Windows 8

Windows 8 navigation tips that will help you forget the Start Menu

Just press the [Windows] key and start typing

This photo gallery is also available as a post in the Windows and Office Blog.

Are you a Windows 8 user who is pining away for the old Start menu? Do you really need it? Or are you just looking for some comforting familiarity?

If you need that familiarity, there are actually several third-party Start menu replacement options such as StartW8 and Classic Shell, both of which are free. Or you can purchase Stardock's Start8 for $4.99. There are several others out there but these are the ones that I have heard most people talk about using.

However, if you really think about how much you've used the Start menu in recent years, chances are good that you'll find that you don't really need it anymore. In fact, Windows 8 provides plenty of very efficient ways to launch your Desktop applications - you just need to be aware of them. In this blog post, I'll show you several techniques that you can use to launch your Desktop applications in Windows 8.

The [Windows] Key

If you think of the [Windows] key on your keyboard as a replacement for the old Start button on the screen, you'll find that the Windows 8's Start screen provides you with a great way to launch your applications and other desktop-based tools. All you need to do is press the [Windows] key and start typing the first few letters in the name of the application that you want to launch. As soon as you do, the Apps Search tool will launch and begin searching for an application that matches.

For example, if you want to launch WordPad, just press the [Windows] key and type word. When you do, the Apps Search tool will immediately find WordPad, as shown. To launch the application, just click the icon/tile or press [Enter].

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic

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.

36 comments
tec78636
tec78636

I was one of you h8rs when I first played around with this version in the beta days. My opinion remained unchanged well into the retail stage, but this is only because I was so resentful of the fact that Microsoft was forcing us to migrate to a desktop with no start button. Once I got over it and gave the new configuration a chance, I realized windows 8 can be a very productive OS. That is, if you just take a little time to learn where everything is now. True, it is designed to work best with a touch screen, but many of these advantages are backwards compatible with the traditional mouse and cursor. For instance, if you swipe in from the left, you switch between active apps. No need to return to start screen. If you want to launch a new app, just swipe in from the right (revealing the charms bar) and type the first few letters of the app's name. Still no need to return to start screen. Whether you launch an app from start screen or charms bar, you still only need to swipe in from left to switch back to any previous app. For those of you lacking a touch screen: Swipe in from right = Move cursor to top right corner Swipe in from left = Move cursor to top left corner and click to switch through apps. Move the cursor down from this position and reveal tiles of all open apps. 8 is Gr8, just give it a chance. ; )

lincolnlulu
lincolnlulu

I agree with Food for Thought and Gretchen...Windows8 is for tablets and the windows phone, not the middle aged computer user with serious word processing needs. I am having a hell of a time with this program....everytime I want to cut or paste or print or even continue an e-mail thread, I have to click the windows button and start all over. I found a short-cut chart (ie; control+p = print), but that crap goes back to the dinosaur DOS systems I used in the 1980's but this is retroactive and counter intuitive, not an improvement. Windows8 is for 8th graders. How 'bout Windows50 for real people who aren't glued to tablets, cell phones and facebook?

remmeler
remmeler

As I have mentioned in this area earlier, it is not difficult for a non tablet, non android, non touch person (me) to configure a Windows 8 system to look similar to a XP or Windows 7 system with a minimum amount of effort. What you get is a faster boot up and boot down and a more responsive system than the old dual core system that I had retired. It is now on loan to a complete novice who is going to use it with her applications to see if she should upgrade her old XP system. I just put the three applications that she uses most often on the tiles and on the lower bar of the desktop and we will see how it goes. The biggest problem I see is that for me to upgrade, I will have to re-buy several programs that I now use. I have also seen that some drivers are hard to find, if they exist at all.

remmeler
remmeler

It is my understanding that in all previous versions of windows a large user could configure a system and then bring up all subsequent systems to look exactly like the original configured system. I have set my XP upgrade to have tiles that look like my icons on my XP desktop and also have the lower bar of the desktop to have icons of my frequently used programs. I understand that you can also configure it to boot directly to Desktop if you want or add a third party Start Button. Business will just configure a system to look like what they want and configure it to do what they want and they will, perhaps, able to use older equipment for a longer period of time because my old XP is a lot faster and more responsive with Windows 8.

