Windows

Make the Windows 8 Start Screen work like the Start Menu

Still looking for a Start Menu in Windows 8? Here's one way to get it back.

Like millions of other folks, I downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Release Preview last week and have spent the last couple of days intently running it through the paces, and I must admit I've been pretty impressed with the subtle changes and enhancements that Microsoft has made to this release of the operating system. Of course the majority of these enhancements have been to the Metro UI and its live tile apps.

The Metro UI seems to flow better now that there's a nice array to real Metro style apps to work with. The native apps such as Mail, Calendar, Photos, and Music seem to be much better tools than the similar applets that used to come with the operating system. And then there's the News, Sports, and Weather apps, which are beautifully designed and extremely easy to use. Furthermore, visiting the Microsoft Store allows you access a host of very cool apps from such places as StumbleUpon, Wikipedia, and USA Today.

While the Metro UI along with all the touch based features are really cool, they all seem to be aimed at tablet toting consumers. What about the more traditional Windows users running the operating system on a desktop/laptop with a keyboard and a mouse and using business applications? How are they going to be productive? Especially when the Start Menu is MIA.

As you my know, after experimenting with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview I wrote a post entitled Easily revive the Classic Start Menu hidden within Windows 8, in which I showed you how create a toolbar on the Taskbar and configure it to mimic the missing Start Menu. I also showed you how to take advantage of the Metro Start Screen via the [Windows]+[Q] shortcut which brings up the Apps Search feature as I described in Navigate Windows 8 like a pro with the Windows Key.

However, while using the Windows 8 Release Preview, I came up with new idea. Since hovering the mouse pointer in the lower left corner of the Screen brings up a Start Screen icon (basically right where the Start button used to be) and clicking it takes you to the Start Screen (which replaced the Start Menu), why not get rid of all the tiles on the Start Screen and populate with application shortcut icons. Doing so will essentially allow you to use the Start Screen as a replacement for the Start Menu.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to make the Windows 8 Start Screen work like the Start Menu.

Removing the App tiles

Removing all the app tiles from the Start Screen is very easy. And don't worry, because even though you remove them from the Start Screen, they are still available on the Apps screen albeit they will no longer be live tiles.

To begin, right click on an App tile that you want to remove. When you do, the Apps bar will appear at the bottom of the screen, as shown in Figure A, and a check mark will appear on the tile that you have selected. I right clicked on the Messaging app tile here. At this point, just click the Unpin from Start icon on the left.

Figure A

After you select an App tile, click the Unpin from Start icon.
Continue unpinning apps until you have removed them all except Desktop, as shown in Figure B. You'll want to leave the Desktop tile on the Start screen as it will allow you to return to the desktop should you need to do so. (You'll notice that I made the Desktop tile smaller by right clicking the tile and selecting Smaller from the Apps bar.)

Figure B

You'll want to leave the Desktop tile on the Start screen as it will allow you to return to the desktop.

Adding application shortcut icons

Adding application shortcut icons to the Start Screen is easy. To begin, press [Windows]+[Z] to bring up the App bar again and this time click the All apps icon on the right. When you get to the Apps screen, scroll to the right until you see your standard application icons. Now, right click an application icon that you want to put on the Start Screen and when you see the Apps bar, as shown in Figure C, just click the Pin to Start icon on the left. Continue pinning application icons to the Start Screen until you get everything that you want.

Figure C

Clicking the All apps icon will take you to the Apps screen.

Keep in mind that you don't have to get every single icon - just the ones that you will use most often. Everything will remain on the Apps screen, so no worries. Also, if as you are pinning icons, you lose track of which ones you have pinned, just remember that for any icon that you have already pinned, the icon will read Unpin from Start.

At this point, press the [Windows] key on your keyboard to return to the Start Screen. You can now drag the icons around on the screen to create a logical arrangement. As you do so, you'll notice that if you drag an icon away from the main grouping that a separator appears on the screen, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

When you drag icons away from the main group, separators will appear.
If you want to create logical groups of icons, just drag those icons to the other side of the separator. You can have as many groups as you want because the separators will continue to appear as you drag icons away from the group. As you can see in Figure E, I have created three groups for my Start Screen.

