Removing Start for Windows 8 was the right thing to do

Removing Start for Windows 8 was the right thing to do

Summary: Like them or loathe them, Metro-style apps are here to stay, so let's stop agonising over the lack of a Start button — here are the very good reasons why it makes sense to get rid of it.

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It's now time, unless you plan to stop using Windows for the rest of your life, to get over it: the Start button is gone, and that's a good thing.

ZDNet's own David Gewirtz revealed recently how much he hated the decision to remove the Start button and how unintuitive it makes tasks that were previously second nature. And he's by no means alone; a lot of people don't like the fact it's gone, and would rather not have the Windows 8-style (let's just call it 'Metro') interface. 

Windows_8_Metro-UI-620x

Likewise, Mary Jo Foley questioned whether 'normal' users will miss it and choose to use a third-party tool for re-instating a 're-imagined' version of the Start button. 

What the Start menu did — what it was really useful for — was being able to access or execute a variety of different functions within Windows, whether that was pulling up the registry editor, quickly accessing a shortcut to favourite program, or whatever.

But that doesn't make sense with a touchscreen. Think about it: let's imagine Windows 8 did have a Start button in its desktop environment. Every time you wanted to find something via Start, you'd have to switch to the desktop view, tap in the Start search box, type in the name of what you're looking for, and then select the right result from the dialogue window.

And that's presuming you're using a device with a keyboard. With just a touchscreen, you'd have to tap open the on-screen keyboard, which would obscure the Start search box anyway.

Now think about the same process in Windows 8's Metro environment: you can swipe from the right-hand side of the screen, tap the search 'charm' (icon) and start typing, and the results will appear right there in the main display space. 

The bonus of the search charm is that it does predictive matching. If you want to open Notepad up quickly, for example, you tap open the charm, start typing 'N-O' and it will display matching apps, whether these are desktop or Metro-style apps.

It will return matches across settings and files too — though these don't all appear in the main display space at the same time, keeping things relatively straightforward.

Another benefit is that if this fails to return what you're looking for, clicking on the Chrome icon below the search charm will directly fire up an internet search using whatever term you've already typed in. You'll be able to trawl the internet and get exactly where you need to, without explicitly going to another part of the system to fire up a browser. You literally tap one icon.

Go with the flow

The 'flow' around the way platforms are used is changing, and it's not just Microsoft doing it. The BlackBerry 10 OS — although a very different beast — has a similar ethos in parts, with the emphasis firmly placed on not having to switch between applications to carry out tasks discretely. Not having to go in and out of different programs to achieve what people want is the ultimate goal.

So while the removal of the Start menu might disorientate people initially, with some time to get used to it, they should quickly realise it's nearly as powerful as the Start menu, which was never going to fit into the new OS world order.

I've been using a Windows 8 tablet (alongside a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, where necessary or appropriate) as my everyday computer for the last eight weeks or so. There's nothing I've needed to do that is more complicated in Windows 8 than Windows 7, and there's plenty that's easier

metrodesignlanguage

That's not to say I'm completely sold on all the changes that Windows 8 has rung in. I'm none too keen on the complete lack of plug-in support for browsers in Metro mode. For example, it's inconvenient to have to open up a different instance of Chrome on the desktop to watch Netflix just because the Metro mode doesn't support the Silverlight plug-in. There's no getting around that being annoying.

Add in the fact that Microsoft hasn't provided developers with the APIs required to make an RT-tailored browser, and the picture looks even worse — but it's not one I can see persisting in the long-term.

Some believe the UI has been dumbed down in Metro mode — that if you want to reach PC settings via the right-hand bar, you only get cut-down access, and that you'll need desktop mode to get at the rest. That's right, to a certain extent: if you select the settings charm, what you get is a precis of the full options. But if you know what you want to do — say change the audio output — you won't need to switch to desktop view first.

Instead, you use the charm to search words 'audio' and 'devices', and a whole bunch of matches will pop up, long before you get to the end of typing it. Search is the new Start, just like it is on the internet.

Like it or lump it, the Windows 8 (Metro) interface is here to stay: Microsoft has designed Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and a whole bunch of services like Outlook and Sky Drive around the touch-friendly Metro interface. It's not going anywhere.

There are proper things to moan about with Windows 8, but the lack of a Start button isn't one of them.

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Windows

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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Talkback

171 comments
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  • This is how real kids are using Windows 8 (the best start menu ever)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yykNEyoH6Go
    alejandromir
    • Desktop

      I don't doubt that the old Start menu doesn't work for a touch interface.

      I don't doubt that the new Start Screen is very useful. In face, I LIKE it.