john.seeley13
john.seeley13

Microsoft could have implemented a slightly better Start function. Using the Start panel, if you type e.g. Freecell, search, or shutdown - zero results. Shutdown especially would have been a useful transitional 'command'

Gretsch001
Gretsch001

Microsoft should issue a direction to their developers to spend their time developing improvements that are actually worthwhile to the computer user, not just being the equivalent, metaphorically speaking, of a new dog on the block and announcing his arrival by searching for the nearest firehydrant to pee on. Once again, MS just assumes it knows best what is good for you; that everyone has a tablet and is just dying to get their greasy fingerprints all over their computer screen; and are a bunch of mindless idiots just waiting to be lead. Have news for you MS, which is not the case. You've screwed up a perfectly functional "search files and folders" function in Win 7 and now the Start Menu in WIn 8. I just can't wait for Win 9 to see why they will screw up there!

Oldsmobile_Mike
Oldsmobile_Mike

This is completely ass-backwards. With Windows 7 if I want to start a calculator, or Wordpad, or Paint, I just click on Start->All Programs->Accessories menu. Now you're saying with Windows 8 I would need to grab the keyboard, then type in the name of the program? How is this an improvement over simply being able to click on what I want? Not to mention that that same "search" feature won't work with my emails and other documents, like it does now? Windows 7 is cleaner, neater, and faster. I don't have to have a million things pinned to my task bar, or icons all over the desktop. They're right there in my start menu where they should be, when I need them. Not to mention that some of our enterprise apps don't support pinning to the task bar anyway, and with it's myriad other issues, Windows 8 will never work on our corporate environment. Although I suppose our cleaning ladies would enjoy billing us for 50 extra boxes of monitor wipes each month... :-/

DonBaun
DonBaun

It's not uncommon for me to look for the shortcut/program I want because I don't recall what it's called. Sometimes I know the action I want to take, but the program that gives me that capability is not named similar to the function. If I pin everything I ever use that follows this logic I might have a few layers of shortcuts on the taskbar... I will be loading a start menu replacement program.

jdubow
jdubow

Microsoft acts as if users have no choice but to use the Windows 8 desktop. Alas, no. To my mind the sane business decision would be to have user selectable desktop of Windows 7 like and Metro Windows 8 type. It could be selectable by keyboard or run like a virtual machine, without all the VM overhead. That way users would have had time to learn how to remain productive with the new desktop shell and not suffer a learning curve and lost productivity while they do. There is still a lot of confusion about the touch screen interface. A large majority of users don't have a touch screen laptop or desktop. That my be reversed in 5 to 7 years, but it isn't true now. The perception exists that without a touchscreen a person is stuck in a productivity degraded mode. That is a problem for Microsoft at least as much as it is for their customer base. Microsoft reminds me of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine character. To paraphrase the inimitable Ms. Tomline ""We don't care; we don't have to. We're the Microsoft company." If they don't wake up fast that line may be as anachronistic as the original telephone company line.

cmartin
cmartin

Fantastic OS for touch-enabled devices. How many of those do you have in your corporate environment? The removal of the start menu really hurts corporate adoption, as a result a large percentage of environments have no plans to implement it. One more iteration with the start menu would have been smarter. The touch-enabled laptops would come out, and then when everyone's used to touching their screen the start-menu would hardly be missed. Give it 2 years and the corporate market will have more touch-enabled devices, maybe then we'll see higher adoption rates.