Figure E

I create three logical groups on my Start Screen.
Now, when you start Windows 8, the first thing that will appear is the Start Screen full of your application icons, so you can just click an icon to launch your application and get right to work, If you are in the Desktop and need another application, just hover you mouse pointer in the lower left corner and the Start icon will appear, as shown in Figure F. Just click it and you'll see the Start Screen Start Screen full of your application icons. Just click the icon and get right to work.

Figure F

Start icon in the bottom left corner

What's your take?

Using this technique, you can effectively make the Start Screen work like the Start Menu. Furthermore, you can forget about all the Metro UI as well as all the touch based features and essentially use Windows 8 like you have its predecessors. What do you think? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

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.

56 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Just get a copy of Classic Shell from Sourceforge, it will let you change it all with a couple of mouse clicks.

louisjms
louisjms

What...are you still doing with Office 2003. I know it's great, but it's nearly 10 years old!

Selee12
Selee12

I would rather leave the Metro screen alone and add the start menu toolbar to the Taskbar. It works great for me and the rest of my staff. I think Windows 8 is definitely a step up for Microsoft into a much leaner, smaller and faster operating system.

jwhwab
jwhwab

It doesn't replace the start menu. It only makes you go an extra step to get to a screen full of icons. There doesn't seem to be any way to arrange except manually. It would be better just to put the shortcuts on the desktop so you wouldn't have to click the unhandy start menu to get to them every time.

ttrue88
ttrue88

Windows 7 looked nice. It was easy to access search. I find Windows 8 hard to get around, it's very ugly, blocky. It drags me back to program manager days. Icons every where. What a mess that was. I'll use Windows 8, but I am customizing it heavily. I just wish a choice of interfaces could of been given. Practical VS Bells and Whistles.

yinyong
yinyong

What about that registry trick? It was only about changing a "1" for a "0" value... Doesn't it work in the latest versions of W8?

janitorman
janitorman

With "kindergarten" mode (win 8 tiles) and "advanced mode" (for normal users, the start button, your own toolbars, a nice looking desktop background, etc.) BUT NO... we're all reduced to Kindergarten mode. Linux, here I come!

bulk
bulk

I don't want to get into the "I hate Metro" discussion because those views have already been endlessly aired. I decided I'd simply knuckle down and get used to the new interface, as I've done so many times with generations of operating systems. And enjoy the new facilities, super stability and speed that W8 brings. I had arrived at the same conclusion as Greg. The Metro Start Screen is just a Windows 7 start menu on steroids. With Windows 7, I'm forced to navigate through levels of a start menu that's stuffed into the bottom left of the screen, at the expense of a nice, hi res screen background that has no useful function and is pure eye candy unless you've installed a few gadgets. And if I slip off the side of that W7 start menu I have to start over... No, I must be one of the few that can see where Metro is going, and I like it. Not perfect yet though - I'm still (not yet?) as fast. But - With Windows 7 I could easily open the folder "Start Menu", either "All users" or my own, in Explorer, and tidy/rationalise the messy start menu that installing a bunch of programs leaves it in. I create folders like "Utilities" and "Hardware" and move stuff around. I've searched everywhere in W8 for a similar method that will allow me to move stuff around and also name groups, instead of having to laboriously right-click each item individually and "Pin to start screen" or "Delete". I wish that was easier in W8, just as it is in W7. I took my carefully tidied W7 install and upgraded to W8. I also wish that upgrading to W8 would preserve my start menu folders and copy the to named groups with separators whilst adding a couple of new groups on the left that showcased all the Metro apps as now. Those can be (individually nd laboriously!) deleted, as Greg describes, but that would also be easier if I could get a folder view Anyone any suggestions where the Metro start screen layout is stored? Registry? An XML file somewhere? Richard

