Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Windows 8 Start Menu

I have written in my previous articles about the limitations of Windows 8, namely, the change in the interface and user experience. This was a deliberate move by Microsoft to meet the rising demand of tablet computing which has resulted in declining sales of traditional PCs. I think Microsoft has miscalculated the trend though as there are still a large number of PC users which prefer the traditional Windows interface. I know that some computer stores won't even offer Windows 8 on their new PCs, preferring to install Windows 7, and for good reason. Windows 8 is so different that most everyday computer users get very confused with the new layout. The key area of difficulty is the start menu. This has been removed in Windows 8 and is now called the start screen. Microsoft brought back the start button in Windows 8.1, but this was just cosmetic as it took you to the start screen anyway.  As a side note, Windows 8.1 is a free update to  to all Windows 8 owners, and in fact is required update in order for future patches to be accessible.

There are ways to reclaim the traditional start menu experience. You can set preferences in Windows 8.1 so that the desktop is the default view when starting up and this can simplify navigation. You can also install 3rd party start buttons. I have used the free app called Classic Shell (www.classicshell.net). In essence this brings back the start menu with easy access to all programs and settings (including easy access to the shutdown menu). Classic Shell also comes with customisations to windows explorer and internet explorer that make it familiar to older style Windows users. Installation is straight forward, just download the installer from the classic shell website and run through the installation wizard. Once this is complete you can choose the start menu style you prefer and customise other user experience options in the settings.

Microsoft will be releasing Windows 9 over the next year and I hope they heed the discontent that Windows users have experienced and bring back the ease of use that traditional desktop users are used to. If they don't, they might find themselves losing even greater market share to free alternatives such as the many Linux variants available (see my previous article on Linux options in the April edition). 

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