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I'm referring to Jakob Nielsen's alertbox from November 19, 2012. He complains about the lack of windows in Windows 8:

Lack of Multiple Windows = Memory Overload for Complex Tasks

One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. "Windows" no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. ... the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed "Microsoft Window."

The single-window strategy works well on tablets and is required on a small phone screen. But with a big monitor and dozens of applications and websites running simultaneously, a high-end PC user definitely benefits from the ability to see multiple windows at the same time. Indeed, the most important web use cases involve collecting, comparing, and choosing among several web pages, and such tasks are much easier with several windows when you have the screen space to see many things at once.

When users can't view several windows simultaneously, they must keep information from one window in short-term memory while they activate another window.

I personally disagree with the opinion, that users really want to see multiple windows at once. Of course at the taskbar of my Windows 7 there are many active applications, documents and websites. But I use them all full-screen mode and just switch between them in the taskbar.

The only case when I drag two half sized windows next to each other is for example if I want to compare two versions the same document or if I want to move files in windows explorer.

However, to my mind for collecting and choosing information on the web, multiple windows are just confusing. Is there an explanation for Nielsen's statement? Are there any usability studies on the use and potential benefits of multiple windows? When the first windows version was published, it was a great benefit to work with multiple applications at all (multi-tasking). But I doubt, that it is a great benefit to distribute lots of small windows on your screen...

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I'd say it completely depends on the scenario. It's not a simple case of "It's good" or "It's bad" –  Captain Jan 2 '13 at 10:25
Short answer: Yes! I hardly ever maximize windows. –  Marjan Venema Jan 2 '13 at 11:09
Also: even with maximized windows you can see multiple windows at once, if you have more than one screen. And for software developers (among others) that is very common. –  Joachim Sauer Jan 2 '13 at 13:17
So apparently you've never seen people use multiple monitors then... –  zzzzBov Jan 2 '13 at 14:20
+1 I'm up voting and disagreeing with the OP. As a power-user, (do I need to add "simultaneous" here?) multiple open windows is the default mode I always work on. And I know at least some who do. –  Kris Jan 2 '13 at 14:35
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14 Answers

up vote 75 down vote accepted

I've always viewed it as a matter of "state" tracking. When I use a computer, I am doing a task, not using a program. This task may be something as simple as check email, and only requires one window open. Or it could be complex, such as design a section of a code project.

In the more complicated case, the task is independent of any individual program. I need to have multiple programs open, such as a web browser, terminal(s), and editor. While I'm doing that, I offload as much thought off onto the computer as possible, so I can concentrate on the task.

Thus, the computer needs to keep track of where my windows are and ease the process of using them all at the same time. Transfer of information between programs should be seamless. Switching focus should be seamless. If I am entering a command in the terminal, and need to look up an argument, I would open the docs in my web browser, and leave it up for reference while I'm typing.

Then, when I have another command to look up, switching over to the "paused" browser and moving around in the docs should not make my terminal disappear. I may need to look back at the history while I'm examining docs.

This is the use case that is destroyed by a single window OS. Any and all tasks the user does that cannot be done in a single monolithic program, or if they do not have such a program, requires that the user keep "state" information inside their head.

Of course, I really should define state. State is things such as:

  • current paragraph
  • open tabs
  • calculator results
  • spreadsheet graphs
  • chat history
  • results of find command

These things all define the current context the user is operating in. They are pieces of the task at hand, and make no sense outside of the task itself. If the computer does not handle these details for you, then the user has to.

Therefore, everything the user wishes to accomplish requires far greater effort expenditure for an annoyance if they do not have a monolithic program to do everything. The monolithic program is a bad idea for a variety of reasons covered elsewhere, leaving us in the place Joel mentions. That is, the user can't get rid of the small annoyances, becomes frustrated, and leaves.