griff.computerservices@ve
griff.computerservices@ve

Like most older folks, I've been using Windows in some form or another since its inception. Like most experienced users, with each successive iteration, I've always looked for worthwhile, functional improvements that allowed for an easier, better experience. Unfortunately and far too frequently, the Microsoft folks always appear to have their own agenda along those lines. How many of us have wished to have been present at one of those round-table discussions when the decisions were being made as to what was going to be put in and what was going to be left out? I'd like to literally grab the ultimate 'decision-maker' by the shoulders and ask him/her, "what the hell are you thinking?" Why, oh why do they keep making the same old stupid blunders with each new Windows launch? You can't keep removing functions that millions upon millions of folks have gotten used to and rely on. One such example is their bone-headed tampering with Folder Views in Windows 7; basically rendering it useless. As well as the removal of the delete "X" on the Windows Explorer Toolbar (to mention a few). Now, the Start Menu... The sad part? Those ultimate "decision-makers" over at Redmond never appear to listen to their legions of unhappy and greatly annoyed customers. Each year they paternalistically and with bull-headed abandon, rush forward without nary a thought about the millions of users they continue to tick off year after year...

OldHenry
OldHenry

But what a PITA that anyone has to go through this! Thanks for documenting the process, though.

Thack
Thack

But the W7 Start menu offers a lot more than just programs. I've got one-click access to all my libraries, Computer and Network, Control Panel, Devices and Printers, Administrative tools, and the Run... command. I still can't configure Metro to offer all that in such a convenient way and compact space. Even so, I still think this is a really good tip.

RCS
RCS

Usually we would expect changes in the basic design of any software package to bring something MORE valuable to the table, instead of change for changes sake. Microsoft is moving people into its version of computing, disregarding the last 20 years of practical usage of its users. Since Windows 3.1, regardless of the interface, we were able to recreate a similar user experience so after the upgrades or replacement PCs, the user could get back up and operational quickly without too much of a learning curve. To me, the Metro interface is too dissimilar to the previous decades of interfaces we have come to understand and use efficiently. It seems similar in effect as changing the "Add or Remove Programs" to "Program and Features" in WIN7. WHY? That brought nothing to the table but confusion. It was less intuitive, and just one more consideration in providing support (which OS are you using, oh that is not called ... it is now called .....). The failure of Microsoft to allow the end-user the ability to get back to work simply is going to do two things: sully their reputation more (Win98, Millennium, VISTA, Metro) as well as extend the lifecycle of WIN7 until they learn that change should always bring MORE to the table, not just change the tablecloth!

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

Change for the sake of change is bush league and is only unworthy of Microsoft.

brickengraver
brickengraver

Since MS knows that Business/Enterprise is not going to accept Win 8, and they have a perfectly good alternative in Windows 7 which is very popular and will sell millions, this is the perfect time for MS make a consumer play. And move to the future which is touch and integrated systems. Huge gamble for MS, but if they do not make a play, they will be dead in a decade. They have decided that they are, in this edition, not going to try to make Business happy. I ,however, am a small business and I really like its integration with all kinds of social networking and skydrive and Office 365. Which is the future of my business. I use a Windows phone and when Windows 8 phones come out, will upgrade, I will buy a tablet/hybrid when Lenova comes out with one with a trackpoint, and probably a windows reader tablet if they make one. A trackpoint is really the way to quickly navigate win 8. I really like the total integrationg that Window 8 will allow. Same basic interface across all platforms including xbox which I might also think about getting. In win 8 I can, like on my phone simply look at the live tiles and see if anything I need to act on without opening the app. Let some really good designers and programmers together and there will in future be some really awesome Metro Apps. And the desktop is still there and actually works faster for me than existing Win 7 desktop.

