Do you really need a Start Menu or Button for Windows 8?

When Microsoft first showed that it was no longer using the Start Button and Menu in its newest version of Windows OS – Windows 8, early testers labeled it as a major glitch & one of the most controversial decision ever taken by the company. There was an uproar! Windows users felt robbed of a Start button and menu they had got to love so much! It was even harder for the long time Windows users to let go the button which once offered them quick access to important programs, folders, and most configuration options.

Critics saw the change as a strategy by Microsoft to try and get users to rely more on the Metro menu. They felt Microsoft was focusing too much on touch devices and ignoring the Desktop users.

But Microsoft stuck to its guns and continued to maintain the same UI for Windows 8!

As a results, the Start button and Start Menu has been replaced by the new, full-screen Start Screen. In fact, you may say the button has been re-engineered beyond recognition for Windows 8. By default, Windows 8 now boots to a Start Screen whose interface is seen populated with live tiles representing Metro or Modern or Windows 8 style apps. While the location of both the Start Screen in Windows 8 and the Start Menu in Windows 7 are is the same File Explorer viz C:\Users\User Name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu & C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu, the appearance is completely different.

On the Start Screen, you can organize them all and configure the live tiles as per your requirements. For instance, you can view live status information. You can create a live dashboard where all of your apps such as email, social networking, calendar and other apps that provide you with updates in real-time are organized in one single place. And the best part is that you can see these updates without ever opening the app in question. This helps in overcoming the major limitation of icons, which are mostly static and do not have any way of notifying users when something changes. Desktop applications utilize more of static, non-sizable tiles that are similar to icons and cannot display live information.

So you see, everything that was available on the Start Menu in Windows 7 can be found elsewhere in Windows 8. You can easily search for any app just by typing its name. You can also see which devices are connected to your computer or personalize settings as per your choice by simply accessing the charms bar.

Moreover, the search feature in Windows 8 isn’t restricted to apps or settings but offers a lot more. The feature is built into each and every app on your system. Commands which worked in Windows 7 Start Menu will also work in Windows 8.

I do accept that the Windows 8 start screen does look cluttered if you have too many tiles placed on it. It gets even worse when you see All Apps. The present way to create, organize, name, Tile Groups is not enough. It would have been nice if there were some way to categorize these tiles or shortcuts – or have a way where the items could collapse or expand as per needs. Switching between the desktop mode and the start screen too can be irksome at times. Microsoft should have given the option to opt for or enable the classic start menu, and also to boot directly to the desktop, if the user wanted it so on his desktop, but unfortunately that was not to be!

So Windows users now have a choice. Continue to use Windows 7 or upgrade to Windows 8 and get the benefits and advancements available in the new operating system. Given the situation, if you do wish to upgrade to Windows 8, I feel it’s important we all learn the new user experiences in Windows 8. Adapting to any change is difficult as it makes us change our patterns and behaviors and forces us to move out of our comfort zone. That there has to be a change adapting to changes is the most essential life skills an individual should possess. Change is inevitable and the only constant in life – and Microsoft perceived, that in this age of touch devices and tablet, users would want a better and easier way to access their  files, folder and programs.

Still, if some of you disagree with me and would like to get the old menu back, at least as an option, you can get some third-party Start Menu apps, which add the start button and menu to Windows 8 and also allow you to boot directly in to the desktop.

But then…maybe its time to do away these crutches and learn to enjoy the beauty of the Windows 8 Start Screen!

I have been using Windows 8 for a while – I gave it a chance – unlearned a few things, before I could learn a few new things – and now find that I no longer miss the Start Menu.

I am aware that not many may agree with my views, hence would love to hear your views. 🙂

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

18 Comments

  1. Petergadd

    I really cannot see what there is to gripe about with the new start screen in Win 8. It’s just griping for the sake of it. Get over it. This is Microsoft’s version of advancement and I see nothing wrong with it anyway. I rarely see the start page after logging in and if I do have to search for an app, a press of the Win key followed by typing the name of the app brings it up on screen and then a click on its link opens the app. I also use Launchy to open documents etc, so how often do I ever see the start screen? As I said rarely. I love Win 8 and Office 13.