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Thank you, good arguments! –  Anna Prenzel Jan 2 '13 at 14:46
@AnnaPrenzel Your welcome. As a developer, my examples skew that way, but note that any business person you talk to has several different programs open at once to fulfill some business task they are working on. And, this leaves aside entirely the concept of task switching, where you leave multiple windows open on one desktop, and switch to another desktop to change tasks. The computer keeps your entire "state" available for you to switch back to, like having part of your desk for one thing, and using another part for something else instead of getting rid of your old item, which isn't finished. –  Spencer Rathbun Jan 2 '13 at 14:50
To add, regarding annoyances and the single window assumption - a lot can be learned from the Linux community's recent issues with the paradigm switching. When Ubuntu first came out with Unity on its desktop version (not the netbook-specific version), it functioned in an "everything maximized" mode. While this isn't quite the same as the iOS-esque "one window at a time, ever" mode that Win8 leans toward, it operates under the same (IMO, flawed) assumption - that people only use one window at a time, because they can only input into one window at a time. ... –  Shauna Jan 2 '13 at 15:55
... That design decision was so rejected by the community that even the very next version reverted back to "windowed" as the default mode for programs (unless changed the last time it was opened). The lesson learned was that you don't need to maximize the world (unless you're using something like TMux, who in the world would want their terminal window maximized on a 1900x1200 screen?), and that while people may only be able to input into one window at a time, they actually use more than that. –  Shauna Jan 2 '13 at 15:57
FWIW, I have been known to maximize terminal windows on 2560x1440 screens, in the rare case I'm looking at log files with really long lines.... –  Alan Shutko Jan 2 '13 at 18:45
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Yes, people need multiple windows.

For example, a web developer will be looking at 2 windows all the time - a text editor and a browser.

Another more general example, people like to chat with friends using something like AIM or Skype or even facebook, all while watching videos on youtube. That would require 2 browser windows opened simultaneously.

This is called multitasking. And most applications don't have the need to occupy the entire LCD screen in order to use.

And also, I want to make the distinction that "using multiple windows" does not equal to "look at multiple windows."

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Interesting examples; those two uses are natively supported by Windows 8 (provided you only need 2 windows) through the use of a second monitor and snapped mode respectively. I use a lot of windows, but for most users it's probably enough. –  Kit Grose Jan 2 '13 at 11:28
+1, and @KitGrose, Browser + Chat + Game is standard among myself and friends –  Izkata Jan 2 '13 at 15:20
@KitGrose - Why should a user need two monitors just to have, say, a chat window and a browser open (and at least slightly visible) at the same time? –  Shauna Jan 2 '13 at 15:47
Imagine you were doing research and instead of spreading a number of books across your floor all open at the correct page you had them open stacked on top of each other and switched books when you needed to... Now tell me how frustrated you feel. –  Stuart Wakefield Jan 2 '13 at 16:32
I wouldn't necessarily use the term multi-tasking for this either. As a programmer I'm very often using multiple windows at the same time, but I'm working on a single task. Reason for the multiple windows is because this single task requires parallel usage of multiple tools at the same time. And if I have to do full screen switches between them I quickly lose my train of thought. By having them next to each other it's easier to have them "all in my head at once" so to speak. –  Svish Jan 3 '13 at 12:08
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There is an old article I got from the ACM library on Human-Computer-Interaction that provides some useful feedback.

(The ACM library is not very intuitive, but Microsoft have a PDF version of it)

An initial study attempted to demonstrate that users are significantly more productive and more satisfied when carrying out complex, multiple window tasks across larger screen surfaces. In the user study reported, users carried out multiple-step, cognitively loaded tasks on both a 15" and a 46.5" display (using triple projections). Users were significantly faster working on the large display. In addition, all but one participant preferred carrying out the tasks on the larger display surface, and user satisfaction measures were significantly better for the larger display. […] We have also indicated a variety of user interface redesign ideas for the traditional GUI desktop that would better support large display surface users, including designs that leave windows layouts open and available to the user, and better cursor "travel" and visualization techniques. It is our intention to further refine our ideas, including novel window and task management software UI ideas.

