Sorry, but bringing back the Start menu won't help Windows 8

Sorry, but bringing back the Start menu won't help Windows 8

Summary: There are plenty of legitimate concerns about the Windows 8 interface. But if you think the removal of the Start menu is the root cause of those problems, you're mistaken. See for yourself.

TOPICS: Windows 8

I keep reading critiques of Windows 8 whose central premise is that Microsoft needs to bring back the Start menu.

And I ask, in all seriousness, why?

Yes, there are legitimate concerns about the changes in the Windows 8 user interface. The learning curve is steep, some of its most basic new functions are difficult to discover, and parts of the UI are, frankly, unfinished and in transition. Windows 8.1 needs to fix those problems.

But simply plopping a Start menu on the screen isn't the solution. The problems with Windows 8 weren’t caused by the removal of the Start menu. All of the things you can do with the Start menu in Windows 7 can be accomplished using the new interface.

Don’t believe me? Here, look at the Windows 7 Start menu, where I’ve highlighted its core functions.


Let’s go through each of those five parts.

1 - Search

In both Windows 7 and Windows 8, you start a search by tapping the Start button or moving the mouse pointer to the lower left corner of the screen and clicking. (The fact that there’s no Start button in Windows 8 doesn’t matter; that gesture still works.)

In Windows 7, you can begin typing as soon as you see the Start menu. Your input appears in the box at the bottom of the Start menu, and as you type, the Start menu’s contents adjust to show programs, settings, and files that match your input.


That unified list might be a good thing if you find exactly what you’re looking for. But it’s limited to the top three results in each category, which means your search term has to be very specific or you have to click the heading to open another window. At that point it’s not really a shortcut anymore.

In Windows 8, you can just start typing at the Start screen to begin a search. Results appear immediately as tiles on the left, and you’re not limited to three items in the list.

Click (or tap) Settings to find matching results in Control Panel options, as shown below.


And then there’s Files search, the weakest of the three options. I get more complaints about this than any other aspect of Windows 8, so here’s a tip. Ignore the Files option on the Start screen and use the search box in File Explorer (on the desktop) instead. If you remember the keyboard shortcut Windows + E, it’s easy.

2 – Pin

In Windows 95, it was a big deal that you could pin program shortcuts to the Start menu. But Windows 7 added the ability to pin programs to the taskbar, which meant that you didn’t have to visit the Start menu at all.

The taskbar is still there on the Windows 8 desktop, which means you can still pin your most frequently used programs to it, which means once you get to the desktop and pin those program shortcuts you can mostly ignore the Start screen.

And you can pin programs (including some system shortcuts) to the Start screen too.

So, those desktop programs you use occasionally but not often enough to warrant cluttering the taskbar with? Pin them to the Start screen in a custom group. Call it Utilities or Extras or, really, whatever you want, and those pinned shortcuts are never more than a tap of the Windows key away.

There's an All Programs shortcut at the bottom of the Start menu that leads to a cascading menu. It takes at least three clicks to find a program there (Start, All Programs, folder name). In Windows 8, you can see the same program shortcuts on the All Apps menu, which is three clicks away: Start, right-click, All Apps.

3 – User Account

Did you even know that clicking the icon at the top of the right column opens the User Accounts section in Control Panel? Very few people know about that little trick, and even fewer have the need to use it more than once or twice a year. In Windows 8, you can find it by opening Control Panel, typing user in the search box, and clicking the User Accounts tile in the search results.

But if this little icon’s a dealbreaker for you, well, I guess you need the Start menu.

4 – Files

The right side of the Start menu holds shortcuts that open top-level folders in Windows Explorer: your user profile, your Documents/Pictures/Music folders, and (of course) Computer, where you can browse your entire file system starting with drive letters.

Does anyone still use these shortcuts in 2013?

File Explorer (the new Windows 8 name for what used to be called Windows Explorer) has a shortcut on the taskbar. It has a Favorites section in the sidebar on the left, where you can put shortcuts to the folders you use most often. You can pin folders, drives, and libraries to the Start screen. Here's what a suitably customized Start screen looks like.


This custom screen has a bunch of useful administrative tools under the Desktop tile, and a separate group of shortcuts to folders and system locations just to its right.