PhaedrusFPI
PhaedrusFPI

Instead of modifying the system to look like it used to why not learn new things? If you start using the search you won't need to navigate through every thing to do what you want. Need to add a program? Search for Program and select the program and features (or whatever it's now called). Want to run word (search for word), though this should likely be on your start page if you use it a lot. This is just one way to use the new system. As always with windows I'm sure there will be 3 ways to do most things.

bjulias
bjulias

This a poor work around to regain the functionality lost in the new user interface. The thing that I've always valued in the Windows environment has been that while it had an interface that was easy enough for novices to figure out, it didn't restrict experts. It allowed me to setup my desktop and applications in such a way that I was able to be productive. I wasn't constantly being forced to reach for a mouse. The new interface not only requires me to reach for a mouse but it has forced desktop/notebook users to use a user interface designed for a smart phone. I'd even prefer the current desktop to the new interface on my XOOM tablet. The Metro interface is a big disappointment if it's what's required to be used on a device other than a smart phone.

brickengraver
brickengraver

The start menu is the least user friendly thing in Windows and I have been using windows since 3.1. Ever wonder why people have scores of icons on their desktop? Once you configure the start screen like you want it with only the apps you want to use and in groups that you want it is much easier to use. The first thing I ever do with windows is go search out the apps in the start menu that I use a lot and pin them to the taskbar. You can do that exactly the same in Windows 8 so that when you go to the Desktop, (windows Key+D)is an easy way, you have all your apps nicely pinned to the traditional taskbar.You can even use WinKey+1 to open the first app on your taskbar. Boot up in 10 seeconds, winkey+2 and go directly to the second app/file you have on you desktop taskbar. Pretty darn easy. But you can also pin files and anything else to the start screen so say you are working on a word doc or an Access database application, you can simply pin to start screen and go immediately to it. And to say the metro apps are irrelevent might be true now, but will not be in the future and live tiles can save a lot of time by getting info without having to open the app.

ASheepherder
ASheepherder

Thanks for your suggestions. Too many people are whining about Windows 8 Metro Interface. Get over it. I am 68 and have used Apple since 1980 and Microsoft since 1985. The only awkward task is shutdown. I wish it was like Kindle Fire - just push the same button to go on and off. The flexibility of Windows 8 is really cool. I have installed and tested it on a number of netbooks, desktops and laptops. I am happiest using it on a 5 year old Toshiba Satellite laptop. I plan on buying several copies of it.

Koko Bill
Koko Bill

..so, I really don`t see any difference beetwen old Start Button, and a new Start Metro Menu....it`s all the same, what are the people complaining about...?? Isn`t this new one better, much better...???

cybershooters
cybershooters

I think you can do most of this via GPO, pretty sure you can remove the apps at least.

tim.stephens
tim.stephens

It maybe OK on a screen driven tablet but on a desktop is just plain silly....download and install classic start menu. ahhh, back to normal

sandse
sandse

This work around might work for a home user, but can you imagine the manhours necessary for the IT department in a large company for the initial setup and the constant mods. Jump lists was one of the big improvements in the Windows 7 start menu, ten or more recently used lists for each program that the user saw on his start menu that was automatically created by just using the programs he needed. What a step back?

eye4bear
eye4bear

So the first thing someone needs to do is go in and completely redo what comes with the OS and this is good? Sounds like MS got it all wrong to me...

Gisabun
Gisabun

I prtefer something a little cleaner. I tried Start8 in the CP edition and it seemred to do the job [ http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/ ]. Yes. you are adding an application but it is better than the others I've seen. Tried something like Vista Start Menu and it was a pirce of garbage. It installed stuff that i didn't ask for. All of a sudden you had applications you didn't request. There was even a possible trojan file added [added to the Run key in HKLM\Software].

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

One thing I really dislike about the Metro UI is that you lose your wallpaper. Yeah, you can see it when you go to the desktop, but then the desktop is fairly useless since it is more difficult to put shortcuts on etc. It's become just a place to run your programs instead of a launching point. I'm starting to shift over to the camp that says Metro is a fail. I think it would be great on a tablet or phone but as a desktop UI I think it fails.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I could live with this solution. How does it work if you have even more programs installed, more than what can fit on 1 screen? Can you make it so it just brings forward the programs that you commonly use? (like the start menu does?) Can we just convince MS to not dump Aero?

