Microsoft

When will the Windows Start Menu return?

Greg Shultz discusses the rumor mill surrounding the return of the Windows Start Menu.

Ever since Terry Myerson's session at Build 2014, the web rumor mill has been churning up a storm with all sorts of speculation about the next version(s) of the Windows operating system. Now, I've been covering Microsoft products long enough to know that speculating about Windows features before the actual RTM is out there is likely to get you into trouble. But this time, Microsoft started it.

Myerson, Executive Vice President, Operating Systems, talked about a lot of things in his session, but towards the end of it, he turned his attention to the Windows desktop. Here's what he said:

"OK, so now we've talked about the PC, the phone, the tablet, the Xbox, and the Internet of Things. But one thing which I have not talked about is the Windows desktop.

"One-point-five billion PC users out there, hundreds of millions of new PCs a year, and this is the primary interface they're interacting with.

"Now, Joe shared some amazing work the team's doing to make that a great experience for every user on the PC, and I'm not here to announce the next version of Windows. But I am going to share that we are going all in with this desktop experience to make sure your applications can be accessed and loved by people that love the Windows desktop.

"So for starters we are going to enable your universal Windows applications to run in a window.

"And we're going to enable your users to find, discover and run your Windows applications with the new Start menu.

"You can see here we have Live Tiles coming together with the familiar experience customers are looking for, some customers are looking for to start and run their applications, and we will be making this available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update. So I think there will be a lot of happy people out there."

You can actually see the last part of this where Myerson shows a demo of the Start Menu on a YouTube video (watch the video below). If you wish, you can also read the entire transcript.

Now, the key things to take away from this section of his session is that he emphasized that the Windows desktop is the primary interface, that Windows Metro/Store apps will run in a resizable window, and that a modified Start Menu (an amalgamation of the Windows 7 Start Menu and the Windows 8 Start Screen) will all be coming to Windows 8.1 users as an update.

Since this session occurred just days before the release of Windows 8.1 Update 1, there was some hope that the modified Start Menu was going to make a surprise appearance in the Update. But, no dice!

Then, we started hearing that the modified Start Menu would come in the Windows 9 version of the operating system. At the time, that seemed to make sense to me. Update 1 would be a stopgap, and then we'd see the real changes in Windows 9.

However, the rumor mill soon started up again and we began hearing that there would be a Windows 8.1 Update 2 and that this would be the version that would reintroduce the Start Menu. Again, that seemed to make sense to me. Get the Start Menu back in the operating system sooner rather than later, and then we'd see other desktop-oriented changes in Windows 9.

But that rumor lasted only a fleeting moment. We soon read that Windows 8.1 Update 2 would bring other changes, but the return of the Start Menu will be in a later release, possibly Windows 9. I thought, "OK... two stopgaps and then the Start Menu will return - I suppose can live with that."

Then, the other day, I began reading posts on the web about a Windows 8.1 Update 3 that would further push out the return of the Start Menu in Windows 9 until either April or June of 2015. Three stopgap updates until the return of the Start Menu?

It only took one release to remove the Start Menu. Why would it take three releases to put it back in, especially when Microsoft knows that everyone wants it back?

Too bad Microsoft didn't take my advice back in a June 2013 review of Start Menu Reviver when I said that "...if I were a Microsoft executive, I would seriously be looking to acquire ReviverSoft and incorporate this product into the operating system." ReviverSoft recently came out with Start Menu Reviver 2.

When do you think that Microsoft will bring about the return of the Start Menu? Share your opinion 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.

67 comments
dpbakeril
dpbakeril

For those you who can't live without the old style Windows 7 "Start Menu" by all means go out and get the Classic Shell app.  However, for those of us that like moving forward and not living in the past, there is a great little utility tool that allows for a "customized" Windows 8 right-click "Start Menu" whether on the Desktop or the Start Screen, it's called "Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8" (http://winaero.com/comment.php?comment.news.30).

