Just the other day I wrote about how the start menu and start bar were not natively available in Windows 8, even with a registry hack. At he same time, I noted that more than likely, in time, an alternative start menu program would probably pop up. Well it certainly didn’t take very long for this to happen as there are already at least two alternatives readily available.
I say at least two because there could certainly be more, I’ve just only been able to uncover two at the moment. Now, each of these offers a very different experience, finding the right one will likely vary based on your own preferences.
Option 1: Start8
Start8 is made by Stardock, a major brand name when it comes to Windows customizations over the years. What makes Start8 interesting is that it doesn’t seek to bring back the start menu that we’ve come to know in Windows over the years, instead it gives us the company’s vision of what a ‘evolved’ Metro-style start menu would look like.
The start button is customizable, with options including using the new Windows 8 logo, the Windows Vista/7 logo, or even the XP start button that had the Windows symbol and the word “Start” on it. As you can see in the picture above, it is essentially just a short-cut to the apps part of Metro. You have two choices here, though.
You can go to a small-screen metro that points directly to the apps or you can run full-screen metro when you click the start button.
IF you choose the small apps screen, it doesn’t seem like there is any way to get to the full-screen Metro UI, at least not that I noticed. Even holding your mouse in the corner and clicking on the Metro thumbnail doesn’t bring it up. I will say that installation was a cinch and if you are really looking for something simple that still has a Metro feel, this might be what you want.
Also worth noting, right clicking on the start button will give you options like shutdown.
Option 2: ViStart
If you simply want the good old-fashioned start menu to return, not some Metro-inspired menu, look no further than ViStart. With this menu you have back the missing start button and the menu, with largely no real differences from Windows 7. There is at least one difference I’ve found so far, and that is the absence of right-clicking on things like My Computer to get to Properties.
Still, this is a minor missing ability, and overall I find ViStart a great choice if you just want a Metro-free option.
For those that still want an easy way to get to Metro, for the occasions when you want to use an app or just play around, bringing your mouse to the lower left corner and clicking on the Metro thumbnail is all you need to do. This means you can have both the start menu and the Metro, a truly no compromise solution. That being said, clicking on the Windows key will NOT bring up Metro, and instead you find yourself greeted by the traditional start menu.
One word of caution, ViStart might have a few more bugs associated with it than Start8. While this is likely to change (this is a new version of ViStart), I did run into some problems at first. After installing it would freeze up within minutes of use, especially if I went into Metro while it was active. I was about to uninstall it, fearing it was just too problematic, but then it started working fine and after many hours is still seemingly trouble free now.
What you choose will be largely up to your own preferences, though personally I found that, one I got around the bugs, ViStart was my favorite of the two. The app-screen launching Start8 didn’t allow me to easily get into Metro and for Windows purists, they probably won’t appreciate the Metro-styling either.
I have already uninstalled Start8, but ViStart is at least running at the moment. Do I plan on keeping it or will I return to the Windows 8 experience as Microsoft intended it? I’m not sure yet, to be honest. I wish that there was a way to make the Windows key launch Metro, and only clicking on the start button would bring up the start menu.
If I can find a fix for that, I may keep it around. If not, there is a good chance I will choose to stay in the start button-free world that Microsoft wants us to live in.
Have you used either of these solutions? Or do you enjoy Metro enough that you have no desire to see the return of the old menu in any form? Share your thoughts below.