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Windows 8 Thread, A Comparison of Alternative Start Menu's for Windows 8 in Technical; ...
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    A Comparison of Alternative Start Menu's for Windows 8

    Ars Technica have done a great comparison of the most popular Start Menu replacements for Windows 8. I agree with the author of the article 100% - either get used to the Start Screen (it didn't take me long) or buy StartIsBack (£1.87 or £3.11). Having used the latter myself, it is definitely the one to go for if you want to make Windows 8 look like 7.

    Source: Ars Technica

    Help! I've got Windows 8 and I miss my Start menu!
    With Christmas now long behind us, one or two of you may well have been lucky enough to find a shiny new Windows 8 PC under the tree. After cleaning off the crapware, it's time to use the thing, and that means digging into the new user interface.

    The Windows 8 user interface has many Windows users divided. The chief complaints are that Windows 8 has no Start button and that it has no Start menu, only the (full-screen, Metro-styled) Start screen. Secondary to these is the complaint that Windows 8 shows the Start screen immediately after logging in, rather than showing the desktop as prior versions of Windows have done. Getting to the desktop takes an extra click.

    To address the unfamiliarity and (perceived) problems with the Windows 8 UI, a number of third-party applications have popped up to provide a Start menu, or some approximation thereof, and a Start button for Windows 8 users. They also pull some kind of trickery to switch directly to the desktop upon logging in.

    Some of these applications are new, motivated entirely by Windows 8's supposed "shortcomings"—Stardock's Start8, StartIsBack, and RetroUI all share this characteristic. Others are new versions of old apps. Classic Shell was originally a project to reinstate the Windows XP Start menu on Windows Vista and Windows 7 (among other things); it now has some Windows 8-specific functionality. Pokki is an application runtime, launcher, and marketplace; in its latest iteration it too jumps on the Start screen replacement bandwagon.

    If you can't stomach the lack of menu and button in Windows 8 or just don't fancy the support and training overheads that come from rolling out a new user interface to users familiar with Windows 7 or older, one of these apps might be the ideal solution.
    Disappointing candidates
    After trying out all these programs over the course of a few weeks, I'm personally not going to use any of them. I was an eager adopter of Windows Vista's searchable Start menu. Probably 90 percent of the time I used the Start menu in Windows Vista and Windows 7, it was to search. The Start screen doesn't substantially change that. Microsoft has changed the presentation, with some good aspects (more results displayed simultaneously) and some bad aspects (no unified view of all results; instead they're segregated between Apps, Settings, and Files), but functionally the differences are pretty negligible. Once you get on the searchable Start bandwagon, it's really hard to go back to anything else.

    The remaining 10 percent of the time, I clicked an app that I had pinned to the menu. For this, the Start screen is actually better; I can pin more apps more easily. Look beyond the Start screen's appearance and it's just not as different as it superficially seems.

    I appreciate that not everyone uses the Start menu the same way. If you're used to browsing the menu itself, the Windows 8 experience is very different indeed. While its "All Programs" view does respect the folders and naming that the Start menu uses, it presents them as essentially a flat list.

    For such users, StartIsBack is the standout winner. Start8 works the same but costs more; Classic Shell is inauthentic and baroque, and unless you simply must have something that's more or less the same as the Windows 2000 Start menu, I would avoid it. Pokki and RetroUI both have interesting features, but if you're going to learn a new user interface, you might as well learn the Windows 8 user interface itself—not that of a third-party product.

    Start Is Back




    Start8




    Classic Shell





    Pokki





    RetroUI




    ^ RetroUI looks absolutely ghastly!

  2. #2

    sparkeh's Avatar
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    Personally I chose the option of getting used to it.
    I know there has been a lot of moaning but I rarely even delve into the start menu these days and I don't really miss it.

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    Tsonga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkeh View Post
    Personally I chose the option of getting used to it.
    I know there has been a lot of moaning but I rarely even delve into the start menu these days and I don't really miss it.
    I agree, in our industry it is important to keep moving forward.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkeh View Post
    Personally I chose the option of getting used to it.
    I know there has been a lot of moaning but I rarely even delve into the start menu these days and I don't really miss it.
    ditto i quite like it you can always put folders full of program shortcuts on the desktop if needs be for "legacy" apps

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    januttall's Avatar
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    Has anyone had trouble setting the proxy for the metro apps?
    I know this is the wrong place to put this but i thought i would ask.

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    proxy is a pita period on win8 ive found ive had to use auto config and wpad to get it working

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    januttall's Avatar
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    I have Written a little bit of software that sets it for me but im just wondering how many people are struggling.

