What might a new Windows Start Menu look like?

What might a new Windows Start Menu look like?

Summary: Microsoft is believed to be planning to reintroduce a 'mini' Start Menu with a coming Windows release. But what will it look like?


If Microsoft does end up reintroducing a Start Menu to a future release of Windows, as sources are hinting, does it necessarily mean that menu will be identical to what exists now? And if it's not, does that defeat the purpose?

Your best friend or worst nightmare? Looks like a new version of the Windows Start Menu may be making a comeback.

Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott blogged earlier this week that his sources had indicated Microsoft might be planning to make two key user-interface changes to a coming version of Windows. One of these is the ability to "float" Metro-Style/Windows Store apps on the desktop. The other was to bring back the Start Menu, alongside the recently re-introduced Start Button.

I've seen a number of commentors wondering why Microsoft might reintroduce the Start Menu, since the Windows 8.x Start screen (the tiled interface) was designed to be a new representation of the Start Menu. The short answer is to help existing Windows users -- specifically, the more casual, non-power-user types -- figure out how to navigate Windows 8 without tears or fears.

Windows 8, even with the positive changes Microsoft made with the 8.1 release, still presents a usability hurdle for some who are familiar with older versions of Windows. Even if it can be mastered relatively quickly, Windows 8 works and looks different enough to keep some from considering the move away from their more familiar and productive Windows variants. And Microsoft wants Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 users to upgrade, not hold back or switch to a totally different platform because they are worried about Windows 8's learning curves and/or retraining costs.

A number of third-party tools, including Stardock's Start8, Classic Shell and Pokki, have found success with Start Menu add-ons designed for Windows 8.x.

Since Thurrott's initial December 10 report on the return of the Start Menu, I've heard from my own contacts that this is highly likely to happen. Microsoft is, indeed, highly likely to bring back Start Menu. Supposedly it's being called internally "mini-Start," (as it won't be a full-screen Start Menu like in Windows 8), one of my contacts said.

Microsoft may opt to introduce this new Menu as part of the "Threshold" Windows wave in the spring of 2015 or possibly before that, via some kind of Windows 8.1 update. I've heard there is an "Update 1" coming for Windows 8.1 in the spring of 2014, but no word as to how many subsequent updates may be in the pipeline.

Next-to-nothing, my contacts claim, has been determined by the team as to what this new Menu will look like. Will it include the same current category list (Documents, Pictures, Music, etc.) as Microsoft's current Start Menu on Windows 7? Will it be a menu of Metro-Style tiled apps? No tiles? Will it interact with the Start button that's on the Charms Bar in Windows 8 in some way? No word.

I'd assume the Start Menu will be a Desktop thing, like the 8.1 Start Button is. Maybe it will simply provide users with a mini version of the list of all the apps installed on their Windows 8.x machines.  I'd expect it to be designed to work decently with touch, even though from what both Thurrott and I have heard, the primary target audience for the new Start Menu will be those using Windows 8.x with keyboards and mice.

I know haters are gonna keep hating on this idea. But assume it's happening: How do you think Microsoft should design the new Start Menu?

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows, IT Policies


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Yeah Windows 9: Desktop = Windows 7

    Enterprises ain't going to buy Windows 8 in its current form, and have simply rejected the Metro experience, which doesn't fit on the Desktop.

    Cannot help feeling that Ballmer will have to apologise for Windows 8 in a few years time, just like with Longhorn/ Vista. Windows 8 has distracted Microsoft for about 3 years. They should have gone down Windows RT under a separate mpbile brand for both phones and Tablets. Like Apple and Google.

    BTW Nokia rumoured to be developing Android based handsets in their Asha range:

    • The was just to force MS to buy the asha business too

      Which Nokia knew neither they nor anyone else would otherwise be interested in. And selling the entire handset business was their goal, not just the smartphone (lumia) portion. Not that any of this has anything whatsoever to do with W8 startmenus...
      Johnny Vegas
      • Enterprises won't buy Windows 8?

        "Enterprises ain't going to buy Windows 8 in its current form, and have simply rejected the Metro experience, which doesn't fit on the Desktop."

        This is simply not true. I work for a Fortune 100 company, and we're being issued our first Windows 8.1 machines within a month. Not everyone, of course, since it takes quite a while to replace 10,000 computers. But we are working on it.

        I know that some feel like you said, but maybe you should quit trying to speak for the whole world when it's mostly just your notion. In ten years, Windows 7 will just be memory and people will be wondering what the fuss was all about.
        • re: Enterprises won't buy Windows 8?

          Fixed it for you ...

          In ten years, Windows 8 will just be memory and people will be wondering what the fuss was all about.
          • My company is moving 8...

