This post was inspired by the following email that appeared in my inbox a few days ago.
Rather than whine about Windows 8, do you have any suggestions for making it more bearable?
I've been using Windows 8 for a long time, over 19 months in fact, ever since the first leaked builds appeared on the Web. Yet, despite this long hands-on period, Windows 8 and I still aren't friends. I find that the new Modern user interface gets in the way of productivity, and the way that Microsoft forces me away from the familiar Windows desktop and into the Start Screen both distracting and jarring.
I've experimented with a number of tools that attempt to make the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 a little smoother, and without a doubt, the best utility for doing this is RetroUI.
RetroUI is not free -- pricing starts are a very reasonable $4.95 -- but it comes packed with features, including putting the Start Menu back in its rightful place, and allowing me to bypass the Start Screen. It also gives me the option to run Windows 8 apps in a windows rather than in full-screen mode, and disable those hot-corners that trigger the charms bar and app switcher, and which continue to catch me out.
If you feel that $5 is too steep a price tag, a free alternative is Classic Shell. It doesn't offer all the features of RetroUI, but it will allow you to bring back the Start Menu and remove the 'hot corner' functionality.
Another thing that annoys me to the core about Windows 8 is the way that it has removed my ability to play DVDs without having to pay Microsoft for the privilege. The best way to add DVD support to Windows 8 -- for free -- is to download and install VLC Player. It's a small download, and once installed will handle pretty much any media file you care to throw at it.
These two simple downloads have made my transition to Windows 8 a lot smoother, allowing me to carry forward the same level of productivity while still getting access to new features such as Windows 8 apps.