Yes, I know this doesn't quite jive with my previous post but anything that improves on what I currently use instead of taking me backwards in time is so much better.

dpbakeril
dpbakeril

Between the article and all the comments, I've acknowledged and moved on from trying to work like I did with a UI design from the past.  Why would I want a start menu when I have a taskbar and start screen with my apps displayed and listed the way I like them; and, if I can't find the app tile I'm looking for on the start screen I just start typing the app name and hit enter when it displays in the search pane.

glennmeyer
glennmeyer

I agree with the praise of Classic Shell. It works very well with 8.1, and I likewise never see the Start screen anymore. Why doesn't Microsoft just buy Classic Shell and speed up their release of the all new Start menu?

jmward
jmward

StarDock Start8 is cheap and efficient, as are Fences and ModernMix for putting apps in normal windows.  I hardly ever see the Start screen.  It's just like I'm using an advanced Windows 7.


Anything Microsoft does to Start now is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

hfeddema
hfeddema

Classic Shell already brings back the Start menu to Windows 8.0/8/1 (and a few other useful things).  With this add-in, Windows 8.0/8.1 is actually workable for something other than playing games.

KCGarrett
KCGarrett

If you like the XP start menu you can easily make your own lookalike for Windows 8.x.

Make a desktop shortcut to: "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs"

Tailor the view to your preference.

phil
phil

Classic shell gives all the start menu functionality people need.

With a few configuration tweaks I've found windows 8.1 works like a faster version of windows 7 with losts more options via the windows key (to switch to metro). Best of both worlds.

Why Microsoft can't accept that's better than forcefeeding a new interface is beyond me.

When people switch from XP (as many of my customers do) they already are upset with Microsoft. Making them re-learn how to operate a machine is a further obstacle they shouldn't have to cross.


Mr. Tinker
Mr. Tinker

For all the peeps comparing cell phones to a real system.... let me share this with you.... your cell phone CAN'T do what a decent REAL system can. So having a phone menu on a real system makes no sense either. So please  STOP bringing up android and iphones, and comparing them to business systems where there are people who need to have a real menu to go to instead of a "dirty" desktop. My desktop has NOTHING - NO ICONS / BILLBOARDS/ADVERTISEMENTS... just a pic of my family and THAT IS THE WAY I WANT IT. Not caveman buttons everywhere.

pauljoneshogan
pauljoneshogan

What is this magic start menu I keep hearing about? What cannot be found very easily on windows 8? it is so long ago since I used Windows XP , I cannot think of a single thing that could be easier than navigating with  windows 8.   Please tell what I am missing. 

fkowal
fkowal

Why all the crying over a start menu? If you work a government machine with win 7,  you don't really have as start menu.  things got to run from desktop apps or citrix shortcuts.  So what is bringing back the start menu going to do>?   Is all of sudden folks going to become  instantly smarter?   Heck No..   Everyone complaining about start menu..  Wonder what kind of phone your using now adays?   I DONT see no Start Menu on those Android / Iphones!   Yet the same folks seem to need a start menu to work... Baloney.

msmith102
msmith102

"When will the start menu come back?"  Unfortunately never since Microsoft and browser writers are pandering to the "dumb it down and mobile crowd" by going with a minimalist gui.

observer-shadow
observer-shadow

Nobody complains about a start menu with on an iPhone or Android, do they? The traditional start menu is a colossal step backwards. Memorizing how to navigate by drilling down through multiple folders to get to a single executable is tedious, non intuitive and generally, a waste of time. People complain about change, particularly when they feel something has been taken away from them. Human nature, go figure.

ecmorgan69
ecmorgan69

I just went and got Start8 from Stardock. I can't be bothered to wait.

bwexler
bwexler

It is simple M$ will bring back the start menu either just before, or just after, the confligration of OSX, IOS, Android, Chrome, and Linux, cleans their clock.


I remeber Digital Research (CPM) when they were king of the hill. Then some unknown upstart college kid, Bill Gates came along. Ask the next ten people you encounter if they have ever heard of Digital Research or CPM.


