Bring Back the Start Menu Or We Riot!

Yes, I know. You hate Windows 8. The new Start Screen is an atrocity. The overall theme, colors and shapes that makes up Windows 8 apps is enough to make you regurgitate the breakfast you’ve had this morning. Well, I promise I’ll able to help you solve at least the first problem in this article! There has been so much outcry about the new Start Screen. For the most part, I really can’t blame those users for not wanting to change. The original Start Menu has been around for decades and although it did go through different changes, users were just familiar with the interface. Fast forward to Windows 8 and that Start Menu disappears. From my understanding, it is gone for good. That’s right. It’s not coming back. To many users disappointment, Microsoft didn’t just decided to improve on the traditional Start Menu or present some new interface changes. They completely yanked out the whole thing and replaced it with something totally different. Call me a geek but I’m really looking forward to see how the initial public will react once they get their shiny new computers loaded with Windows 8 and see the Start Screen for the first time. Well, if a user is dead set on not using the new Start Screen, they fortunately have a choice…for now.

I won’t beat on this subject any more than I have to. I will always admit that I didn’t really like the new Start Screen as well in the beginning. The interface didn’t make a lot of sense, especially on large screen monitors. However, the more I used Windows 8 on a daily basis, the more I got warmed up to it. The secret that made me finally like the new Start Screen is that I realized I actually had to configure it to my liking! Once I got that down, the interface didn’t seem so bad at all. Anyways, here are my final thoughts on what I think about the new Windows 8 Start Screen:

Why I Like The New Windows 8 Start Screen

Getting Back the Traditional Start Menu

Microsoft will most likely be mad at you for not wanting to use the new Start Screen but hey, Microsoft isn’t the one using your computer. There are a couple of reasons why you might want to get back the traditional Start Menu. When you buy a new computer in the future, it will most likely be pre-loaded with Windows 8. If you really can’t stand the new Start Screen, then re-installing the traditional Start Menu is a must. Another reason could be that you know of long time Windows users, such as your parents or colleagues, that are just too upset about such a big interface change that they are practically begging you to help them revive the old Start Menu. Well don’t worry because there are some very nice people out there who have heard the outrage that is the new Start Screen and have decided to give you the opportunity to get back that old and familiar Start Menu right in Windows 8 and all without costing you a penny.

If you ultimately decide that Windows 8 is such a monstrosity that it doesn’t even deserve to be on any of your computer systems at home, new Start Screen or no, you can actually perform a downgrade to Windows 7. When you buy a new computer pre-loaded with Windows 8, you can’t actually transfer the Windows 7 license from your old computer to the new one even if you don’t ever plan on using it again. Many are already saying that Windows 7 will be the new Windows XP in that users will treasure it for a long, long time to come rather than moving on. Windows XP life support will officially end on 04/08/2014. Windows 7 at the moment will have life support till about 01/14/2020. By downgrading the license to Windows 7 from Windows 8, you will of course lose your rights to use Windows 8 but that’s the whole point of a downgrade.

With that being all said, let’s get started! There are two popular utilities right now that helps users get back the traditional Start Menu that they all know love back in Windows 8. This ultimately gives them the best of both worlds. The first being that they of course get to use a familiar interface. The second is that they get to continue to use Microsoft’s latest operating system. Truthfully speaking, if users love Windows 7 in general, they have a very good chance of loving Windows 8 as well. Many have voiced that the only thing stopping them from actually switching fully to Windows 8 is due to the introduction of the new Start Screen.

Stardock’s Start8

I’m sure many of you have heard of the company Stardock. They make many different utilities that allow you to customize your Windows appearance. One of my favorite utilities from them is Desktop Fences which allows you to group together desktop icons into multiple groupings for better organization. Another one of their famous utility is ObjectDock which brings a Mac-like program launcher to the desktop of your Windows machine. Anyways, they have a lot to offer. But one utility that I am sure will garner much attention in the months to come is their Start8 utility. This project aims to help bring back the traditional Start Menu to Windows 8 and I am thoroughly impressed at the results. They did such a good job at doing so that an unsuspecting user will probably think the Start Menu was never removed in the first place!

You can download Stardock Start8 from here. At the moment, you will need to provide an email address to receive the download link.

Installation is a breeze. Just accept the license agreement and default installation location and Start8 will install in a couple of seconds. When completed, check out what you have in the lower right corner! The familiar Windows orb is back! Without having to mess with any configuration settings, the menu will resemble the Start Menu you’ve known and love in Windows 7. What’s the really cool part? You can actually launch Windows 8 apps directly in the Start Menu as well! Also, Jumplists and pinning your programs in the new Start8 menu works just as it did in Windows 7!

Start8 Default Menu

There are some configuration settings you can configure though. To access those settings, simply right-click on the orb.

