Last week I attended one of Microoft’s “Windows Camp” developer days looking at Windows 8. The morning was a series of informative talks, followed by a hands on lab building a Windows 8 Metro app.

One of the highlights of the day was the opportunity to use the beta of Visual Studio 11, and the experience of working in such a visually different environment.

It doesn’t suck.

Actually, it’s quite good.

I had no problems finding and using toolbar buttons when I needed them, no problems recognising and using the IDE sidebars.

Here’s my hypothesis why: the human eye has colour perception only in a narrow angle at the centre of vision. The rest of our vision is monochromatic, sensitive only to variations of brightness. We think we have full colour perception across the whole angle of view because everything we look at is in colour.

Even though it’s monochrome, our peripheral vision is heavily used. One of those uses is in guiding our gaze to look at what’s important. Remember those times when you caught a movement out of the corner of your eye and you looked straight at the critter (or bug) - that’s this capability in action.

My hypothesis is that the high contrast nature of the new Metro style glyphs in Visual Studio 11 helps their perception by your peripheral vision, assisting your brain in quickly locating the one you want.

Did Microsoft plan for this?

Nah, I think they just got lucky.


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March 2012