  2. 11

    Adding an option to enable/disable Start button instead of Start screen would be much easier and less expensive for Microsoft compared to paying all those articles about how great is Start screen on workstations

  3. Stefano Cini

    i don’t need to gain these 3 or 4 seconds on boot, and so i don’t need Windows 8.
    Start screen is not the only bad feature on W8…let’s talk about CHARM BAR…easy to appear on screen without a tablet? how easy is it to stick with cursor on right border and wait seconds and seconds before charm bar appears…

    So, i gain 3, 4 seconds on boot when i lose (at least at the beginning….) minutes to find things or trying to make appear this charm bar…

    No W8 at all! Windows 7 still rules!!

  4. radax05

    Stefano Cini said something about gaining 3-4 seconds when booting into Windows 8. Well, my experience is completely different. I have a dual boot on my PC, Win7 and Win8.

    When you boot to Win7 there are these “rotating colors that finally form the Windows flag”. Well, when booting into Win7 the “Windows flag” is not finished yet and I see the login screen, type in the password, press enter and afterwards I see the desktop, in less than 1 second.

    When you boot into Win8 it takes at least 2 (two) full “rotations” of the “boot circle” until I get into the lock screen – useless for a PC -, left-click, type in the password, press enter and then I get into the Start screen of Win8. Another click to get to the Desktop.

    Not really PC user-friendly in Win8, as I have to perform at least 2 additional clicks to get to the desktop. And it really feels like “ages” when compared to Win7 to get to the desktop.

    Ok, “Classic Shell” does its job and cuts the “2 additional and useless clicks for a PC user”.

    I do agree that this makes sense on a tablet but not on a PC !

    I signed up for a Microsoft account to have access to the store. I’ve also downloaded some free apps (games from Microsoft, some news app, etc.). I’ve also enjoyed playing and reading.

    But… I’m used to have my messenger (Digsby) on, all the time. I searched for a Digsby or at least a Yahoo Messenger app, but did not find anything of interest. Thumbs down ! Now, am I wrong assuming that even if I find a messenger app that suits my needs, that app will run in the background while I am playing – let’s say “Freecell” – and that I am not informed via “bubbles” – or whatever – when friends want to talk with me ? And that I have to change to the start screen where these apps will hopefully provide some kind of updated information on the icons ? Or do I have to start these apps to show me who tried to contact me ?
    And I have some other real time applications running.

    And no, the 1/3 and 2/3 split screen for concurrently running 2 Windows 8 apps at the time is no solution for me !

    By the way, the full screen mode of Win8 apps reminds me of DOS times on the PC, where every game / application required full screen mode (some of them even in Win 3.1).

    On the other hand, the Win8 desktop looks quite castrated to me, all the windows having the plain 2D margins/borders.

    And yes, I have a PC with 2 x SSDs of 256 GB, 4 x HDD with a total of 9 TB, an Intel Core i5-2400 and 16GB of RAM + Win 7 Ultimate + Win 8 Pro. To run a Windows app in full screen mode without any information about the other real applications and with additional clicks to get to the desktop from the running Win8 app is bizarre and in my opinion very unproductive !

    Again, it may be perfect for a tablet, but it makes no real sense to me on a PC where I want to get my work done and also being informed about updates (like IM) – live, while working in another application -. How do I keep an eye while playing a game on an e-Bay auction (don’t tell me about the 1/3 and 2/3 split screen, it’s not possible when I use a browser as the second app) ?

    My simple conclusion… The “metro” (modern) GUI is nice but please keep it for tables and Windows Phone 8. For a PC user (let’s say “power user”) it’s a total non-sense ! Let us have the choice for a desktop (with “Start” button – a collection of links in fact that shows up when required) environment, a tablet environment (for simple PC users) or a mixed environment when installing Windows 8 or via the Control Panel… This would be the best !

  5. Anonymous

    It’s like saying do we really need any of The Windows Club utilities for Windows?

  6. Xi

    The Microsoft should’ve waited for pushing its users for Modern UI with Start Screen and no Start Menu. MS might have given the option to choose between old look(atleast Win 7 UI) and the new one(Modern UI). Also the people who use PC/notebook without touchscreens can use the old Start Menu in the new UI & Start Screen and learn the new UI without any hesitation. And those who use touch enabled devices can use the Start Screen frequently and old UI rarely and learn it. And in the next Windows version, where more people might have already use to it, will surely like it without hesitation. But this arrogant behavior of MS makes users feel angry, worry and sad.