BobRichmond
BobRichmond

I haven't been following Windows 8 very much, so have a question. Is there any compelling reason to update to Windows 8 if you are very happy with Windows 7, use a desktop/keyboard/mouse/non-touch monitor, and use the computer for only a few things that are handled well by Window 7 apps?

jimdoss
jimdoss

Your screen is very similar to what I did. It like how it works. I did create a couple of new short cuts for Restart and Shutdown and put them on my first grouping.

ramnet
ramnet

Why is it that you need to make such cumbersome changes to get a Start Menu. I don't pay Microsoft all this money for me to be doing their job for them. I want the Start Menu there as it has been in the past. I don't want the hassle of having to customise it - PC's were supposed to make my life easier NOT harder remember ! This is a design based on producing a process that is way too complex so you can pay a pile of other useless 'experts' to unravel a mystery that should not be there in the first place. The whole thing is a pox and I am off to Apple - thanks for NOTHING Microsoft ! Ken

Den2010
Den2010

Greg, you've helped me with this tip. I've been fighting the Metro UI since the Developer Preview, first trying to use it as-is, and then using Stardock's app to return to something approaching the traditional Start menu. I continue to feel that the default organization of the Start screen is much more attuned to a tablet interface, and is less than helpful for us desktop or laptop users. Live tiles are fine if that's what you're going to be looking at for the most part; if you're trying to use windowed applications, though, they're largely worthless because you're not going to be in the Metro UI. Windows Gadgets are far more useful to me on the desktop, since I can arrange my open windows to show them. I still like the traditional Start menu. I don't see that changing when Windows 8 is released. This modification of the Start screen, however, helps me to use Windows 8 more productively. Thanks.

SquelchQuelch
SquelchQuelch

All fine and dandy. Seems like a lot of extra work just to get something back that should never have been removed. Can you access this new fancy schmancy Start menu with Ctrl+Escape? I doubt it.

paul
paul

Sad to say, although Microsoft is worldwide, then why is it Windows is all USA based. Yes you can have it in multi languages of your choice...but everything is US(a) No matter what you do in , or with Windows ( any of them) it is still completely based on USA ! In the above writings it states..USA TODAY, but actually ALL the drivers, programs, everything inside WINDOWS is USA Based. Yet supposed to be world wide. Sadly myself I do not like USA. I do not like the attitude of American people. They DO NOT RULE the WORLD. USA is a lot worse off than many other countries, I feel because they always FORCE themselves onto and into other peoples lives...ie: WINDOWS. Has Microsoft ever asked the general public from OTHER countries, what they would like in WINDOWS...NO ! Just shove USA down everyone's throat. Sadly, I use Microsoft, but certainly do not like it.

totefrosch
totefrosch

Microsoft's marketing is about 60 years out of date. Anyone remember the "New and improved Tide"?, the New and improved Joy dish washing liquid"? Nothing was really "new and improved" except the packaging.

totefrosch
totefrosch

Now we are dumbed-down to a computer game platform. I use a computer for work, not games and I am intelligent enough to open what I need without big game style icons.

charlie
charlie

Most businesses will not use Windows 8 for one good reason - the Metro interface is too much of a radical change. Administrators must be able to give their users the Start button and hide the Metro interface if needed. This is clearly an operating system aimed at tablets for consumers with little or no regard to the millions of business users who don't want such a radical design change. This strikes me as the Windows Millennium Edition debacle, trying to integrate two disparate OSes and failing badly on all counts. I am constantly accidentally opening IE when on the desktop due to looking for a non-existent Start button!!! C'mon Microsoft give users what they need - flexibility. If a user wants Metro let them have it, if not, give them back the Start button. Windows 8 might then have a chance.

jimbritttn
jimbritttn

I don't like bulky junk on my screen; give me a simple list view without an oversized icon. Microsoft acts like we all have bad eyesight; Icons only need to be 1/2 tall! I thought Access 2010 was bad with it's HORRIBLE and inefficient interface but "8" has topped it in stupidity.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

