Microsoft

Start Menu Reviver 2 offers a better program manager for Windows 8.1

Start Menu Reviver 2 is a free add-on to Windows 8.1 that provides a fully functional Start Menu with a Modern UI look and feel. Find out why Greg Shultz recommends this product.

Start Menu Reviver 2.0

At the Build 2014 conference held at beginning of April, Microsoft's Terry Myerson, who is the Executive Vice President of the operating system group, talked about an update to Windows 8.1 and then proceeded to show an image of a Windows 8 desktop with a Start Menu. While he implied that we would see this changes in a future update of Windows 8.1, I was really hoping that the Windows 8.1 Update (released on the same day that they officially killed Windows XP) would actually contain the return of the Start Menu. I was hoping that Microsoft was really going to surprise all of us.

How cool would that have been?! If the Start Menu would have made a comeback in Windows 8.1 Update on the day that Windows XP died, just think about how many Windows XP users would have been eager to make the switch to Windows 8.1. It would have been a terrific marketing opportunity -- but alas, Microsoft missed that boat.

However, the folks at ReviverSoft are ready to make Windows XP users moving to Windows 8.1 a deal that is too good to pass up: Start Menu Reviver 2. This free add-on to Windows 8.1 provides a fully functional Start Menu, but with a Modern UI look and feel. This product will surely make it easier on folks making the transition from Windows XP to Windows 8.1.

If you've been using Windows 8/Windows 8.1/Windows 8.1 Update without a Start Menu replacement, then Start Menu Reviver 2 is definitely to product that you'll want to try. If you read my June 2013 review and have been using the first iteration of Start Menu Reviver, then you already know what a great product this is, and I can assure you that you're going to love this updated version.

I said it before, and I'll say it again -- Start Menu Reviver is such a great melding of the old and new user interfaces, that if Microsoft had put something like this in Windows 8 from the get-go, they sure would have saved themselves a lot of grief.

Let's take a closer look at Start Menu Reviver 2.

Installation

You can download and install Start Menu Reviver 2 very quickly, regardless of whether you're a new or existing user. If you're a new user, just point your browser to the ReviverSoft page and click the Download Now button. If you're an existing user, just access the Settings page and click the Update Now button (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

If you are using Start Menu Reviver, you can upgrade to version 2 from the settings dialog.

Next, follow through with the with Setup wizard (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Installing Start Menu Reviver 2 is a painless procedure.

You'll then see a brief tour that highlights some of the new Start Menu Reviver features (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Start Menu Reviver 2 combines the traditional functionality of the Start Menu with a Modern UI look and feel.

Overview

Just like the original, clicking the Windows flag Start button or pressing the [Windows] key on your keyboard displays the Start Menu. Alternatively, you can configure the program to display the Start Menu when you click the Start button, but display the Start Screen/App Screen when you press the [Windows] key on your keyboard.

You'll notice that Start Menu Reviver's Start button pushes Windows 8.1's Start button off the edge of the screen into its previous hot corner. You'll also notice that the new Start button is positioned a little to the right of the corner. The reason for the amount of space between the Start button and the hot corner is to prevent inadvertent interface collisions -- you can easily click the Start button without accidentally activating the hot corner. And, you can easily glide by the Start button, hit the hot corner to display Windows 8.1's Start button, which now behaves as a pop-up button, and access the Start Screen just as Microsoft intended.

On the left side of the Start Menu, you'll find a set of nine buttons that allow you to quickly and easily launch common tools and perform a number of everyday operations (Figure D). If you forget what action the button performs, just hover you mouse pointer over the button, and a pop-up will remind you. There's also a Search panel at the bottom that you can use to effectively search for files and programs. There's also a Power button menu that contains everything that you would expect.

Figure D

Figure D

This screenshot from the opening tutorial identifies all the buttons.

In addition to the redesign of the user interface, you'll find that Start Menu Reviver 2 has a very pleasing and fluid-like animation that literally build the Start Menu right before your eyes each time you click the Start button. Oh, and if you happen to be using a touchscreen device, you'll discover that Start Menu Reviver 2 is very touch friendly, especially when you use the large-size menu option.

