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ADD A START MENU TO WINDOWS 8
I know I am not alone in the belief that Windows 8 was a major disappointment. Ok, let me be blunt... I hate Windows 8. And I was one of the poor morons that Microsoft conned into upgrading from Windows 7... what was I thinking? The metro interface may be fine for tablets and phones, but it just doesn't work for someone who has been using a keyboard and mouse since the 80's.
But my biggest pet peeve is the loss of the start menu. For whatever reason, the Windows Gods from on high decreed that the start menu, which has existed since Windows 95, would be gone. Maybe they realized just how bad that metro interface was, and this was their way of forcing people to use it. Well, as everyone knows, when there is a void in the marketplace, someone will step forward to fill that void, which is what brings us to this article.
There are numerous companies that have created add in utilities to bring back the start menu. A few try to recreate the Windows XP or 7 experience; others aim to create something new altogether. Many are superior to what Windows originally designed. Some are free, some are not.
So let's get this show on the road and look at some of the best Windows 8 start menus!
The first on my list is Stardock's Start8. This is a paid plugin, but is only $4.99. Stardock has been around for quite a while, and they specialize in creating plugins and add-ons for Microsoft Windows.
The interface feels and looks like Windows 7, but offers far more options to customize. For example, the Run, Control Panel, and Documents functions can appear as links, a menu or not at all. Various looks and colors can be added in so you can truly make this menu "your menu". Like all of Stardock's plugins, Start8 is well refined, with smooth motions and not the slightest hint of bugs or crashes.
StartisBack is another menu that looks just like the Windows 7 menu. Like Start8, though, it can be customized. It also has some Windows 8 specific functions that I love. The first, and what I think is the most useful, is the ability to boot right to the desktop... yep, you can avoid the metro interface altogether. You can also configure which hot corners are enabled, which is a very nice feature. Start is back is a paid menu ($3.00), but comes with a thirty day trial.
Whereas the previous two menus try to recreate the look and feel of the Windows 7 start menu, 8StartButton takes a completely different route and has created a completely unique menu. After installation, you will see a small white Windows logo in the lower left corner. Click the window and a radial Quick Access Menu appears, complete with shortcuts for several features of the application. By default, these shortcuts let you access Start Menu, Start Screen, Start Screen Search, Shutdown, Restart and Log out options. Each of these buttons can be customized to perform different operations.
You can also set this program to open the start menu by clicking the little white window (this is what I did when trying out the software; I also disabled the radial menu, which I found annoying). When the start menu appears, you will see two viewing panes. The left pane resembles the traditional Windows 7 start, while the left pane provides direct access to the Windows 8 applications, complete with the Windows 8 tiles.
8StartButton is available as both a free and paid ($9.95). I tried the free version, and must say that it works smoothly, and was easy to use. Since the trial version is free, no reason not to give it a try.
Classic Shell is a free open source start menu replacement. It can be set to mimic three different start menus: Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows 98. Like many of the other replacement start menus, Classic Shell can be configured to go right to the desktop and bypass metro. You can also disable the hotcorners. And unlike most of the other replacement menus available, this one allows you to drag menu items from the start menu to the task bar. However, the customization doesn't end there, as this program is a tweaker's dream.
Like the Windows 8 metro-look but hate the metro interface? There is an option to create a metro style start button and menu look. And you can combine that look (or whatever look you like) with whatever style start menu you like.
As I said earlier, this start menu replacement is free. Since it is so versatile, I can't think of any reason you shouldn't give this a try.
Pokki is a free start menu that is very much its own beast. By default, Pokki will boot right to the desktop, a feature I highly prize. You can also completely disable the hot corners if you wish to rid all reminders of Windows 8. Instead of a traditional XP or 7 style menu, Pokki uses a pinning system that is similar to the way you pin apps to a tablet. Pokki also has an apps store where you can download hundreds of apps and games.
In a lot of ways, Pokki is what Windows 8 could have been. It retains the point and click start menu, while at the same time allowing you to pin apps. However, the big difference is that the pinning area doesn't take up the entire screen like the Windows 8 metro interface. This is what makes the Pokki interface so much better. This is a free app, so it is well worth your while to give it a try.
Windows 8 Start Menu Poll
Which of the start menu's do you prefer?
So which menu is best? Depends on your personal preference. While none of these are technically bad, I think that Classic shell and Pokki are the most versatile. As for me, I have settled on Classic Shell, and currently run a Windows 98 style menu with a metro look. I keep the hotcorners enabled, but skip the metro screen on startup. And since my eyes aren't what they used to be, I have enabled large font. I would encourage you to give a few of these a try, and report back here and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to vote in the start menu poll!