      The issue is that when people are NOT on a tablet toy but doing real work in the desktop, an essential control is hidden from view for no good reason. Far too much is hidden in the Metro interface too. Just about every e-mail I receive through Exchange I usually need to move to a folder. Guess what: drag and drop doesn't work and the 'Move' button is hidden.

      For the Start button, yes people will learn where it is. However clicking it on a multi-monitor setup is a lot harder than just having a Start button there. I honestly don't see the point in hiding it AND making it hard to click.

      Sometimes less is more. And then at other times, it isn't.
      Han CNX
      • the start menu

        i don't like the old start menu, it sucks, only thing on windows 8 is that i am not sure you can have multi programs and website opened at the same time on the screen,
        gevabar
        • Chuckle

          So they removed the Start Button and gave you a Start Screen.

          Wow. That makes so much sense on a non-tablet.
          rhonin
        • You can

          Two applications (Metro or "regular") can share the screen.
          Spatha@...
      • Hit the Windows Key to bring up the Start screen

        Hit the Windows Key (to bring up the Start screen) and start typing what you're looking for. It's fast and easy, and similar to the "dash" key (Ctrl) in Ubuntu.
        Spatha@...
        • Typing what I am looking for is the problem!

          Very often I cannot remember the name of that application I installed a few months ago and that I need very much but only use once every new moon...
          And then where is it? Under apps or under settings in the charm bar?

          With windows 8 things are totally disorganised. The windows screen is flat. There is no drill down logic which the start menu offers.

          As soon as you will see a software developer working with windows 8 you will realise how much it is for "power users".

          Now at home for my dad, wife and kids, I agree it is great!
          Drakkhen
        • Yeah right...

          Typing a name that I may or may not remember is SOOOO much easier than clicking a button. Welcome to 1969 computing.

          I can't wait until they extend this "ease of use" thing to other functions...
          Why click an "italics" button when its so much easier to just start and end text with /i?
          Why click a format button when its soo much easier to just whip up the command prompt and type it in??

          Wow... here's a brainstorm... why bother with a GUI at all? Its soo much easier and faster to just type in text commands!

          Long live DOS, the once and future king!
          SbySW
        • Stupid comment

          Guess what: In Windows Vista and 7, hit the Windows key and start typing for what you are looking for! Try it! What a revolution, Microsoft is advertising a feature that has existed for nearly a decade while turning the start menu into a mess!
          TrantaLocked
      • Can you say "Start8"?

        If you are NOT using a touchscreen, the lack of a start button is inconvenient and just downright frustrating. It makes sense with a touch screen but how many individuals are going to run out and purchase a touch screen so long as they have a perfectly functional monitor? Well, my solution is "start 8" It works great and puts a stop to the controversy. If you want the start button get it (its free) if you don't then embrace the that irritating swipey thing in the top right corner!
        kippie2013
  • The article make sense.

    Good that the 'Start button' is gone. If pretty easy to get used to the new interface.
    owlllnet
    • I don't use the Start button much anyway.

      I agree. I use the search box and type what I want. And everyone that I have shown that to has loved it. I think people can learn to live without it.
      necessaryevil
      • On the other hand

        I use it continually.
        roteague
    • For touchscreens and thise familar with the new UI

      neither are a large number of desktop users.
      Richard Flude
    • There is a good way to let MS know this is not "my idea"

      buy a new win8 machine, and retuan it after 3 days. Tell customer service that "the pc is not userful without start menu".

      After 5 million computers returned back, MS will (has to) realize their mistake.
      FADS_z
      • How did that work with the ribbon in Office?

        It didn't - and yet people got used to it.

        MS has decided that this is the way forward for Windows. You can either adapt to it or change your OS.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
        • Can you return office

          Normally people can't return software after it is open
          FADS_z
        • MS is leading the way into the abyss

          Millions of people did not like the ribbon and just switched to Open (Libre) Office, which is more than adequate, and much easier to use for most people. Desktop users are likely to stick with Windows 7 until MS regains their sanity and updates it for them in Windows 7XP or some such. Else someone will make a version of Linux that emulates the traditional MS desktop so it is usable for them. It's too bad MS has to keep "fixing" what isn't broken.
          Elwood Diverse
          • So a major change

            lead to less than 1% of Office users changing to an alternate office suite. Oooh, yeah. That will show them!
            LiquidLearner
          • Ribbon was a major hit

            Do you even know how much the ribbon was hit?
            Do you know how many unknown functionalities in ms office surfaced because of ribbon?
            Do you know that it was user's feedback which brought ribbon into sharepoint and now windows 8.

            Either you have no idea how software industry works. Either way you doesn't look like you have any metrics
            Jebarson Jebamony