Does Windows Start Screen Get in the Way of Productivity or Not?

I’ve been using Windows 8 off and on again since the early “Developer Preview” days. In that time, I’ve went from a Windows 8 enthusiast, to a major critic and then finally settled in with loving Windows 8.

For a long while I was also of the opinion that removing the Start Menu and Button was a foolish mistake on Microsoft’s part. Forcing us to use a touch-optimized UI is absolute rubbish, I thought. Now that I’ve been comfortably been using Windows 8 solidly for over 6 months (including later previews and the final commercial version), I have totally changed stances, sort of.

I still don’t use the Metro/Modern apps hardly EVER. They don’t suite me. I have a 27-inch monitor and usually have multiple windows running side by side (Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, etc), I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d say 95% or more of my time is spent in the desktop.

That said, when I let my preschool-aged daughter use my PC, she loves the new apps and the new UI. She also easily knows how to get from the desktop to the modern UI, and back again.

The change in my stance and attitude towards Windows 8 was when I slowly realized that Microsoft isn’t forcing ANYONE to use the Start apps or UI. At least not really.

Windows 8 Still Has the Start Menu

The Start Menu is still there, and in many ways seems more fluid than Windows 7. Let me further explain this. I consider myself a computer nerd, even though I may not be the most advanced power user out there by a longshot. I also know what I want to do with my computer, the names of my apps, etc.

So in Windows 8, life is easy. I hit the Windows key on my Keyboard, I start instantly typing what I’m looking for: Computer, Disk Management, Sims 3, SimCity 4… whatever I type, it finds VERY quickly. I click on it, I’m back in the desktop and down to business.

Going to the full-screen start menu (aka Start Screen) doesn’t hinder my productivity or entertainment efforts, if anything they enhance it.

Windows 8 is faster, and its task manager is better

I honestly love the new task manager. It isn’t going to be considered an improvement by everyone, but it does the job rather well. Most of the changes to Windows desktop are subtle and I really feel like the desktop just feels faster.

I forget I’ve upgraded…

To put it bluntly, I often forget that this is a change from Windows 7. I use it the EXACT same way as I always have, other than my search for apps is a tiny bit different and the occasional restart or shutdown takes a bit more effort.

After spending a little time with Windows 8, I don’t get all the complaints. Is it worth upgrading? Maybe not. I can’t say it has improved my PC experience all that much, but it certainly hasn’t hindered it.

For many users, buying an upgrade key probably won’t bring them any major changes worth having unless you are someone who likes to have the latest and greatest software. On the other side of things, I see absolutely NO reason to pay for a downgrade on new Windows 8 PCs. Windows 7 and Windows 8 co-exist perfectly, and Windows 8 is every bit as capable as Windows 7– if not much better. If you really can’t get past the Start Screen, get something like Start8.

I respect other people’s opinions and know that some will adamantly disagree with me. That’s fine, as this is my opinion and that doesn’t make it fact. What works for some doesn’t for others, but in my own experience, NO, Windows 8’s new UI doesn’t get in the way of productivity in the slightest bit.

I’d love to get a better idea of the other side of the opinion spectrum, though. Instead of just saying “Start Screen sucks, Windows 7 FTW”, I invite Windows 8 critics to share with me how Start UI has gotten in their way and why just typing instantly for apps can’t work for them, just remember to be respectful and understand that there isn’t necessarily right or wrong when it comes to opinion.

I imagine there might be legitimate scenarios where Start Menu was better for somethings, it just doesn’t seem to matter for my own particular usage patterns. For a great majority of users though, the hatred for Windows 8’s new UI is more based on misunderstanding or lack of willingness to give it an “honest try” more than any real hurdle caused by the change.

What do you think, do you agree that Windows Start Screen really doesn’t hurt the desktop experience or not? Share your thoughts below.

Please Leave Your Comments Below...

