Windows 9: Goodbye, Charms bar, hello virtual desktops?

The Windows 9 reports keep filing in and boy oh boy does this upcoming release sound the like modern OS Windows fans have been waiting for.

Reports about the next major Windows release keep getting better and better. It looks like Microsoft has finally come to its senses and will dump the Charms bar in Windows 9 (also known as Threshold) slated for release next spring. Even better, Microsoft is planning a surprise for multi-taskers with the addition of multiple virtual desktops.

Microsoft hasn't released any official details, but multiple news sites report these changes are for real. That's good news for desktop users and it also means we can probably knock at least two items off our Windows 9 wish list.

Charmless Windows

On Wednesday, WinBeta reported that the Charms bar was on its way out in Windows 9, at least for desktop users. A few hours later ZDNet Windows watcher Mary Jo Foley said her sources were also confirming that the Charms bar was effectively dead. Then early Thursday, The Verge's Tom Warren piled on and said he'd also heard the same thing. (Foley and Warren were the duo that broke the news about Windows 8.1.)

The Charms bar is the pop-out side bar on the right-hand side of Windows 8 and 8.1 that contains options such as search, share, and settings.

Foley also upped the ante from the original WinBeta report, stating that the Charms bar was not only out for PC users, but for pretty much everywhere — including tablets.

The Charms bar was always problematic since there were no visual cues within the UI to hint at its existence. For desktop users, it was a huge pain to use because it required an awkward mouse gesture.

In Windows 8.1, the Charms became even more unnecessary thanks to additions to the semi-secret power user menu hidden under the Start button in Windows 8.1— not to mention the new search icon on the Start and All Apps screens. With modern UI apps to get desktop windowing in Windows 9, a feature Microsoft has announced, the Charms bar was looking even more cumbersome and useless.

But the Charms bar is important for modern apps since it contains an app's menu settings and share options. All Charms bar menu items will be moved to title bars at the top of modern UI apps in Windows 9, according to Foley.

More desktops for your desktop

Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux users have had virtual desktops for years, and the feature is finally coming to Windows, Neowin reported on Tuesday. Foley also said that virtual desktops were on the docket for Windows 9.

Virtual desktops are just multiple versions of the same desktop you work with every day. The only difference is you can switch between them quickly, allowing you to have different set-ups on each. You could, for example, have one desktop dedicated to Web browsing, one for writing in a distraction-free environment, or basic work and play set-ups.

Windows 9 to hit user happiness threshold

A revamped Start menu, windowed modern UI apps on the desktop, and now the end of the Charms bar and the addition of virtual desktops. Windows 9 is certainly shaping up to be a great release for PC users if rumored and officially slated features indeed make the final cut.

It also spells out in pretty clear form that Windows 8 and 8.1 is effectively the new "Vista" for this generation of Windows systems. Like Windows 7 before it, Windows 9 is sounding more and more like the OS Windows 8 should have been.

Windows fans eagerly anticipating Threshold may not have that long to wait. Microsoft is reportedly planning a public preview period starting this fall.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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