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    I've been trying to learn to like the Start screen but I think if I had to use Win8 daily as my only OS I'd install one of those to get jump lists back for documents (I hate the idea of having loads of pinned Taskbar items so that's not an option). I also find the jarring move between Desktop and Metro mode very distracting, the only workaround being Winkey+R and remembering the paths for any non-standard apps I want to use... not exactly efficient

    Two options to solve this without needing a Start Ment (imo)

    - enable an indexed search box for Winkey+R in Desktop mode instead of needing the Start screen
    - create a slide out panel from the right of the screen to launch apps whilst in Desktop mode

    Either or would make the process of starting an extra program much slicker and less distracting
    Last edited by gshaw; 15th January 2013 at 12:54 PM.

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    Problem I have found using the start screen, is all our computers have app-v, every single app-v program gets pinned the start screen and it looks a mess.

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    zag
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    Quote Originally Posted by gshaw View Post
    - enable an indexed search box for Winkey+R in Desktop mode instead of needing the Start screen
    - create a slide out panel from the right of the screen to launch apps whilst in Desktop mode
    Microsoft are forcing their app ecosystem onto users with the new start menu. They wont do either of those.

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    I love start8. It's made Windows 8 usable for me and I have it on my home PC & work ones.
    It also has GPO support, so in theory you could roll a Windows 8 Image with it installed on and get all the benefits of 8 without metro getting in the way.

    I intend to replace our RDP server with a Windows 2012 machine running with this on, as the RDS improvements in 2012 are amazing (Try watching video over RDS from a machine with the RDP 8 client installed on, it's usable for once)

    If windows 8 came out of the box like this, I would have rolled 500+ installations of it out over the summer.

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    I'm currently in the processing of building up an image for ~60 new staff laptops that are going to be running Windows 8, and we've made the decision that we need to try and ease them into the transition as gently as possible so I'm looking at all of these options as well.

    At the moment I'm actually leaning towards Classic Shell, not least of all because it's completely free.

    It also seems to tick all the boxes in terms of design/functionality, so are there really any compelling enhancements in any of the paid versions that are going to be worth spending money on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidTomic View Post
    are there really any compelling enhancements in any of the paid versions that are going to be worth spending money on?
    Classic Shell makes the Start Menu look like it did in Windows 2000 and XP. Teaching students to use something from an 11 or 12 year old operating system just seems wrong to me. I personally wouldn't deploy it at my school for many of the reasons stated below.

    If the Windows 7 Start menu isn't to your taste, you might want to check out Classic Shell. Classic Shell strives to provide something altogether more old-school. Although it does have a Windows Vista/Windows 7-style menu, its raison d'être is harking back to yesteryear, with both a single column (Windows 2000-style) and dual column non-searchable (Windows XP-style) menu on offer. Unlike StartIsBack, which leverages Windows' own code to draw its menus, Classic Shell undertakes to perform all the drawing and layout itself. As a result, none of its menu options look quite right. They're immediately recognizable as knock-offs.

    I found this unfulfilled aspiration annoying to use. Nothing works the way it should, nothing looks the way it should. Personally, I would rather have an app that implemented its own concepts well, rather than poorly imitating someone else's concepts.

    Classic Shell is also strongly influenced by the idiosyncrasies of its developer. Even when using a Windows Vista/Windows 7-style menu, the Programs folder is a conventional fly-out menu (as it was in Windows XP and below) rather than the weird in-line contraption that the newer operating systems use. It also has a second fly-out menu for Metro apps. If one prefers the fly-out menus, this is fine; if one wants the menu to simply behave like it did in Windows 7, it isn't. Similarly, although the Classic Shell menu has a search box, it doesn't work like its corresponding Windows 7 feature; it can only search the menu and system path. The Windows 7 search feature can be configured to search the entire machine, using the operating system's built-in content indexing.

    Classic Shell has a couple of Windows 8-specific features; it can boot straight to the desktop and disable hot corners. It offers less fine-tuning here than StartIsBack. That program allows hot corners to be disabled individually; Classic Shell allows you to disable all of them, or just the bottom left (the hot corner that normally brings up the Start screen).

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    Quote Originally Posted by zag View Post
    Microsoft are forcing their app ecosystem onto users with the new start menu. They wont do either of those.
    Like the WinRT debacle it's putting profit before technology \ usability, I expect that kind of attitude from Apple but MS going down the same road is really disappointing

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    zag
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrCheese View Post
    If windows 8 came out of the box like this, I would have rolled 500+ installations of it out over the summer.
    Yeh +1 to that

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