The simple answer to your question is- yes, users want multiple windows. Based on research, according to the article, the average user has 4 active windows on screen at any one time. For me personally, I kind of see this question as a no-brainer. When was the last time anyone only used one window?

Microsoft... what were they thinking?

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Sorry it took so long, but the ACM library is not very intuitive. I found a copy of it in Google docs. You will have to scan through the doc to find the exact area, but you can look at 'pg. 15 para 4 Conclusion' to get a taste of what you're looking for. Hope it helps. books.google.com/… –  Josh Campbell Jan 2 '13 at 11:34
I find it priceless that Microsoft is hosting a copy of this document... –  Kevin McCormick Jan 2 '13 at 17:38
For what it's worth, it may be advantageous to keep in mind that Microsoft is pushing for a mouse/keyboard/wire free world. Outside of the UI aspect of Win 8, did anyone really think Microsoft abandoning their greatest development technologies for HTML/CSS3/JavaScript was pure coincidence? Oh, how our children will laugh. –  Josh Campbell Jan 2 '13 at 22:03
@JoshCampbell: To be fair to Microsoft, I think they are trying to survive in a mouse/keyboard/wire free world. The home PC is a dying breed, and Microsoft is trying to get people used to their particular tablet UI. –  Guvante Jan 3 '13 at 0:05
From that quote and skimming the document I think you are significantly misinterpreting it. The comparison is between small and large displays, given multiple tasks. It doesn't read like a claim that people want or are more productive with multiple windows on screen at once. It's not even clear to me that '4 active windows' means on screen at the same time (maybe I missed this). Personally, I think fullscreen makes sense until screens get really big (bigger than average screens now). –  Sam Brightman Jan 3 '13 at 10:14
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I work in a video game studio. Everyone, from programmers to artists, uses two to three screens with multiple applications and/or windows:

  • programmers have a window with the source code, a window with the debugging information (registers, stack trace, debugging messages) and a window with the game running.
  • level designers have a window with the assets manager, a window with the level editor, and a window with the game running
  • artists usually have a window with the assets manager, a window with their creation tool (Photoshop, or a 3D modeler) and a window with the assets viewer
  • cinematic artists have a window with their animation software, a window with the sequencing software, and a window with the resulting cinematic playing

The Unix world has brought us powerful window managers, the rise of the tabbed window managers during the last few years indicates a need to organise windows in an efficient way, but also the need to manage many heterogeneous windows.

But the web as a service broke everything. For many, the browser is the new operating system, and the web browser has brought window management to its simplest and laziest common denominator: tabs, which are the equivalent of fullscreen windows.

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As a Linux user and a web user, I'd like to point out that I often have a few dozen tabs open in Chrome while I also have a few dozen terminals and other windows open across my desktops. I don't think the web has changed this -- I think the OS has. Most websites don't even lay out well when displayed full-screen. –  mikebabcock Jan 2 '13 at 20:02
While I make full use of tabs in pretty much all of may interfaces (from terminals to web browsers, I've even added tab functionality to Windows Explorer when I'm on my work machine), I still have the easy option of making a tab a new window, so that I can view things in a more tiled mode. Likewise, my favorite code editor has the ability to lay out documents in a more grid-like fashion, if I so desire. I think the issue rises when the option to rearrange things is removed or obfuscated. –  Shauna Jan 2 '13 at 20:14
@SamHocevar Many people drag tabs between browser instances when they need side by side viewing, or drag a tab off the current instance to create a new instance. In this respect they have the same UI capabilities as side by side document instances (cut and paste, click to focus, etc). I would like very much like these capabilities added to the popular document editors (word, libre-office). –  Quaternion Jan 3 '13 at 2:01
@SamHocevar - Windows (even before 8) is unique in its lack of focus-follows-mouse behavior. I can't count the number of times I've accidentally scrolled the "active" window on my Win7 machine, because I'm used to the Linux/Mac focus-follows-mouse behavior. –  Shauna Jan 3 '13 at 13:51
@SamHocevar - I'm talking about out of the box capabilities, though TXMouse looks interesting. The fact that such capability requires changing the registry either manually, or through a third party script, and the fact that it's undocumented, says a lot about Microsoft's valuation of it, though, I think. This is one of those features that is invisible to those who have it, but missed when it's taken away from them, and a revelation to those who didn't have it and stumble upon it in a different environment. –  Shauna Jan 3 '13 at 14:48
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Yes, people do really want to look at multiple windows/monitors/screens at once. For various reasons.