You don’t need a Start menu to browse files, honest.

5 - Settings

The Windows 7 Start menu has a shortcut for Control Panel and Default Programs. You can pin either or both of those shortcuts to the Start screen, the taskbar, or both in Windows 8. The thing is, though, you’ll be much more productive if you search for the specific setting you’re trying to find. Enter a search term on the Start screen, click or tap Settings, and go.

That Devices and Printers shortcut on the Windows 7 Start menu can’t be pinned to the Start screen or the taskbar. But really, when was the last time you visited that page? Did you even know it existed?

Yeah, I thought so.

So tell me again why taking the Start menu away made you less productive and why bringing it back will restore that lost productivity?

Seriously, I want to know.

Update: Several people have asked, what about the power buttons? Ha. I remember the jokes in 1995 when everyone thought it was hilarious to point out that you clicked "Start" to shut down. On modern hardware, the operating system and the hardware work together.You want your notebook to sleep? Close the lid. You want to shut dpown your PC? Press the power button. You want to lock your PC? Learn the keyboard shortcut Windows key + L.

You can even customize these settings:

Modern power options

Back in the dark ages, Windows couldn't respond to these requests from hardware, and if you tried shutting down by pressing the power button you would lose your work. But that hasn't been an issue in years. Every modern PC design supports these features.

Topic: Windows 8

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  • Amen.

    100% truth.
    Steve Hiehn
    • To bad people don't want to use the interface at all

      According to a study done buy Soluto most don't use the touch screen or metro apps with windows 8

      "The news isn’t wonderful. Of the 10,848 Windows 8 devices studied by Soluto, the majority of traditional desktop and laptop users—even ones using a device with a touchscreen—fail to open a modern-style app daily. (Note that this study refers only to modern apps, not to traditional desktop programs.) Even on tablets, the devices best suited for Windows 8’s modern UI, just 56 percent of all users launch a Windows 8 app day in and day out."

      "Soluto also tracked which apps are being used the most. Unsurprisingly, all but one of the top ten entries are preinstalled Microsoft apps. (Netflix cracked the list at number eight.) What's a bit surprising, however, is how rarely most apps—especially non-Microsoft apps—are being used.

      Only Windows Reader, Windows Photos, Windows Camera, and the core communication apps—like Mail and Calendar—are being used by more than 10 percent of users. That quartet consists of defaults tied to basic functions of the OS. (Soluto representatives told me the modern version of Internet Explorer 10 was not included in this study.)

      The Soluto report has a full breakdown of the top 20 most-used modern UI apps, along with other interesting data points, if you’re curious."

      From this, I infer that Microsoft needs to make the Metro UI more like the desktop UI so that more people use it (or, at least, have them add the same functionality. Two apps side by side is NOT at the multitasking level of the desktop environment).

      The potential is there, it's just not being harnessed very well, IMO.
      • Desktop apps maybe

        Just means there were using desktop apps like Office.
        Says nothing about the Start Menu
        • Start menu won't help Windows 8

          If Microsoft wanted better acceptance of this system, a free dvd showing the more serious stuff may be appropriate to get the ball rolling. We pay over a hundred dollars for a O S disk, an owners manual on disk to watch should be free, right; or, did I miss the memo for that, too.
          • You answered your own question

            5 different ways to get at the stuff you want, or 1 start menu that does all 5 things. It's simpler to have a start menu, it was a hit when it was released, and if "tiles' were such a great idea then they would have been implemented way back in 95.

            Sorry, but the start menu just works. And that applies to Ubuntu Unity as well.
          • When articles like this exist - the problem exists

            It's not just the start menu. How many years of OS and UI design do we have since the birth of the PC?

            The UI should be intuitive. The UI should be easy. The UI should be logical.

            This is not the case if:
            - articles are being written explaining how to use the UI (to a tech audience)

            - articles are being written excusing the UI, with "who does that anyway" (and another one I heard was "yes but , if you think about it differently...")

            - articles are being written a non-objective defense of the UI along the lines of "people just say that because it's MS", or "only 1% of people dislike it so that's ok, now it's 2% but that's still ok, now it's 10% but that's still ok, now its 25% but that's still ok..."