Options

By default, Start8 will automatically launch the desktop “app” when you log in to your Windows 8 machine. As you can guess, many users who despised the new Start Screen interface also complained about the fact that they had to make an additional click of the mouse button just to get back to the traditional desktop each and every time they logged on. Well, Start8 by default can help make this pain go away. Now, if you “really” and I mean “really” hate the new interface, you don’t actually have to ever see it again because once logged into the desktop, you can continue to work as you’ve always had in the past.

Also by default, Start8 will launch the Windows 7 Start Menu interface. This is the Start Menu that most are familiar with and therefore most users will most likely opt to use. However, if you un-check that option, Start8 will do something pretty neat. Rather than displaying the traditional Start Menu, Start8 will display the new Start Screen when you click on the orb button. However, rather than switching completely to the new interface in full screen mode, you actually access the screen as a “menu”. Take a look below to see what I mean:

Metro Menu

If you choose this option, Start8 allows you the best of both worlds. Some users actually do like the new Start Screen interface but don’t like the idea of the context switch when going from the desktop to the Start Screen and then back again. With Start8, you really don’t have to leave your desktop when launching regular apps. Of course, choosing to launch a Windows 8 app will take over your screen as that’s just how it works. To quickly get back to your desktop while inside a full screen Windows 8 app, simply press the keyboard combination of Alt+Esc. When you choose to use this interface, there are other different options to configure. For example, you can configure the size of the menu as well as defaulting back to the actual Start Screen interface rather than the ‘All Apps’ screen.

Different Options

Metro Default

Finally, if you don’t like the Windows orb button, you can change it by picking a different one provided by Stardock. Also, Start8 allows you to more easily launch the Run command window as well as shutting down your computer. I actually wrote an article on how to more easily shutdown Windows 8 because using the default method was just too much of a pain. If you use Start8, you don’t have to worry anymore as shutting your computer is just a couple of clicks away. If you also want to disable ‘Desktop Hotspots’, you can do so as well. The desktop hotspot is the button at the lower right corner of your screen right next to the time and date.

Orb Icon Change

Classic Shell

For users who want a more nostalgic approach, they should definitely take a look at Classic Shell. This nifty utility not only aims to bring back the traditional Start Menu but also a host of other interface changes as well! Like Start8, it’s a free utility and from my understanding, it is also open source meaning just about anyone can take a look at the source code for the project and either inspect it or add their code to it in hopes of furthering the project.

You can download Classic Shell from here.

During installation, you can actually pick which plugin to install. You have the Classic Explorer, Classic Start Menu and Classic IE 9. Since this article is focused on bringing the traditional Start Menu back to Windows 8, that’s what I will show off here. To see what the other plugin’s have to offer from Classic Shell, please go over this brief overview page.

CS Install Options

The good news for some is that Classic Shell has a ton of customization. A heck of a lot more than Start8. First, Classic Shell gives you three styles to choose from. You can choose from Windows Classic, Windows XP or Windows 7. For this article, I will choose the Windows Vista/Windows 7 style.

CS Styles

CS Windows 7 Style

Here is the Basic Settings tab, which allows you to configure how to access the Start Screen as well as other options:

CS Basic Settings

For users who want change, Classic Shell allows you to download and install new skins so you don’t have to keep looking at the same skin for too long!

CS Skins

If you actually hit the ‘All Settings’ radio button, you will get to configure a ton of more options and settings. This allows you to really fine tune how the Classic Shell Start Menu will work for you!

CS All Settings

In the End…

Here you can see that you are not alone when wanting back the traditional Start Menu of the old. I personally like the new Start Screen in Windows 8 because I do find it more efficient once I’ve customized it to my liking. But in truth, I hardly ever needed to dig in the traditional Start Menu in the past anyways because of the ability to pin program shortcuts right on the taskbar. But alas, not everyone works the same. I have known many users who likes to launch all their programs from the Start Menu each and every time. I really like Windows 8 as a whole because it seems a lot faster. Memory management is superb in this new operating system. By deploying the traditional Start Menu, users can feel more comfortable using the new OS without having to worry too much about the new Start Screen. The bad news is that going forward, Microsoft is putting a lot of effort in bringing the new interface to all Microsoft based devices. This applies to the PC, laptop, tablets, smart phones and most likely the Xbox as well. By using the same interface, users will be able to navigate the operating system no matter which device they want to use.

In this article, you’ve seen how both Stardock’s Start8 and the Classic Shell can help. Personally, I would choose Start8. It’s just more simple and my favorite feature is the start button showing the new Start Screen instead of the traditional menu. This feature can help users to get more comfortable with the new Start Screen over time. If however you want to be able to heavily customize your Start Menu experience, Classic Shell is the way to go. No question about it. The amount of settings you can configure is just staggering. At the time of this writing, I’m not sure how Microsoft will take this seeing how Windows 8 hasn’t been released to the general public yet. Would it be possible for them to push out a update that will render these techniques useless? I personally don’t see that happening but you never know. Both Start8 and Classic Shell works on the final version of Windows 8 so I’m guessing the same can be said once Windows 8 gets publicly released.

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