Working on a screen while monitoring something else,

security personnel monitoring multiple devices/networks/places,

stock trading,

stck trading software

flying an airplane (I guess a pilot needs the information available always, not through clicking and restoring windows from the background)

F-15 cockpit

or just because you are the vice president of the USA.

Al Gore using 3 + 1 monitors

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Interesting as those pictures may be, they don't really prove anything. I could just as easily do a google images search for people looking at full-screen applications on a single monitor. –  JonW Jan 2 '13 at 16:46
@JonW: That would prove that there also people that like looking at single monitor/window:) –  ypercube Jan 2 '13 at 16:49
I believe the pilot should have to toggle between hundreds of individual gauges which are all 2 square meters in dimension. –  NTDLS Jan 2 '13 at 20:33
@JonW: It proves that there are users for whom multiple windows are essential. Showing pictures of users who don't use multiple windows would not change that. I'm a coder, I have three monitors at work, and I have tons of windows open at any given time... multiple consoles, Explorer windows, documentation, web windows, text editors, etc. I prefer to have apps full screen when I can, simply because I hate to waste screen space, but I often need to have multiple windows open at once. –  Mud Jan 3 '13 at 8:43
@JonW: the original question being "are multiple windows unhelpful", the images above are relevant, as they provide counterexamples to the general sentiment expressed in the questions, that multiple windows are never any good. –  boisvert Jan 3 '13 at 11:19
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For content consumption, it may not be that important since the user is going to be focused on the content they are consuming. This is why such an interface works well on content consumption devices like tablets. For actually getting work done however, it is frequently critical to have multiple windows open in parallel. Looking at my desktop right now, I have 4 or 5 different windows showing at this moment.

To draw a real life parallel, it is kind of like asking why we need desks. If all a user ever needed was one piece of paper at a time, we could get rid of desks altogether and replace them with notebooks. The simple fact is people need to quickly reference information and compile it elsewhere. This means multiple "windows" on the screen at a time to best serve that need.

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Or for an even simpler parallel, watching a television show on one monitor and while using a computer / tablet closer at hand. We do it all the time, without even thinking too hard about it. –  Rachel Keslensky Jan 3 '13 at 15:17
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I would hope that it is not controversial to say that multiple on-screen windows are extremely important or even essential for many computer tasks. For web-browsing tasks as well, especially with how many tasks can now be performed via a web browser, there are certainly many cases where seeing multiple browser windows at once is important to the user.

But you asked specifically about "collecting and choosing information on the web." Nielsen included "comparing," and comparing pretty clearly can benefit from side-by-side viewing of multiple windows. If you are only talking about the activities involved in performing searches, reading articles, viewing media, and collecting URLs for reference, then I would also be surprised to discover any benefit to multiple windows being viewed at once. Certainly you can imagine a user wanting peripheral activities to be on-screen simultaneously (such as an IM, music player, or the half-ignored web conference), but the task of "collecting and choosing information" itself doesn't strike me as one that benefits from multiple on-screen windows.

Addendum: Nielsen referenced a decade-old article which is summarized as "users' most important Web tasks involve collecting and comparing multiple pieces of information, usually so they can make a choice." So he seems to be implying that this most important activity is specifically the kind of activity that benefits from side-by-side comparison of collected information.