I also remeber Novel when they were the king of networking. Ask those same ten.


Or Sony Beta Max? Whats a VCR?

carlsf
carlsf

And you trust Microsoft???

I sure as hel# DONT.

If the picture is what they are proposing more CRA#.


As I have said If Microsoft want to retain millions of users they threw under the BUS then I would suggest return the Start Buttton/Menu as it was in WIN7 and get all Metro crap gone for NON Touch systems.


As far as we are concerened and hint of METRO and we will be a NON Microsoft business fo GOOD, and once gone never to return.

da philster
da philster

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the wheel will be reinvented ... "  (applause, applause ! )

dhoward
dhoward

I have been using "Start Menu 8" ever since windows 8 was released. Allows metro apps to run as well as provide the standard desktop that is more powerful than Metro. :)

tony
tony

The start menu is already back in Windows 8.1. It takes a while to realise that the "metro" interface is actually the start menu "flattened" down to a screen.


I suppose it helps in that I have found that the Lenovo Yoga 2 works really well as a dual interface - the Windows button toggles between that traditional desktop and the current metro/new interface. I never use the charms as I end up toggling between metro and desktop.


The Office 2013 apps know whether I am using touch or cursor and some of the menus and context sensitive stuff adapt accordingly.


Having held off Windows 8 for a long while, when I took the plunge with a device well matched with it, I have to say that the ability to work with either metro or desktop and move seamlessly between the two exceeded my expectations, and the current incarnation of Windows 8.1 actually manages to merge touch and desktop interfaces far better than I actually though possible,


... and no, I am not a Microsoft fan boy - I waited for a while, played around with it on an old desktop and various devices such as the Logitech T650 touchpad, found a device (the Yoga 2) that had been designed to work with Windows 8 and bit the bullet..


Change is never easy, but I am now going to migrate my desktop to Windows 8.1 and actually I don't want the traditional start menu back - Windows 8.1 gives enough access with its current "start" button with a right click that I find that I don't want the old interface back to have to dig down to find what I want.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

to be immediately followed by the comment: "Microsoft abandons a common interface across all device types"

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

MS should just buy ClassicShell or one of the other 3rd party apps, install it and call it good.  I've been using it on all my Win 8.1 machines and it works great.

Myrna Taylor
Myrna Taylor

Make your own. Just make a folder & put all your shortcuts in it.

Mpho Kingpin Makete
Mpho Kingpin Makete

Simplicity is also one that makes people love a product...Microsoft should know by now...MS will bring back the Start menu because they sell to people, skilled or unskilled. I lot of people tried W8 and most didn't like it and they rolled back to W7...

Tony Poupa
Tony Poupa

For years we haven't had a choice so everyone got used to using it now they take it away? Give users a choice MS.

Julian White
Julian White

Oh thank Christ I thought it was gonna be the return of Vista for a moment there.

Paul Shawyer
Paul Shawyer

Before rolling out Win'8 I would like a group policy object to select tile or button options. Devices with a touchscreen could be placed in an AD container applying the GPO. Upgrading to Win'8 with a tile interface I'd surely get beaten to death with clipboards and staplers from masses of angry users.

Ramon Soto
Ramon Soto

Some people should stop complaining about the "start menu," learn to live without it, learn the "metro app style" system, read about it and move on. And for those like Mark Ubuntu who likes to push Linux to anyone, I have a statement for them. Stop pushing Linux to everybody! Linux is a better, stable OS but, it it not for everybody, the person who have Linux needs to know the command-line (Unix), to really get things done and to fix problems.

Paul Shawyer
Paul Shawyer

I think it's too late... many homes who aren't desktop OS power users have looked at Win8 and Office365 annual subscription and moved away. Its the OS chosen by schools which could make certain parents stay with MS Windows. School kids learn computing? Nope just bloody Word and Excel on a Win8 OS without a touch screen interface. We all need to help teach and apply technology. Behind Microsoft doors the decision to roll forwards or back with a fundamental GUI change shouldn't be a big deal. The best user interface option should depend on the applied device and its application. At Microsoft I bet the button is only the surface of a larger problem.