Adding tiles/shortcuts

The bulk of the menu interface is made up of customizable tiles that you can use for your application shortcuts. You'll notice that the center of the menu contains two larger, non-customizable tiles titled Start Screen and All Apps. As you can imagine, clicking the Start Screen tile brings up the Start Screen. However, clicking the All Apps tile accesses the Apps flyout menu that can show Desktop Apps, Modern Apps, or both (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

From the Apps flyout menu, you can drag shortcuts to the empty tile spaces.

You can then drag items from one of those menus over to the menu and drop it on any empty tile space (indicated by a grey tile with a plus sign). You can also rearrange the tiles with a simple drag and drop operation. In addition to programs, you can also put files, folders, and websites on the Start Menu. Right-click on an empty tile, select Add tile, and you'll see a Tile properties dialog that allows you to manually create your own tiles (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F

From the Tile properties dialog, you can create your own tiles.

Complete your custom tile by selecting from the tile library, which contains more than 200 tile images to choose from (Figure G). You'll also discover that the tile area is scrollable, allowing you enough room to add up to 64 tiles.

Figure G

Figure G

Start Menu Reviver 2 comes with more than 200 tile image that you can use when creating your own tiles.

On the top right of the Apps flyout menu, you'll see a cog icon. Click it, and you be able to change the sort order for the items displayed on the menu. Below that, you'll find a folder icon. Click it, and the menu now displays files and folders. A drop-down menu allows you to select the folder containing the files you want to see (Figure H). Click the Search panel, enter a keyword, and viola -- you can search for a particular file.

Figure H

Figure H

Click the cog icon, and the flyout menu will now show files and folders.

Configuring the Start Menu

Selecting the Settings command from the context menu or the Settings menu will display the Start Menu Settings windows. These contain four tabs full of settings (Figure I) that you can use to configure how Start Manu Reviver looks and works. For example:

  • On the General tab, you can reset everything to the default or choose whether Start Menu Reviver loads on startup.
  • On the Start Menu tab, you can choose the Start button style or specify the size of the Start Menu (Small, Medium, or Large).
  • On the Appearance tab, you can choose the theme style and the colors of various items.
  • On the Advanced tab, you can choose what the Apps view shows or change the Windows Key behavior.

Figure I

Figure I

There are plenty of configuration options on the four Settings tabs.

Before I leave the Settings menu, I have to tell you that I showed the new Start Menu Reviver to a buddy of mine, who immediately bah humbugged the tiles. I then went to the Start Menu tab, selected the Replaces the Tile menu option in the Expanded menu drop-down, and viola -- the tiles were gone (Figure J), and the Start Menu looked more like the Start Menu in Windows XP and Windows 7.

Figure J

Figure J

You can remove the tiles from the Start Menu.

What's your take?

Have you used Start Menu Reviver 2? If so, what do you think? Are you a Windows XP user moving to Windows 8? If so, do you think that Start Menu Reviver 2 will help ease the user interface shock? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to join in the discussion thread below.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

14 comments
gwbgff
gwbgff

For what its worth. I have had to move to Windows 7 from XP but I have to deal with Windows 8 on three laptops putting in programs that manufacturers leave out & I really get anxious with my boss, family & clients watching me trying to work on the Win 8 UI, so I tried the Start button from Reviver & I can actually get around without sweating while trying to tell the owners how to do something or even doing it myself. I am sure that the recent files list is in there too as I doubt that the developer would have left their chins hanging out to get beaten for the omission.

I say well done. Mouse & keyboard users have an option. If it buys them time to learn the Win 8 UI then it is a bonus. Thank you.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Most people I spoke to regarding a Start menu replacement prefer Classic Shell. It has plenty of features, a Start menu that resembles the one in Win XP and throws in a few extras.

Too me, this Start Menu Reviver is going not back to the old Start menu but somewhere in the middle.

Koko Bill
Koko Bill

this is stupid, I don't understand you people crying for Start Menu, who needs it anyway, what's wrong with Live Tiles, isn't it much better system then start menu is, in many cases one don't need to open app at all, just look at the Live Tile and you can see all news related, my opinion , Live Tiles is the best software mode ever...I'm tired of Start Menu and it's the same for years, we need something new.

ThornyJohn
ThornyJohn

I'm guessing this will be an improvement for people who are using the existing modern style start screen with touch in Windows 8.x. As it stands, though, it is not as good a solution as others out there if you are using Windows 8.x in desktop mode with a keyboard and mouse.