            My company is moving to Windows 8, and embracing it in all forms (including RT...) I guess the company you work for sucks... Sorry.
          • re: I guess the company you work for sucks

            No, they just know better than to install a kiddie UI on our desktops.

            But then again, unlike you I don't flip burgers at McDonalds as a profession
          • great, perrrob

            continue to put ignorant moronic statements online as an impartial MS reviewer, this helps a lot to comprehend what understated type of critcs the system is actually upon.
            pls, don't forget to answer my comment as well :)
            PS: sad for MS though, not to have REAL critics, because a return to a start menu will be a failure in technical and psychological aspect.
          • How dare you criticize Windows 8

            Windows 8 is Microsoft innovation at it's finest! It is a first class OS. Well, second class actually because Linux has surpassed it. Well, third class actually because iOS is better too. Well, it doesn't totally suck like most of Microsoft's software. Well, maybe it does. But IT departments are still going to deploy it because they're the only ones that can deal with it and they need to continue using it to justify their jobs. So there! Stop criticizing!
          • First Class OS

            Actually Windows 8 puts both Linux, and Mac to shame. Linux almost requires programming knowledge to get ANYTHING to work properly.
          • perrob, bye bye hater

            If you have nothing to do but bash MS or Windows 8, you don't belong here.
          • ...

            I feel bad your company is doing that to you. Windows 8 is pretty much garbage until you mod the hell out of it for production.
          • You do realize MS is about to dump RT....right?

            Sounds like you might want to take some pointers from his company. If you understood what implications come with moving to 8 you would not be so smug. Ignorance is bliss.
          • .....

            Then they will see it again and say oh yeah what the hell was MS thinking lol
          • Windows 8 will become the standard like XP was

            Our company has rolled out Windows 8 and 8.1 devices, both desktop, laptops, and now Surface Pro 2 very successfully. No user issues with minimal training.
          • Windows 7 is the new XP

            Most corporations that are scrambling to get off XP are going to Windows 7, not 8. In an economy that still isn't running on full throttle, corporations aren't going to invest the resources and manpower it will require to train people on using 8. I myself will continue to use Windows 7 until Microsoft releases an acceptable successor. If they do not, then it will be goodbye MS. Microsoft needs to realize the days of being able to force unwanted products down their customers' throats because of their monopoly are over. Unlike the Windows ME era or even the Vista era, today there are viable alternatives to MS.
        • Enterprises won't buy Windows 8?

          lesterbauman, I agree some enterprise will move to 8.x. Our 250,000+ desktop enterprise is only considering it on a very small scale for some tablet users. (Currently iPad and iPhone are the company standard.) But we are still migrating XP machines to Win7 so I think your prediction that in ten years W7 will be just a memory is wrong. I think we may just have completed getting all our users ONTO W7 in ten years! LOL! I'm not a fan of W8 and completely dumped Windows at home entirely when MS booted us Technet subscribers. I make my living working with Windows apps at the office but I don't have to use it at home.
          • Really?

            TechNet gone and you dump Windows? I call B.S. on your statement. You obviously are an Apple fanboi. A failure IMHO. Try somewhere else.
          • Why not believe it?

            I completely dumped Windows at home as well. 5 Macs at home now. My main work computer is a 2012 15inch Macbook pro. I systems guy and 90% of those systems are Windows. I have a Windows 7 VDI for all of my admin work. Its running full screen on one of my two 24inch LCD's. I don't even use Microsoft's RDP software on my Mac because frankly it sucks. With so many of my admin tools now being we based I rely less and less on my Windows VDI to get things done. Wee are 100% virtualized on VMware and I manage it from Safari. I manage Lync 2013 from Safari as well.

            In 2013 is very, very easy to NOT live with Microsoft products. That is not to say they are not needed. We use the heck out of Office, Exchange, SQL, Lync and AD. However where we can, we avoid MS products. We have dumped SCCM, SCOM, IPAM, DPM, Hyper V/SCVMM in favor of better products, usually virtual appliances that are running on Linux....for example we use Infoblox for IPAM which replaced all of our DNS/DHCP/NTP that was on MS servers. KACE replaced SCCM another Linux Appliance that is better than the Microsoft answer.

            We have ZERO plans to move to Windows 8. A few of us will have a Windows 8.1 VDI when we upgrade our domain controllers from 2008 R2 to 2012 R2 for the RSAT tools. If they made those tools for Windows 7 we would NOT go to Windows 8.x
          • Problem with Readibility

            I tried to read your comments but gave up after three lines. You need a refresher course in English if you want anyone to take you seriously.
          • Readibility - Really???????

            The words pot, kettle and black all come to mind!

            You might want to brush up on your own spelling before you go criticising others literary skills...
            The Central Scrutinizer