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I am always amazed at people who think their way of using a computer is the only way there is. Having several windows side by side can be useful and productive. And in some user cases, it's not only "nice", it's vital.

proofreading a translation: Source on one side, translation on the other. Working with one window at a time is unworkable.

Programming: having a code window and the class definition or language reference side by side.

Web dev: browser window, code window, css window and js window... it's so much easier that way.

3D design: different views and code windows by default

Video/sound editing: No kidding. You can't work professionally without at least 2 monitors.


There are tons of valid user case requiring the use of multiple windows at the same time and if Windows 8 really removed that option (which I find hard to believe), there is no way I am upgrading to that cr*p.

I personally disagree with the opinion, that users really want to see multiple windows at once.

Well, look at the answers posted on that page and think again. Everyone here is an user. Does it looks like we want to see multiple windows at once?

Disagreeing is nice, but it doesn't change the facts.

Edit: Oh, and how could I forget! Did you know that some people still use "drag and drop" across windows and that a number of applications are explicitly made to work that way?

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You can perfectly well do professional audio editing with only one (large enough) monitor – but only if you have a nice big physical mixing console... –  leftaroundabout Jan 3 '13 at 13:24
Windows 8 did not remove the ability for "classic" applications to use a desktop and multiple windows, but their shiny "new and improved" Metro interface only allows full screen or (1/4)/(3/4) split horizontal for a side bar. –  AJ Henderson Jan 3 '13 at 15:45
@leftaroundabout yeah, but that kind of defeats the point because you are not actually controlling the editing from the window. And if a screen is big enough and the software allows a MDI display, it's the same deal. –  Sylverdrag Jan 3 '13 at 16:32
@AJHenderson Thanks. That makes more sense. Are there any serious apps in metro or is it just glitter and gadgets for now? –  Sylverdrag Jan 3 '13 at 16:34
@Sylverdrag - There are some I think, but I haven't actually bothered to use it that seriously yet. It's mostly Microsoft's way of trying to push the Windows Market so that they can compete with Apple's vertically integrated market. –  AJ Henderson Jan 3 '13 at 16:47
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Even if a case could be made that people only use one window at a time, they do switch windows, and one of the quickest/easiest ways to switch windows (or modes) is to click on another window, which is only possible if the other window is (at least partially) visible. The overlapping-mouse-selectable-windows model is so useful, versatile and easy to learn that it's survived for 40 years. And beyond the rapid task switching that's possible, the overlapping windows is somewhat metaphorical to papers on a desk and the sense of location (word processer here and web browser there) is comfortable and efficient, and arguably intuitive.

Many of us have worked with pre-GUI systems, having to switch between an editor (taking up the whole screen) and the command line screen (taking up the whole screen) and other things (taking up the whole screen), so the one-screen-at-a-time approach has been tried and if not rejected, relegated to niche use. Multiple non-overlapping windows, and many other windowing models have also been tried with limited success. Today's common overlapping windows model has survived, flourished, and dominated.

Microsoft will definitely be rethinking their one-screen-at-a-time model.

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Simply put, the human brain is more effective when it can visualise (in spacial reference terms) the presence of different states while working.

This does not mean that the user will be physically looking at both states simultaneously, but needs to be aware of them.

The question is, where to draw the line of what a "state" is defined as. Can "state" be used to define something as top-level as an entire window?

Usually, states are referred to as smaller quantifiable elements, such as paragraphs and words (And even characters) within a document. Without spacial reference between the other paragraphs, words and letters, it would be very difficult to remember where you are, and what is happening.

Without spacial reference between windows, could this also be the case? I guess only time will tell, as Microsoft Windows 8 isn't going to change any time soon.

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Thank you, your answer reveals some interesting aspects. –  Anna Prenzel Jan 3 '13 at 14:40
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There are lots of tasks which require two simultaneous views (e.g. typesetting sheet music from a scanned PDF, debugging a software etc.). If the two views are not contained in one single application, or it does not support view docking, it is necessary to have multiple windows next to each other.