I personally don't know any regular keyboard/mouse/desktop users who think that the modern UI's doing-away with the recent files (jump list) option is a good idea. Other Start menu replacements, such as the also-free Classic Star Menu, bring back the very useful recent files jump lists from Windows 7 and restore some much-needed functionality to Windows 8.x. Star Menu Reviver does not, instead opting for the form-over-function approach of the modern UI.

Yes, it's very pretty. No, it's not very useful.

ocayasso
ocayasso

As with most Start menu solutions, this does not take into account for uniformity across mobile devices. With the trend going towards unification of OS across different devices, using third-party Start menu only serve those on a desktop. Unless add-ons are capable of being installed and used on tablets or/and smartphones, it only serves to confuse the users and the industry OS objective of making their OS the same across platform -- that is, similarity, and therefore, ease of user navigation and one-source program programming to all devices.

ajsmsg78
ajsmsg78

@Koko Bill Because productivity and little square boxes don't go well together.  The ENTIRE Windows 8/8.1 start menu is a joke and 99 percent of my clients cannot stand it.  I own my own computer business and know all the ins and outs of everything and I can't stand it either.  It's ok on a tablet, but THAT IS IT.

dougwarren69
dougwarren69

@Koko Bill  

Along with all the new things that Microsoft creates! they don't think that a lot of people don't like "NEW".

After getting used to some Interfaces the way they were, the sudden change can be a hindrance.

There is nothing like someone who might be used to and only used to XP and then completely having to change to another UI that can really deter them from the OS.

What is right and better for some people isn't always the same for the other person.

But in point, Microsoft should be listening to the people that are out there that are having the problems.

mbeare
mbeare

@Koko Bill  The great news for you here is that you have the choice. If you don't like having a Start Menu and you would prefer to us the Start Screen then you can :) Live tiles are only limited to Windows 8 Apps though which for some people means that they are not that helpful. 


For me I find that live tiles are not that useful because you have to sit there and stare at them for a while to get the info you need. I would rather go to the application (Such as Mail) and see all my emails needing attention and who they are from. That is just me though.

mbeare
mbeare

@ThornyJohn  Hi There. We do have a Recent Document list in Start Menu Reviver. It's in the Extended menu. We did a lot of research on recent document usage, interviewing many users and reviewers. We ultimately found that the consensus was that people usually go to an application first and then use the Recent documents list within that document.


Good to hear your feedback though!

mbeare
mbeare

@ocayasso  Unfortunately the idea of Uniformity does not work when it comes to traditional desktop applications. For example if you have Photoshop installed on the desktop it wouldn't make sense to sync this across your tablet and phone.


I find that I use different types of applications on a Laptop/Desktop than I do on a phone so syncing my applications and Start Screen orientation between my phone and laptop doesn't have much benefit for me.


I agree that it would be great to be given an option when installing an app from the Windows Store to also install it on your Windows Phone if there is an app available though.

Jimmy5208
Jimmy5208

Have to disagree just a little, I also run my own computer business and Windows 8.x is perfectly fine as a desktop OS. ClassicShell in and all of my clients love it.

I've been running 8 since the developer preview, I rarely have issues and have yet to find a piece of software that works with Windows 7 that won't run under 8.x

I think the main thing that MS should have done is allow the choice. Modern UI is fine with touch capability, but for desktop users without it, it's unnecessary to force it on.

Your mileage may vary, but with ClassicShell being free and easy to set up in under 3 minutes that's how you can transition those that don't want the Modern UI while getting them off of unsupported OS (XP).

The software this article is about is a fantastic middle ground for those that want the familiar mixed with the new or have touch capability in their device.

ThornyJohn
ThornyJohn

@mbeare I'm glad to hear recent files are somewhere in there. I was unable to find them in my cursory check of the product, but I'll reinstall and give it a second look. As to using the recent files in each application, I guess that's a "to each their own" sort of thing. I often work with several dozen files on any given project (catalogs and graphics-heavy web pages, mostly) and I'd rather look through the various jump lists in the Start Menu for the file I need than have to fire up four or five different programs to look through their built-in recent file lists.

My thought is that if it ain't broke it shouldn't be fixed, and if even 10% of the people work in a different way that used to be supported, it should remain supported.

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