            You can't ignore that there are people out there who are having problems using the UI that are the type of people that should not be having problems using the UI. That is, plain and simple, a UI fail.

            From my own experience, I had a guy in my team, with nearly 10 years sysadmin experience across multiple OSes, turn around and say "How do I restart this, I can't find the option!" And no Ed, he couldn't physically hit the power button as it was a virtual machine.

            My own opinion is - why on earth would I want a touch orientated UI on 100's of virtual servers that I will never be interacting with through the medium of touch!? Strip it out, make then slimmer, make them faster, reduce the attack vector.

            These articles exist. The UI is not good.
          • jamfuse, your post is sterling!

            Thank you! The only thing I could add, is this: if Windows 8's sole problem WERE the Start Menu, then 80% of the negative reviews of its installation in Amazon, wouldn't exist. Even the positive reviews of less than 5 stars, complain about the UI. But the negative ones also list MANY other problems, which none of these pro-Windows 8 articles, even address.

            So as far as I'm concerned, any pro-Windows 8 article is not worth reading. For what you say is true: if there were nothing wrong with an idea, apologetics wouldn't be necessary. And if there are a lot of complaints about OTHER STUFF related to a product or an idea, pretending those complaints don't exist, is just prevarication.

            For that reason, I'm learning what pundits NOT to read, by what they write. The dishonesty in pro-Windows 8 articles, is extreme.
          • Teach your team members simple windows commands.

            I mentioned this in another commen but thoght it should be made here. Make shortcuts to shutdown.exe and pin them so you have shutdown and restart buttons on the Win8 start screen. Every sysadmin should have heard of that command.

            Shutdown button: shutdown.exe /s /t 0
            Restart button: shutdown.exe /r /t 0
            Find the pretty icons from the shell for them.

            I remember people at first making the startmenu/taskbar hide automatically because they feared it. With the resolutions we are at and the size of the monitors hitting the desks there is a whole lot of wasted real estate. Its not a bad thing to start using that space. Is the OOB Win8 start screen perfect? Not even. But as a sysadmin to many it can be a godsend once it evolves a little more. Keeping the user on the start screen and in their applications can be a good thing. They don't need to see, or know what, a file system is. Leave that to the devs, admins, etc.
          • and WHY should I have do do theses steps????

            MS have just lost 75% of their client base.
          • I've already learned how to use Windows once.

            What do I gain from having to learn new, different ways of getting the same results?

            Damn but I'm tired of hearing about learning keyboard shortcuts. Wasn't that the point of having a GUI and mouse, so we could visually see cues for what we wanted to do WITHOUT having to memorize keystrokes? I have a computer to remember information for me, not the other way around.
          • Well, I actually learned how to use it twice,

            maybe 2.5 times (Win 3.1, Win 95 and the interface changes in Vista/7).

            I'm with you. It's nice to know about the keyboard shortcuts, but I've always wondered what all the hullabaloo was about as you are right about the GUI and mouse.

            Bott is missing the point and is quite snarky in his superiority. I still use some of those Start Menu items he so glibly derides because they are useful. I also use the Quick Launch bar as it holds more shortcuts than the Taskbar.

            That Metro (or whatever they call it now) interface is horrible and ugly. Win 8 without it is fine.

            Bott is wrong. Restoring the Start Menu would be a welcome thing.
          • This is the most intelligent

            appraisal of the situation I have ever read. I notice no one has seen fit to deny anything written in his response. Way to go jamfuse!!!!
          • copracr I agree 100% with you...neither Metro or Unity work well

            After reading all 515 post the one thing is clear and that is NO ONE is sold on how Metro handles the start up. It has caused to many overall problems. Metro is a tablet UI and dosn't really work well in a desktop inviroment. Metro makes you take to many additional steps to do anything and porcess you to do much extra thing to gets things tooo open properly....this wastes a users time.......and the one thing that really pops out is that Windows 8 is so Microsoft is more interested in selling apps and in giving the END USER a better experience.
            Over and Out
          • Start up

            Just get an app like I did and windows starts in desk mode. If I want to switch back I just click the bottom right windows thingy and go to Metro. When I'm in Metro I just hit the Windows key and click desktop. It is so easy. Stop crying about this crap.
            I never wanted to go to Win8, but my new laptop has it and it is so easy. No learning curve at all.
          • Start UP - get an app like you did???

