Now before I get negative, I'd better tell you about the positive side - it has a pretty colourful front screen. Yes that's it folks, the only good thing I can think of to say about Windows 8.1, which amazingly is said to be an improvement on Windows 8.
This operating system would seem to have been designed by whizz kids trying to impress each other rather than to provide an approachable and useable interface. Instead of a simple desktop with simple menus, we have a front screen that looks more like a kids board game and menus that creep in from the sides and disappear again as soon as you try to grab them. For some bizarre reason called a charms bar! So many simple operations have become complex or are lost in a bewildering array of gaudy screens. For starters, the restart and shut down button is hidden. Then it takes a massive search to find the recycle bin and when you've located it you have to then go to Help to find out how to keep it accessible. Now call me a Luddite if you wish but when something goes wrong and you realise you've just deleted your Last Will and Testament which has taken hours to prepare, where do you want to go fast to retrieve it - yes the recycle bin!
Along with the new computer, I purchased Office 2013, and yes you guessed it, Microsoft have redesigned this too and its a complete maze to find some of the basic functions. For example, changing the font size or line spacing, rather than being immediately available, is hidden deep within the menus. Then there are all these obscure places where files might be saved, Onedrive, iCloud and Cloudcuckoo land! I put my documents in a document folder and back up. Do these guys have any idea how ordinary people use their programs? One redeeming answer and no thanks to Microsoft, is a a little program by Addintools which puts back the classic view for all the Office applications. It seems to work perfectly!
I also use my computer a lot for storing and manipulating my photos. In the past, I would put my SD card from the camera into the computer and a little box would invite me to title the pictures, let me decide where to store them and ask if I wanted to delete after importing - simple! As you guess Windows 8.1 doesn't do this but brings up a flashy screen with all my pictures, including those I took last year and only lets me select which to import. I then have to find where it has hidden them, rename the folder, rename all the pictures and move them to where I want them! It also doesn't automatically correct the orientation of portrait pictures. Progress? I did find that by using a cable instead of the card, you could get to the original screen but this 'wonderful' new computer doesn't recognise one of my older cameras! And don't start me on the latest version of Photoshop Elements!
Then of course there are the Apps, as I should be calling programs these days. With my transatlantic lifestyle, I make a lot of use of both Skype and Viber and there are new versions of these particularly for Windows 8 BUT they are quite frankly useless. Instead of being a simple small floating box, enabling me to do other work, they now fill the entire screen! Sorry Philip but I don't need you widescreen! The sleek minimalist look is no doubt designed to look sexy but where are the options and preferences? I've tried clicking, swiping and all the annoying little tricks that are meant to work on this infuriating machine but they remain inaccessible, so the Apps are virtually useless.
Then there was the printer - a new Epson just a year ago. After a long search and a few abortive attempts, I finally managed to find a driver that allowed the printer to talk to the new computer. Hooray! So I tried the scanner and as you may have guessed, it wouldn't work. My approach to Epson was met with a blunt response that there was no new scanner driver and they had no intention of developing one. Fortunately I found a way round by using Elements to import from the scanner. At least I don't have to buy a new printer - no thanks to either Microsoft or Epson.
As you can imagine, I have had to search for help numerous times over the last few weeks in setting up this machine and found that every time I tried to access Help in Office, I got a series of annoying pop-ups and blank screens that kept proliferating. In desperation I asked a knowledgeable neighbour who kindly came to my assistance. After much tinkering, to my astonishment, he found that I had been infected by two viruses. So much for the new virus protection I had installed.
And before I finish this and go for a cold shower, I must admit that I was not totally on my own. Whilst in the USA my ever patient (?) partner Philip did sort a lot of the initial problems for me but of course when I returned to the UK, setting it up with different peripherals here was a whole new challenge. So the moral of the story is that maybe I should have listened to Philip and Jim and changed to a Mac! There again, why did I ever sell my trusty Imperial typewriter?