Lenovo, Samsung bring the Start Menu back to Windows 8 — and so can you!

Windows 8 hits the streets in just a few days. It represents one of the biggest overhauls of this venerable OS user interface since Windows 95 came into our lives seventeen years ago. Back then Microsoft urged users to “Start Me Up” with the new Start menu.

Now two decades later the company is ready to ditch that old-fashioned thing and replace it with the Metro/Modern Start screen. As with any change, there are people both for and vehemently against it.

For those who fall into the latter camp, there are already fixes for this problem. Not just from third-party developers, but also from Windows hardware partners.

Samsung S Launcher

image from Laptop Magazine

Samsung, Lenovo offer Start Menu clones for their PCs

When Samsung started showing off their Win8 hybrid PCs earlier this summer — first called Series 5 and Series 7 Slate PC, now called ATIV SmartPC and Smart PC Pro — they were particularly proud of their S Launcher, which basically duplicates a Windows 7 Start menu and shows up in the Desktop environment.

No big surprise here, if you think about it. Windows 8 is taking some cues from mobile operating systems, and Samsung is an expert at messing with the interface on Android. Why not do the same on Windows in the name of a better user experience?

Apparently, Microsoft didn’t think this was such a good idea. ZDNet reported that the S Launcher would not ship with the final launch products. Samsung did not say whether there was pressure from above to do this, but the talk of a “pure Microsoft experience” does make me quirk an eyebrow. Good news is that the S Launcher isn’t dead. The company will make it available to Win8 users who want it as a download.

As much as Microsoft wants to leave the Start menu behind, Samsung isn’t the only company to have come up with a replacement for it. At the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga event last week, a spokesperson confirmed that the laptop/tablet hybrid would include a Start menu replacement.

This has intriguing implications for how manufacturers perceive Microsoft’s decisions in this matter. One of the reasons smartphone makers skin Android is to add functionality or usability they feel the OS doesn’t have or doesn’t do well. Adding a Start menu where there is none is a statement. Obviously Lenovo and Samsung feel that users still want or even need it, despite what Microsoft thinks.

Third party Start Menu clones

Add to this a handful of third-party software makers who’ve tackled the missing Start button problem with various approaches. There are free solutions — StartMenu8, Pokki for Windows 8, Classic Shell — but so far the best looking is Start8 from StarDock.

This $4.99 Start menu replacement offers lots of configuration options, including one that melds Windows 8 aesthetics and sensibility with the Windows 7 function that people are most familiar with (and like).

Stardock Start8

Stardock Start8

There are likely to be more Start menu programs that pop up after launch, especially if there’s a rise in people Googling “How do I find the Start menu in Windows 8?” in November.

It will be interesting to see if people who buy Lenovo Win8 products are less frustrated by the new UI than people who buy some other brand and have to then search out third-party alternatives.

Or is Microsoft right in thinking that by presenting people with an all-new interface and getting rid of old, “unnecessary” elements, users will just cave in and forget how much they loved their Start menus? Time and download numbers will tell.

If you plan on buying a Windows 8 computer or upgrading your existing one, will you add an unauthorized Start button?

  • http://twitter.com/bp__ Brian P.

    I’m thinking about adding a start button. In my limited time messing around with Win 8 on a laptop I found it a little annoying having to figure out where everything is again. I assume after a day or two of using Win 8 I would get used to no start button but my bigger worry is others that need to use my PC who are less inclined to deal with learning the new setup (wife).

  • menting

    i added a start button on my windows 8 netbook because of 2 reasons.
    1. Not having a start button makes finding stuff slower. I can type in the metro interface to find stuff, but I’m used to use the mouse most of the time.
    2. The fact that installing windows 8 on a netbook makes the metro interface a no-go. I can see the interface, but I can’t launch ANY software there, because metro requires a 1024×768 minimum resolution to function. The netbook has a 1024×600 resolution, so any software I try to launch there will pop up with an error. This is the single biggest reason why i added a start button.

    I used classic shell, an open source software for the start button in windows 8

    • Mobile1

      Have you tried pinning your most used programs to the task bar? It is the quickest way to launch a program, no searching or menus required.

      • menting

        i try to keep my task bar as clean as possible.

    • Rik74

      In Windows 7, to find stuff, you press the windows key, then start typing. It’s exactly the same in Windows 8. In Windows 7, to view the start menu, you click in the bottom-left corner. It’s exactly the same in Windows 8. So how is it slower to find stuff?

      I’ve been using Windows 8 for only a few days now, and have no real problems with it – in fact, for 90% of things, I find it better than Windows 7! The one thing not better – as other posters have mentioned – is the ‘power’ or shut down button. However, most of the time, I just press the hardware button on my laptop – or desktop – anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JorgTheElder Erik Lee Jorgensen

    Once I learned to just “throw” my cursor in the corner, (aim just right of the bottom left corner), I stopped missing the Start button.
    I do still set up a quick launch bar with the trash and a CMD prompt on it. I do not like the way they react to “pinning”.
    Jorgie

  • James

    Any thoughts on how well using a mouse works in the new UI? I’ve heard some annoying things about scrolling within an app that has embedded scrollable areas and where context menus appear when right clicking.

    Also, when Modern UI apps go into the background they’re supposedly not running and their state is saved. Kind of like on smartphones. Is this a forced thing? What happens when I’m downloading/uploading something or doing some sort of long running process? Do apps have the ability to prevent the auto-suspending and continue running until it’s task is finished?

    • CyberGusa

      The UI takes getting used to but isn’t a problem once you do.

      For the suspending of apps, there are exceptions. Like playing music won’t suspend unless the music is paused first. Though, to be sure, you can run apps in snap view to ensure it’s still running.

    • James

      Getting used to it or not, the new UI will certainly require more mouse movement than Windows 7 which is definitely a downside. If you’re scrolling horizontally in an app with the mouse wheel (don’t
      know how up/down scrolling means horizontal scrolling) and your mouse
      hovers over a scrollable area, the horizontal scrolling will stop and
      you’ll start scrolling the scrollable area. Some apps will popup a bar at the bottom of the screen when you right click in the app instead of the usual context menu appearing where the mouse pointer is. It’s pretty annoying using a mouse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Conor-Raypholtz/100001495640371 Conor Raypholtz

    it takes a while to get use to but i prefer it now over win7. my only complaint is the power buttons location. and i would prefer to have the option of a normal desktop (locking out the hot corners) for various applications.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/barry99705/ barry99705

    I gave Windows 8 a shot on my multi-monitor desktop. Metro only works on the home window, the others get the normal desktop. I threw classic shell on after about an hour. Metro is cool, but I think it will work better on tablets, keep the start bar on desktops.

  • http://www.facebook.com/erikbertel Erik John Bertel

    Sorry, but with Windows 8 it appears that Microsoft has confused a marketing strategy for a user interface. Big fail! I’ll get my copy but it will sit idle until the first service pack release.

  • http://twitter.com/efjay01 Ef Jay

    This is why MS made the Surface, oem’s just can’t leave the crapware out.

  • Big Bird

    I’d seriously like to see anyone do any meaningful multitasking on a windows 8 pc touch or not. After Microsoft launched windows 8 the lead dev got his ass canned. WELL F’ING DUH. He insisted on killing the start menu so we can all get comfy around a touch screen world. Yeah i’m sure he’s getting death threats by the truckload to his house. How much extra code would it be to just give you the damn option to have Metro installed or not.