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I think the article is overlooking one crucial aspect: Microsoft does not force you into using the Metro environment. Aside from the start screen, which I find much more useful than the old start menu, a typical Windows user will not interact or otherwise, will not do anything productive within the metro environment mainly because:

1) Metro is not aimed at replacing the desktop. As far as Windows 8 (on desktop PCs) is concerned, the Metro environment is there just to bridge the other devices (tablet, xbox, windows phone) with your desktop, which is the main purpose of Metro.

2) Touchscreen will never be as productive as the mouse. Never. The mouse can not be used at full potential within Metro, because Metro is a touchscreen interface before everything. Mouse support is there to not upset the overwhelming majority of uses who do not have touchscreen.

3) Every productivity tool and anyone who wants to be productive will use the desktop instead. Metro apps have a lot of limitation on what they can do and there are things the API does not even allow you to do, which can be achieved in a blink of an eye in a desktop application.

4) "Most people" who use a computer are not there to do development. As far as developers would like to think, they are in minority.

5) Above all, Metro is aimed at doing trivial things (check email, chat with someone, waist your time on facebook, watch videos, listen to music). Everything that is about productivity stays in Desktop, where you can easily have multiple windows.

6) speaking of multiple windows. The main problem is, that even if you have 3+ windows opened, you do not look at them at the same time. You can't. Unless you have 2 more heads. That being said, we mostly switch between windows on desktop, or, if possible, use more than 1 monitor, as the example was given before. Metro does not force you into using a single Window. There are more windows opened there for you, and you can easily switch between them with the Windows + TAB shortcut.

Morale of the story: Yes, people tend to use more than 1 window in their activities when wanting to be productive, however, they can not look at more than one window at a time. You have to switch between them. The only issue that arrives with metro is that it takes a bit more to get used to switching.

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addressing point #6 specifically, you can look at more than one window at once. Many clerical people have more than one document open, that they need to merge information form. They get very fast at this task. Their eye sweeps back and fourth taking information in combining the two screens effectively into one. There are studies showing close ups of the human eye when reading english. The path the eye takes is not linear but is actually quite complex. People can read with proper inflection not having read the passage before, the eye needs to reach ahead to grab punctuation. –  Quaternion Jan 3 '13 at 2:14
Having more than one window opened at a time does not mean you look at them at the same time. Even if you see them all, your brain only focuses on one window at any given moment. That being said, your example is the perfect one for switching "back and forth" between them,. –  mihaiconst Jan 3 '13 at 13:19
What my argument was addressing was that given the range the eye jumps when reading simple English it can easily merge two windows that are laid out close. You'll notice how people get uncomfortable reading web sites that flow across the entire screen, I think this is because there is a limit to the distance of this tracking, but there I'm digressing a bit. The time the eye takes to merge them is the same as reading normal English and thus no greater than if the window was the same or not, requiring some gesture to switch windows creates a very significant slow down, at least a magnitude. –  Quaternion Jan 3 '13 at 19:21
"Having more than one window opened at a time does not mean you look at them at the same time" but you can USE them at the same time. Your eye cannot focus on multiple windows at once, but your brain can. The very common example is reading form one window, and inputting to another window. Having multiple windows on screen in static positions makes it easy to glance at multiple information displays, and detect and respond to changes, without interrupting your primary workflow. –  whitehat101 Jan 4 '13 at 16:47
Your argument is kinda invalid because: we have copy paste (nobody will read on one screen and manually copy what you read on the second, unless you specifically can't copy paste due to security reason, but even so,these can be overridden with basic effort). You can also switch between windows very easily in Metro (as in you are not forced into having only one window opened at any given time), which by itself invalidates the whole article, on top of that, Metro does not have any productivity tools in it, only entertainment, thus the argument is pointless. –  mihaiconst Jan 6 '13 at 10:11
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My answer might be a little offtopic, but I was a little confused about Nielsen statement with windows in Windows 8. Because you can see multiple windows at once, even browser tabs!