This discussion is 6 months old. That didn't keep you from digging it up.

brickengraver
brickengraver

If you are in the desktop, which you probably will be, simply goto lower left corner and when the startscreen thingey appears--RIGHT Click and you have just about everything you probably want in popup menu. Just one right click.

bjulias
bjulias

I'm not afraid of change nor am I afraid to learn new things; however, when change actually reduces the usefulness of a tool, it is not something that I support. I see nothing in the Metro interface that adds quality to my Windows experience. The start screen and search functions are nothing new except that the start screen was called the desktop or task bar. My complaint about Apple and the the Mac has been that its user Interface reduces everyone to the level of a novice. Windows has always allowed knowledgeable users to accomplish their tasks efficiently while providing a more visual method for those who need to be guided though a task step by step. The Metro interface is now forcing the limitations of smart phone users onto those of us using it on a desktop computer, a laptop, or even a tablet. It was a poor design decision.

brickengraver
brickengraver

winkey+I then click power icon or tab or arrow key to it and enter. Super quick. I like you am an old geezer and love the flexibility. It is amazing how many people are willing to learn such complex tasks as writing papers and computer programs and not willing to simply learn a few new ways of doing things. And all the other useful stuff suchas Alt+Tab are still there.

Rick_R
Rick_R

" Is there any compelling reason to update to Windows 8 if you are very happy with Windows 7?" Of course there is. Windows 7 is outdated and is a security nightmare and people who use it are dinosaurs who need to stop living in the past. If you don't believe that, just look at all the idiots who keep using XP even though it's a security nightmare, archaic, blah blah blah. The fact that they have been using it for a decade and never got a virus proves nothing. Just lucky. Same reasons will apply to continuing to use Win 7 once Win 8 hits retail RTM.

tcruse
tcruse

Windows 7 will eventually become old enough that new hardware and new applications will not work. I suspect that that time will be longer than MS planned just as XP has lived much longer than anyone would have expected. Vista was never accepted and thus many refused to leave XP until Win 7. I suspect Win 8 will make Win 7 live longer than expected. Maybe Win8 should be renamed to Windows Vista-Me. Of course Win 8 left SilverLight and WPF in less than a good position and many of us invested in these since last year they were the future. This is sad in that the desktop base OS seems to be stable and works well.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

with the way your computer performs, there is no reason to upgrade anything. Not hardware, not OS, not apps. Just keep the security apps (anti-virus, firewall, etc.) up to date and apply the recommended periodic patches.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Holw do you define US based drivers? Because they are in English? WEll, there are other countrires that use English. On top of that, it is not Microsoft's responsibility to provide drivers but the manufacturer. If HP doesn't want to provide drivers in Japanese or Hindu, it is their decision - not Microsoft. MIcrosoft provides Windows in dozens of languages [although English will be one of the first batches to be released, followed by the next set of popular languages]. If you are in Israel, you buy a copy of windows, it will most likely be available in Hebrew. Another language other than Hebrew will require a special order. Similarly, if you want English but you are in Germany. Microsoft provides more languages for the OS [as well as Office] than any other OS. I think you are probably just anti-US.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I do not understand what you mean by Windows being USA based. Can you be more specific? What changes would you like to see that would make Windows more international?

tcruse
tcruse

Start Button should return, Should allow choice of desktop as default after boot up, Hyper-V should run on machines that previously supported Virtual PC/XP Mode (no requirement for second level address translation), Hyper-V should connect to existing Server 2008/2008 R2 virtual machines. Another comment the new AD console is not useful and should be gone. We need Windows 8 to be more than an second rate iPad. Aero being removed is also a bad decision for the desktop user.

michaels.perry
michaels.perry

May I remind you that the English Language has many different varieties but Microsoft, being based in the USA, onloy ever use the US version which differs in many respects (especially spelling, grammar and pronunciation) to that used in the UK. That Microsoft forces the installation of US English spell checkers and dictionaries is a key source of annoyance as the way things are expressed in the UK, for example, is very different to the way letters, etc are structured in the US.

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