Eager Windows Insiders have been putting preview releases of Windows 11 through the paces for a couple of months now. While there’s a lot to like about Microsoft’s upcoming OS, testers are finding some of the changes incredibly frustrating — like the tweaks to the taskbar and start menu.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, this is the current default experience on Windows 11. While the clock and system tray remain in the right corner, the start button and pinned taskbar icons are center-aligned. You have limited customization options right now. You push everything over to the left corner where they’ve been placed since the days of Windows 95 and you can enable or disable things like the search or task view icons and icon badges.

If you want to get back to a more familiar start menu setup, you’ll have to look beyond the built-in Windows 11 settings. Like clockwork, the crew at Stardock are ready to assist.

The Windows UX customization experts have just offered up a beta version of the aptly-named Start11. Like the Stardock start menu replacements that came before it, Start 11 is designed to bring an experience that’s more like what you were accustomed to in previous versions of Windows. The screenshot above shows Start11 in Windows 7 mode. There’s also a Modern mode that offers a “clean, flat style” if that’s more your cup of tea.

Start11 also allows you to apply textures to your menu. Just choose your favorite from the included images and adjust the transparency to achieve the desired effect. You can also pin the apps you use most frequently to the left side of the menu and change which shortcuts appear on the right.

If you’re a Windows Insider and currently testing Windows 11, Start11 may just help you fix one of your gripes about the new OS. You won’t be able to try it out for free, but the price of admission is fairly low. Access to the beta will cost you $4.99 US and you’ll receive the full release as soon as it’s ready.

What I’d really like to see is for Stardock to find a way to move the taskbar to the side of the screen. I’ve enjoyed being able to move it there ever since switching to a widescreen monitor and I’m not really digging the fact that the Windows 11 beta has cemented the taskbar to the bottom edge.

via Stardock

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  1. A side note, I remember back in the XP days, there was a simple dll patch that enabled third party themes. No need for window blinds or other software.

    And there was a huge repository of themes you could download. I remember running the OS9 theme for the longest time.

    A pity that Microsoft removed the ability to use third party themes natively after XP. It was great fun.

    1. This native functionality never went away. All versions of Windows, up to Windows 10 21H2 and Windows 11 have “a simple DLL patch” (see uxthemepatcher and others) and there are thousands of these themes available on DeviantArt. I’d even argue the DA themes are superior to what’s available for WindowBlinds/WinCustomize.

  2. Of course this was going to happen.

    Are people really this resistant to minor change? Or is this just for all of the “computer experts” in the world who need to keep their grandparents off their backs?

    1. More than minor, you give up groups, stacking programs, small and medium icons, the ability to shut down via keyboard shortcuts. There so far are little to no actual improvements that the user can use.

      Sure if I got a lot of benefits it is easy to get around the user interface but why take out features?

      To be honest I use either a browser or WSL linux most of the time so my next computer will likely not get windows.

    2. Over 25 years of repetitive ‘muscle memory’ is a legitimate issue. Sure, it’s absolutely possible to adapt and re-train yourself, but for what benefit? The constant cost of wasting valuable time making the same mistakes due to conditioning your mind and body to do something a certain way just isn’t worth change simply for the sake of change.

      I still waste time hunting for shit in Win 10 settings that I could find in the old control panel in seconds. What’s the benefit of that?

    3. As someone who has used windows 7, 10, and 11 recently I can say with absolute certainty that the new start menu sucks. You can’t really organize anything in it (several android launchers offer better organization!), and using anything besides Edge and UWP programs in windows still often involves messing around with Device Manager, Control Panel, and Registry Editor, getting rid of some annoying functionality still involves group policy edits, and troubleshooting is a fact of life so a lot of the pin slots are going to be taken up by task manager, command prompt, notepad and the file explorer, or typing in the search bar, which is only relatively quick on a desktop when everything else about the surface level GUI was optimized for tablets.
      Yes there’s an element of “I know where everything is in the old thing and not the new thing” and it’s probably bigger than I’d like to admit, but a big part of that is Microsoft’s own fault for not putting enough effort into making the old ways of doing things completely irrelevant instead of something I’m still going to have to do and thus will still remember. And somehow, I can still find everything I need in KDE or Cinnamon without this sense of frustration (helps that all the settings in Linux distros are fundamentally text files I suppose) that windows 11 gives me that compels me to install Open Shell just so I can put up with it.
      It’s really bloated too, apparently.