Dennis Laplant
Dennis Laplant

I don't understand the big deal. Microsoft just needs to make it a personalization option and let each user decide if they want a start menu or not.

Paul Shawyer
Paul Shawyer

Removing the start button has helped some end users decide not to replace home laptops and desktops, but buy android or apple devices. Many others are trying flavours of Linux on older machines previously running XP. The missing start button, has only helped fuel the removal of Microsoft windows from some homes. The differences between touch and mouse control I really don't think had clicked at Microsoft, so they weren't on the button with desktop OS verves tablet OS.

pethers
pethers

@msmith102  I think that the old Start Menu has had its day - it is slow to navigate through and has many levels of subfolders/menus. If you think about it, the new Start Menu screen is easier to navigate with the improvements in 8.1 update 1. However, on desktop PC's with very large high res monitors there is simply no need for a full screen start menu. It's overkill and just too much. There needs to be choice for users, one way or the other based on the type of hardware they are using. It's a simple solution really.

techrepublic
techrepublic

@observer-shadow  You have to understand that, by definition, 50% of Windows users have above average intelligence, and 50% below. The Start Menu is for those who have the higher level of intelligence, IPhone and Android are for the rest. For 50% of you this is sarcasm.

fair03
fair03

@bwexler Hey! I remember those! My dad used to have an old Kaypro PC that ran CP/M. It was one of the first computers I used. And I cut my teeth on the old Novell OS. 


Good times. Good times.....

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@bwexler Why use a $ to denote Microsoft?  Its a for profit company, just like Apple, Google, or Amazon.

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@carlsf Most people don't dislike the tile UI per say but disliked getting bumped into a whole nother UI.  The proposed updated start menu look nice.

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@tony Also try installing TouchMousePointer to add a virtual touchpad to your desktop.  Makes the desktop on a device like the Yoga very useable. 

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You say that as if it was a bad thing.  We don't expect common interfaces across cars, motorcycles, and boats.  They don't serve the same purposes and shoehorning a common interface onto them would be an awkward compromise..  Why treat desktops, phones, tablets, game consoles, and media players as if they did the same job?

YepThatsMe
YepThatsMe

You can add a Toolbar that points to that folder, and you have the old Quick Launch popup list! I never did like the Start menu, because 90% of it was stuff I never wanted to see or use. If you have the 15 most-used shortcuts in your created Toolbar, you'll never miss the Start menu.

rrwitham
rrwitham

I do this a lot. Works for me

pethers
pethers

Oh - you are talking about how Windows 3.11 worked eh? Yeah that's brilliant - roll back the Windows GUI to be like Windows 3.11. Who needs progress really...

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

Even better, add the quick start make in by adding a launch menu on the taskbar and pointing it to %appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.

sylvrwulf
sylvrwulf

@techrepublic @observer-shadow  The Start Menu is for higher level of intelligence?  Really?  An ancient, out-dated interface is for higher intelligence?  I quite using the "normal" interface for the Start Menu when I switched from XP to 7, simply hitting the start button and typing the first few letters of my search rather than the ridiculous "hunt and peck" of the standard Start Menu.  Switching to Windows 8 interface was a breeze in that regard.  The only obstacle was where they moved the shut down to and how to access some of the controls/control panel, but they've fixed all that.  So does that make me below average?  Start menu was really cool when Win95 came out and still great with win98, but by XP I was already moving away from it.  I would create my own custom quick launch groups on the task bar, grouped by task.  No Start Menu at all.  Win7 removed that from me, but made the search easier and better.  I adapted, no problem.  Win8 gave me the best of both worlds.  Guess I'll take the lower level intelligence at the expense of using an outdated interface like the "smart people" use.  They must have dumbed it down so much that smart people just can't figure it out and Neanderthals like me are already used to stone tools so we just continue finger painting walls and chiseling arrow heads.  Thanks.  (for the record, I'm a 20 year IT professional and I have switched about 6 people over the age of 60 to Windows 8 and each of them adapted faster and used it easier than all previous versions of Windows.  Its more intuitive, faster, and they can organize the start screen the way they want, while removing distracting clutter like the old fashioned start menu.  They even use the instant type-search feature.  They must be below average intelligence too, though). 

