Windows 8 Start Menu Part 2

First Impressions - Windows 8 Start Menu Part 2

by Larry Neal Gowdy -June 10, 2012 (updated October 6, 2013)

Windows 8 Start Menu on a vertical taskbar

Windows 8 Start Menu on a vertical taskbar.

Windows 8 Start Menu with an expanding menu

Windows 8 Start button with an expanding menu.

Part 2 in a series of Windows 8 articles.

(Please also see Windows 8 Start Menu part 1.)

I use computers for specific purposes, and for me it does not matter if I am using Windows® 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, or Linux®, I still need quick access to all programs. I typically have at least ten programs running simultaneously, sometimes six or more at reduced sizes on one monitor screen, and I switch from one to the other every few minutes. Metro in Windows 8 may be good for people who only use one or two programs at a time to watch movies or read email, but Metro without a start menu does not appear advantageous for individuals who use keyboards in their occupations.

The apps in Metro are cute because they are something new (I like new), but except for a few apps like SkyDrive I will likely never use Metro. Why would I limit myself to using only one or two programs at a time? While it might be reasonable for some individuals to think of the Metro screen as the start menu - and surely many individuals will grow accustomed to changing screens whenever opening a new program - but my personal tastes prefer to remain looking at a singular screen. I do not want animations of any form on my computer desktops, and the changing of screens can be as distracting as an animation. I need a start menu!

With my now having used Windows 8 a few minutes at a time over the past three days I am acquiring the habits of moving the mouse to the four corners to access desktops and menus, but that's a lot of mouse traveling when compared to simply clicking on a start menu icon. The current start menu setup is working fairly well for me even though the drop-down start menu is of a basic classic-like theme.

The current start menu setup was created by simply adding a new toolbar to the task manager and using the 'Start Menu' folder for the toolbar. I renamed the Start icon with an exclamation point at the front so that it would be listed first alphabetically. The toolbar is then dragged to the top of the taskbar and resized so that only the first icon is visible. By left-clicking the small rectangle below the Start icon a pop-out menu appears that lists all of the program shortcuts in the folder. I will continue to tinker with different ideas, but so far the current start menu setup is working well for me. When I install the full release version of Windows 8 I will finish the start menu by adding shortcuts to all of my programs plus links to many of the tools and configuration menus.

A happy surprise during the past two months is that once every few days I discover something new and useful about a computer program. I recently discovered that Vista is actually quite good when properly tweaked (yeah I know, hard to believe, but I am running Vista Business fulltime now; it is that good). Something that I discovered while finishing this article is that the Windows key on the keyboard switches between Metro and the desktop in Windows 8. Yeah, simple stuff, but I myself had never used the Windows key except maybe once or twice when it was first made available. And yes if I would have had access to a manual on Windows 8 I would have learned of the Windows key function, but I usually prefer to tinker with a program for a week or two before I begin asking questions (it's a lot of fun to me to discover a program's features by my simply digging around the controls). So what I am looking at now is that Metro can become a decent start menu itself once most of the apps are pushed off to the right and have program links placed in their space. Hmmm, with the desktop and Metro backgrounds being of a similar color, suddenly Windows 8 is looking much better to me. I will need to form the habit of using the Windows key, but I can do that.

Several years back I tinkered with the idea that it might be fun to change the XP desktop to have rows of squares and rectangles similar to what Opera® and FireFox® now have for their speed dial pages. A few months later I saw that HP® came out with a similar idea on their notebooks. Apparently the idea has merit because now Microsoft® has applied a similar design for the Windows 8 Metro. I had abandoned the idea because of my need to rapidly access numerous programs without having to minimize all open programs to then access the program squares. Linux has multiple desktops, and XP also has a multiple desktop gadget, but to me neither the Linux nor the XP setups are satisfying. Windows Metro has solved the problem with dual desktops, and suddenly I have a renewed interest in Windows 8. I may revert back to using the start menu instead of Metro, but it will be fun to see how each works for my needs. I am confident that I will install W8 when it is released, but now I am more looking forward to it.

I just installed Office 97 for fun, and it works great, although I think I will pass on seeing whether or not Internet Explorer 3.02 will install! ;)

Windows 8 Start Menu folder display

Windows 8 Start Menu folder display.

(Update October 06, 2013: After around a year of using Windows 8 on my computers and on customers' computers, I have found a preference to no longer use any start menu. The Stardock® Start8 menu works well, but I have grown accustomed to keyboard shortcuts, and now I find myself not wanting a start menu at all. We all have different preferences, but luckily for me my preferences are very much liking Windows 8 straight out of the box.)

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