  • Robert Trance

    Perfectly honestly, it is not in the way of anything!
    I use this beauty on a conventional laptop with touchpad (has Synaptic’s new software for my touchpad, made for Win. 8. gestures!!!) and with joy and smile!
    There are Store apps i just love and share things from with Charm Bar’s contextual menu system, or playing, however many forget the fact that your legacy software (development tools, Office, games, all your Win. 7 programs) will start automatically on the desktop, so i never understood why anyone finds troubling, there is no limitation
    I love all the extras and possibilties this new face of the OS gives!

  • garak0410

    I think most people going to Windows 8 will look at the “mess” that is the start screen and hate it. Microsoft does need some better training for newbies. For me, once I set the start screens the way I want (classifiying each block of apps), it is a lot of fun and makes sense. I do have some issues creating shortcuts of older apps that will not “pin” to the new start screen but otherwise, I am loving it!

    I also picked up an ASUS 11.6″ touchscreen laptop and just LOVE it!

    • Ray C

      I think they do need to give more options as it relates to organizing groups and maybe the “all apps” section. Some people might like an option for collapsible groups. They do need more videos and tutorials for newbies, but I do think there is a big group of people who have gotten “spoiled” by the idea of just sitting down and using it. A lot of novices would probably make the jump from 7 to 8 if they felt like they can just sit down and do a few basic things without needing help. For me not knowing how to minimize an app, get to shut down options, or log off was just an annoyance. For some of them it’s probably a year or two long deterrent from moving to Windows 8. Where is the time and network indicator on start screen? I think it could have gone a long way for some people if certain basic things were simply easy to do or find. For whatever reason, some people have to be able to sit down and within a minute say “oh, I did this in Windows 7/XP, oh I see how you do it on this.” Of course they’ll never probably do something like that now because they feel like enough info is out there. They don’t feel the need for a tile for shut down or log off options or one for all apps, now that there is the little arrow. They likely won’t ever chose to have less tiles on the first page of the start screen by default or have tile sets where different amounts of tiles appear on the main start screen for each.

  • Dieter@Home

    You only need to see the start screen once you startup your pc if you won’t use it. You can pin all of your frequently used apps to the taskbar. I never have used the start menu in windows 7. I always pinned the programs to the task bar and when I need to find something I just use the finder.
    With windows 8, I do use the start menu (which has become a start screen really.) because I like the looks of it to pin all my apps to it. I do hardly use metro apps, but the other apps can be grouped and place to your liking and that’s great!

  • cantonweb

    Pretty much the same thing I wrote in our company blog: once you’re past the start screen, you are at the familiar Windows desktop. The only twist is that I use Quick Launch (yes, it is still there), and have dozens of program icons on it. It’s rare I ever have to use the start menu even in Win7. I don’t pin to the taskbar since the pinned icons take up way too much space, and I don’t care for that pinning concept on the taskbar in general.

    • Ray C

      I feel the same way as the article writer. I was like most people who comment on Windows 8. I had been complaining every chance I got about the new interface and no start menu, and I’d never so much as touched a beta version. This I used a Windows 8 beta, and I must say I was instantly frustrated. I wasn’t that Metro was as bad as a imagined. I simply didn’t know how to do three things: shut down the computer, log off the computer, or close an app without touching the home or Windows button. Once I stumbled onto how to do some things, it really wasn’t that bad. Then the first time I used my Windows 7 system at work after playing with Windows 8 all weekend, I realized I really wasn’t using the start menu that much. I might use it to go to “My Music.” I might use it to for the “recently used apps” feature or by extension open a recently open document. Working in IT, I probably used it for the search box or to get to command prompt. But that was basically it. I’d realized that like a many of the non-tech people I knew, I’d been converted to a desktop/task bar user. Heck even in my last couple years of XP, the only reason I used the start menu was because I had everything like music or control panel set to pop put as a menu.

      In all honestly, if you boot straight to desktop, that’s not completely different than using the Start Screen. If MS can continue to refine the start screen to work more like the desktop and give you more options as it relates to organization, you’d have to be completely biased to not recognized at least some positives in the Windows 8.x system. Yes, there will be some people who feel like they just have to have to start menu. That’s fine. There are apps for that. But for some people they’ve moved outside to realm of true criticism into simple hating for the sake of it.