Nielsen tested Windows RT (Runtime) which is a melted down version for tablets or laptops without Intel and lacks of some features. This Win RT won't run developer tools like Visual Studio or Photoshop because they mostly need an Intel or AMD for processing. Even Office is stripped down in Win RT as far as I know.

So, for me its confusing that Nielsen speaks with this setting about power users using Win RT. In my opinion Win RT is supposed to be a consumer OS only - like tablets or smartphones. But I would never complain about or miss multiple windows on smartphone, do you?

So, actually it got me and I went out to my next electronic market and did a test myself. Here are some pics as I think you are interested in Windows windows behaviour as well.

Pic1 Full Version Win8 / Desktop View / Browser Tabs / Single Screen enter image description here

Pic2 Full Version Win8 / Modern (Metro) UI View / Browser Tabs / Single Screen enter image description here

Pic3 Full Version Win8 / Splitscreen (Left Desktop, right Modern UI) / Browser Tabs / Single Screen enter image description here

The small part has a fixed width of 320 px. And if you look at Responsive Websites it will rearrange for it ;) Here its offline.

Pic4 Full Version Win8 / Splitscreen (Left Desktop, right Modern UI) / Browser Tabs / Single Screen enter image description here

Only these small desktop tab views are visible. If you click on it, the screen changes to Pic3 layout.

Pic5 Full Version Win8 / Splitscreen (Left Desktop, right Modern UI) / Browser Tabs / Dual Screen enter image description here

This was odd for me: You have the small split panel in the middle surrounded by desktop, but it's atop of it.

Pic6 Full Version Win8 / Splitscreen (Left Desktop, right Modern UI) / Browser Tabs / Dual Screen enter image description here

And also here, the half visible desktop looks somehow strange. As far as I could see, the Modern UI overlays Screen1 only.

Pic7 Full Version Win8 / Modern (Metro) UI View Fullscreen only left! / Browser Tabs / Dual Screen enter image description here

If you click into the second screen (desktop view) Modern UI will disapear and you get the classical two screen desktop mode.

Next days, I will upload some testpics of the Win RT as well, if you like. Edit: I've been in the shop again and looked at a Win RT touchpad and its actually the same behaviour. Seperate tabs on desktop view and nested tabs and fullscreen chromeless on Modern UI ("The UI Formerly Known As Metro").

Why can this happen? May be because:

  1. Nielsen tested the Win8 developer preview. I also had installed one in autumn 2011 and in this version the browser was always fullscreen and chromeless (Pic2). Even in the desktop mode.
  2. Or Microsoft got this review first and considered these issue as so important, that they changed the browser behaviour on desktop mode.
  3. Or Nielsen's report wasn't written clearly enough to ensure one would understand they tested Modern UI only.
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Thank you, the pictures are very interesting and insightful. I also like more pictures :-) –  Anna Prenzel Jan 8 '13 at 11:07
@AnnaPrenzel I added Win RT behaviour - its actually the same (Pic1 to Pic4) ;) –  FrankL Jan 8 '13 at 13:31
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If having multiple windows / screens at once wasn't important, this software wouldn't exist: http://mizage.com/divvy/

Someone, somewhere, wanted this thing to exist, to the point that they coded it. In plain old "web browsing mode" (like I'm doing now!), I have a twitter stream on one side and my web browser in the other.

Besides, we're ignoring an important point. Our understanding of visual interfaces already presumes that users can handle multiple modalities! This is how we can stand to have a status bar with the title in it, tabs, and address bars full of favicons, bookmarks, dedicated search... not to mention that period where folks had sidebars and frames on their sites!

It's not like we've all forgotten how to use Windows XP here -- we've been trained on this stuff from birth, and even things like tablets are taking advantage of this to encode small amounts of "visual ambience" whether it's something as simple as signal strength to including android widgets that may as well be full-screen apps writ small.

If we didn't want it (even only within a small subsection of users), it wouldn't continue to exist.

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