multiple screens just added to the mess.

  22. I second the "Gnome-do you must be kidding comment." Vista's start search feature is possibly one of the best things MS has done recently. Hit ONE key, start typing, ENTER, bam, your program is running.

    If you're still on XP though, I feel's so weird using it at work, and forgetting where to find the shortcut in the jumbled mass of the start menu "all programs" list.

    They use to mimic that functionality in openSUSE's KDE kicker (which was still not quite as good as the Vista version, since it couldn't search your files), but now it's impossible to make a "meta" key do anything by has to a combination. You can get more or less the same effect, just having to use an extra key, but somehow it doesn't feel quite the same. Alt+F2 is kind of awkward, so I rarely bother to use it.

    The main thing I miss from KDE when I'm using Windows is the wallpaper slideshow. (I use a sidebar gadget that sort of does the same thing, but I usually end up disabling the sidebar to conserve resources.)

    It's always the little things...