sylvrwulf
sylvrwulf

@techrepublic @observer-shadow  ....And re-reading your post, I just understood the last line.  The whole post was sarcasm.  I misunderstood.  I have to admit, I get so frustrated by this relentless, childish litany of "Start Screen BAD, Start Menu GOOD" that I might have jumped the gun a bit...and may have developed a little sensitivity to it.  I apologize, but leave my post as a testament to my own low level intelligence!  lol.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's not that the Start screen is bad and the Start button is good.  It's that not having a choice is bad, especially when the choice was available via a Registry entry in the first beta.

sylvrwulf
sylvrwulf

@CharlieSpencer  I can understand that, but like I told my dad when I helped him switch from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95: stop using Program Manager (the 3.1 version) because the next version of Windows may not have it.  Technology moves ahead and if you don't try to keep up, you get left behind.  For those that don't remember (or are too young to have used it), Program Manager was the "start screen" for Windows 3.1.  http://www.guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/win31 you can see how it worked.  He would open the Start Menu in Win95, hit the run button and type "ProgMan" to continue using it.  I worked and worked on him to stop.  When Windows 98 came out, it was no longer available and he was forced to now use the Start Menu that he had been avoiding for 3 years.  He was frustrated and pissed off.  Naturally, he finally adapted (although he is one that covers his desktop in icons rather than using the Start Menu as designed).  He is now close to 80 and when I upgraded him to Win8 (he is a self employed architect and still puts in a full days work), he did the usual "WTF is this!?" with the start screen and wanted his start menu man.  I walked him through the usage of the new interface and within about 2 hours I had him using it fluidly.  He actually said he liked it much better because he could organize it the way he wanted and he like the instant search feature.  And that was the first deployment of Win8, he's adapted as quickly as each new update comes out and I asked him if he wanted his start menu back.  Absolutely not.  Doesn't need it.  Its the same story for the other friends/family/colleagues.  I know people wanted a choice, but I've always felt that its better to quickly adapt than it is to try to hang on to the past.  Digital Darwinism, if you will.  I funny thing to me is, the more technologically advanced and "normal" tech has become to the standard user, the harder it has gotten for people to adapt and change.  I would have thought it would be the other way around.  Not only do people fight changes harder than ever, but they are almost outraged by the mere thought of it.  And that is something I have a hard time understanding in the tech industry.  We used to be the people pushing tech and ideas, not gripping outdated ones with an iron fist.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's funny you should mention ProgMan.  To me, that's what the Start Screen resembles.  I wonder if your father is subconsciously seeing.

As I posted earlier, each update to 8 has made it easier for me to use.  For me, 'easier' translates into 'closer to the methods Microsoft spent years teaching me for using their operating systems'.  Unlike your father, I can't customize the Start screen the way -I- want.  I can't put tiles in a single column or row.  I can't push them right up against the sides of the screen.  At least there's now a tutorial with a new install, the annoying hot spots can be turned off, and I no longer have to jump through my butt to shut down.  None of these would have appeared without the screaming of the abandoned masses.

I don't see many of those average mouse-addicted users wanting to use the keyboard to search.  Isn't that why GUIs and the mouse were invented, so those who couldn't type accurately could use a computer anyway? 

I still don't think I'd routinely deploy W8 at work, but I could now accept it where it is required for specific applications.  Fortunately, no one here is asking to use programs that won't run just as well on W7.


Darwinism works multiple ways.  There have been any number of evolutionary dead ends.  Some of them may been superior.  If no one is willing to breed (interact) with you, you're going to die off or struggle to compete.  See Betamax, or Linux on the desktop.