            You are completely missing the point Kenogami. As you acknowledged, you had to get an app to get Windows 8 to start in Desk Mode. Good for you BUT you had to get an app didn't you?

            If you think Win 8 is great, I can't help but wonder if you are in the minority as a heck of a lot of people DID NOT LIKE THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE START BUTTON - I being one of them.

            As many on this site have said, a release of a new operating system should not mean wasted time trying to find out where things are - that is lost time and productivity.

            The other thing unsaid about Win 8 and it's more about Microsoft and their flock of trained gerbils. You might take a break from your training and consider the following:
            - Who at Microsoft concluded that people want an O/S that allows others to get
            their greasy fingers over my monitor?
            - Who at Microsoft thought computer users wanted an O/S identical to a tablet as justification for the Win 8 look? Instead of getting rid of the Start Button to make the desk and laptops more like a tablet, did they consider the reverse? Add the Start button to the tablet to make it more like a desk or laptop. Just in case you aren't aware of this little fact.....there are more desk and laptop users out there than there are tablet users. I guess Microsoft didn't consider that little fact.

            New O/S's should be an advancement, not someone in the bowels of Microsoft telling the computer user what HE thinks the user will like. Most computer users are sufficiently intelligent to determine what we do or do not like. Not all of us are trained gerbils.
          • Wrong

            "You answered your own question

            5 different ways to get at the stuff you want, or 1 start menu that does all 5 things. It's simpler to have a start menu, it was a hit when it was released, and if "tiles' were such a great idea then they would have been implemented way back in 95.

            Sorry, but the start menu just works. And that applies to Ubuntu Unity as well.


            Wrong, obviously, you have not looked at Windows 95. All of those features were not in Windows 95. Some of them were, and others were adding as teh OS evolved.
          • er...

            "Sorry, but the start menu just works. And that applies to Ubuntu Unity as well."

            Ubuntu DOES have a start menu. Unlike Windows 8, Ubuntu's menu is just that, not some entirely new interface with a few (hidden) start menu features thrown in. You can pin stuff to the favourites and search for appseither by keyword or by manual search. The only difference is it can do this for many other media types - even stuff on iPlayer if you want it to
          • Unity sucks too

            Both Unity and Gnome 3 have not been well accepted for the same reasons. A tablet is a tablet and a desktop/laptop are what they are. Tablets, constantly cleaning the screen, even using a stylus - don't have that problem with the desktop/laptop (unless using one of those rare touch screens).

            Anytime you take away the ability to navigate menus quickly with a mouse and force people to remember the obscure name for some application and spend time typing, you are decreasing productivity. All the break dancing and "happy" sliding the finger over a bunch of nonsense on the screen isn't conducive to selling Windows 8 or Ubuntu Unity or other touch I/Fs to a desktop market.

            As far as the stuff Ed wrote, I rarely use it. I have my icons on the desktop - either stand-alone or in folders. A few are pinned to the task bar. On my Linux systems, I do the same and use "panels" (akin to the task bar) - in fact, I have both top and bottom "panels" with certain items pinned to the top and others pinned to the bottom. One click and I am there - no giving the finger to the screen to scroll and scroll or having to remember what to type.

            BTW, I use a tablet too (both an Android and an iPad (anniversary present from the kids). Both are good for playing games (really productive - huh!) or searching for restaurants using google voice. However, to send e-mail (or reply to stuff like this), the desktop/laptop "excels".
          • start menu

            if you have to have a start menu in windows 8, log on to stardock. com and d/l start8
            that should slove your problem :)
          • I wonder how many pirates like Windows 8

            I wonder if part of the problem a lot of people have is that they have not yet obtained a real copy and so they had to jump through whatever hoops to pirate it (or haven't even tried it at all).

            Once I started using search to launch programs I never missed the start menu in the slightest. Just hit the Windows key and start typing - the search window appears - "E ... X ... C..." enter. Excel. No more hunting through menus. I now hate menus, especially start menus.

            It's time for people to get with it. This is a much better way to go. You could do it in Windows 7 too. Give up the archaic start menu.
            Schoolboy Bob