  7. Samit Tandukar

    if you don’t want to use your mouse to open charm bar….just press win key+C, it will bring charm bar in no time….

  8. trm96

    I agree with you, I don’t miss the Start menu at all I actually like the Start Screen.

  9. John J.

    I also have used W8 for some times now since developer edition (build 8400) I think it is.
    At start I thought that I as many would miss the Start button, and soon I installed the “Classic Shell” but to my surprise I merely do not use it, and planning to uninstall the “classic shell” I am using it about 1-2% at the time, I rather use the “Metro” interface or the Charms where possible, and it is also as easy to use the short cut keys, because of the new interface, I realized how much I actually use the short cut keys, I always use them but I did not know how much.

    And the prize to upgrade is cheap, I am allowed to upgrade 5 licenses.
    I had 3 Vista and 2 XP licenses, I have now upgraded 2 Vista licenses
    And are planning to upgrade the last 3 licenses.

    So MS is back, I like that.

  10. Adham Magdy

    It’s great, a nice change from the traditional look that hasn’t really changed from win98… I also like the metro apps and use them often

  11. Adham Magdy

    When you get used to it, you’ll do it faster… put your favorite programs on the start screen and use search to get the others.. show the start screen and type the first two letters to find your program.. and you don’t have to wait for the charms bar.. just point to edge and immediately slide in one move

  12. Adham Magdy

    there’s the messaging app that connects you to facebook and live chat and it runs in the background and has bubbles.. hope they soon support yahoo as well… also you can make a pin code instead of a password.. 4 numbers and no Enter key makes things a lot faster
    fast startup or hybrid boot feature works best with uefi pc’s.. mostly laptops

  13. DWizard

    Great opinions here all. Only can add that it’s still a business and Microsoft see’s the ‘Pad’ revolution as a big cash cow. Look at those expensive (massive & well done) new ‘Surface’ pad TV commercials. Not cheap and have rarely seen a commercial so often. If that doesn’t explain ‘motive’ nothing can or ever will.

    IMO, their approach to synchronicity between the desktop and pad is amazing. Their only error was to dismiss the desktop as we know it entirely. But as few realize much of the code is still there. Why? It’s intentional, Microsoft doesn’t leave remnants. There’s even a program that replaces the missing pieces without adding another process so you can have your original Win 7 desktop/start menu back.

    There are many opinions, but any power user having many programs and/or doing many things at once needs that desktop, while those running but a few things will do superbly with the new UI.

    Both old and new interfaces really do have their merits at this moment in time. It’s about choice.

  14. BenM70

    Too bad it looks so ugly

  15. JustNobody

    I have been watching this argument develop since the start and i find it really interesting. From what I see the start screen can be a positive thing, and many people didn’t see that from the start and based there argument on that, now they have learned that of course there are some improvement’s, my issue is that now those people argue out of experience, “Just try it more! Youll get used to it. Just get over it. It will be faster once you learn some things that you just don’t know yet” all out of personal experience… but all of those arguments are dismissive, its like the maturity argument, “oh you’ll just learn I’m right with time”. None of these arguments address the issue that i think alot of the people had in the first place, this “innovation” is forced upon us, at least by Microsoft, sure there are third party applications and yet there shouldn’t need to be, With each innovation you should have more options and customization, not take away options as a play to gain power and money in a tablet and phone market.

  16. Sky Flyer

    the charms bar opens right away if you move your mouse to one of the corners on the right side

  17. Ian Crick

    I don’t mind the new start screen in windows 8, as you can see information straight away (eg. if you have notifications or emails). The only thing that is quite annoying is when your on the desktop, you have to goto the start screen to run other programs (or apps now). I would like the option of it being available on the desktop, but as others have said, soon or later you’ll get used to the new layout.

    Yes like others I would like a way to sort the windows 8 start screen in the way I would like it, but tried to move things about on more than one occasion and it always seems to have a mind of it’s own.

    I have been using the trial for a few weeks now and will purchase it this month.
    One thing I have found is on the notification window, it shows what social networks your connected to, but for some reason it’s linked to my facebook account, but says it’s connected to my daughters (Puzzling or what LOL)

  18. Jerry Chance

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! Give Windows 8 tiles a chance. They become easier the more you use them. Don’t be afraid of change!

    JC

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