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A Start Menu for Windows 8

A Start Menu for Windows 8

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this sooner. Though consumers are buying tablet computers in greater numbers than classic computers, that hasn’t removed the necessity for a laptop or desktop computer. Sooner or later these need to be replaced and that will now mean buying a PC that ispreloaded with Windows 8. And I can say without hesitation, folks despise Windows 8. I might be able to help with that.

Hoping to break into the mobile device market that Apple and Google created with iPhone and Android, Microsoft came out with Windows 8. While Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and its mobile iOS maintain a distinct look and feel, Microsoft has attempted to unify the Windows 8 experience across every device. The idea of homogenizing Windows on every device it powers makes a certain sort of sense, particularly from the point of view of a software engineer trying to design from the point of view of the consumer. I believe the thinking was that Microsoft wanted Windows to be Windows, no matter where it was being used, so that it would be easy to pick up and use on any device. I give them serious props for that kind of thinking.  It’s just too bad that they were so very wrong.  

The new Windows Start Screen makes sense on a tablet computer or a smartphone, but it has no place on a classic computer. Using a mouse with the start screen is very frustrating, not to mention that so many programs still require the desktop. The desktop that is now an “app.” The desktop that has no Start Menu, thereby requiring the user to return to the Start Screen.  The desktop of yesteryear is buried, but not gone. Here are my two favorite programs to bring it and the Start Menu back:

Classic Shell (free)
As a free solution for bringing a classic look back to Windows 8, it’s hard to beat Classic Shell. You’ll get the Start Menu back, with options for different styles: Windows 7, XP, even Windows 98, which they label as “Classic.”  It can also default to the desktop when starting Windows 8, skipping the Start Screen entirely, though I have heard gripes from various users that it does not always do this. Still, free.

Start8 ($4.99)
If you’ve got an extra $5 lying around, invest in Start8. In my experience with Windows 8, it has fully resurrected my Windows 7 experience and is more reliable than Classic Shell, with a bevy of options to better personalize your experience.  

Windows 8 is superior to Windows 7 with a host of under-the-hood improvements, speedier boot times, more stable performance, and increased security. Its interface leaves something to be desired, but with either of the utilities above you can have the best of both worlds. There is some hope that the upcoming Windows 8.1 patch, codenamed “Windows Blue,” will address some of these UI issues, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Microsoft isn’t good at admitting its mistakes, let alone reversing a very intentional design decision.