Techguy2036
Techguy2036

As a tech, I know there would be hell to pay for any IT guy that installs this on a business network. ESPECIALLY to your execs! As usual I was all set to not like a new Microsoft OS until at least service pack 1 but I just installed it to my personal laptop and admittedly I really like the features and structure once i caught on. I admit it is more fluff than actual meat and potatoes. As far as power users, you should go into desktop mode and load up the taskbar with your fav programs and work the conventional way, and then hop into metro when using the apps which are pretty cool. I love the reading mode of the news apps.

david.tredinnick
david.tredinnick

All the years of mouse dexterity training down the drain :[

PC Services
PC Services

Asking us to forget the "start menu" is like asking someone to forget one of their kids. They are trying to reinvent the wheel (start menu) and it isn't working well so far. I have had the Win8 RC for a while. It has some good features (I really like the Google Chrome tile and the features available only to 8 users), but in a production environment this product requires training for a new OS. The total cost of ownership of this product is going to be high. The only calls I really get are from home users wanting to know "is it better than 7", or "we just bought it can you HELP US!", not business customers.

epri307
epri307

Since I am using windows 8 love all of your tips latest 100shortcuts come in handy getting to learn them little by little seems we use win key for almost everything sure this key will wear out fast. Many do not like 8 not as bad as they seem just have to give it a shot

Ralph Smith
Ralph Smith

Well, a WannaBe at least. One to two iterations late to the game.

isedc
isedc

Even with the tips in this article, Windows 7 is start far more usable for traditional desktop users and power users. I am a power user, I work with several windows simultaneously across multiple monitors. I can do that on Windows 8 classic desktop, but I can't do that with native apps. Native apps force you to run them at full screen, I never run anything at full screen. And the tip about using the windows key, most power users will try Windows 8 in a virtual environment where the windows key is not applicable, as well as having to move the mouse down to the bottom left corner pixel to get the start menu. That doesn't work well in virtual either. Let's face it, Windows 8 is a tablet OS, not a desktop OS. I have already heard that 90% of enterprises are skipping it. What does that tell you Microsoft? I hope they right this wrong in Windows 9, if there ever is a Windows 9.

Drakaran
Drakaran

Why do you think it's easier to type in what I'm looking for instead of just double-clicking on an icon on the desktop? And what were they thinking when they buried the Shut Down button? EVERYTHING in Windows 8 takes MORE clicks, MORE work than in Windows 7 and XP. The truth is, they want to force everyone into a tablet world whether we fit in that frame or not.

wellcraft19
wellcraft19

The new start/user interface is a CF. Why change something that truly has worked great since...2001? And both Win7 and Win8, once you peel away the "fancy" shell, a lot of the dialog boxes are just like out of XP. If doing a revamp, why not go all the way? And don't get me started on the "ribbons" in Office 2010. Once you eventually find your command, the dialog box that opens up is, again, from XP. It has just been made far too confusing. And, I really like Windows, I have very little problems with either XP or Win7. But a redesign just for its own sake? Maybe it will attract "fresh" users...

Slayer_
Slayer_

If all 3 were visible, maybe an [hr] breaking them up, would be fine. It would be the same as windows 7. But it's hard to explain to someone over the phone, where to click after typing "dpi". In 7 it was just. "Click your start menu" "type D P I" "Yes, that's a D, like Dog, P like Pie, and I like Idiot" (jk) "now press enter" "Pick the option that says smaller and click ok." "Restart your computer." I get this call about once a week, that's why it sticks in my mind.

hrosita
hrosita

I have been using windows 8 since March and by now am quite used to accessing all the options using the Windows key and/or the mouse. If I need to work with apps from the desktop I use the Windows + D key that is as fast as moving the mouse and clicking on Start or an Icon. If I want to brose the Internet, check the weather, the stock market or the news, I like the live tiles and being able to access them directly from Start.

vasimo
vasimo

I am an "older" IT guy. I have no issues with Win 8. It is very different and has a learning curve as did each new release. My "older" friends who are now using it who r not IT saavy r really having a hard time adjusting. There is no happy medium unless u understand the uses of the Windows key. Most people my age don't have any clue what that means. Most don't know how to search for the information on the net. Maybe an icon or panel readily available on the new Start Page which allows them to revert to the old look temporarily or displays the "Windows Key" options (options would be selectable) would be helpful. Please don't reply with "use the tutorial". Most don't know where that is and after going through it would be even more confused. This is just the opinion of an old guy..... LOL

Gretsch001
Gretsch001

I think you are missing the point with your comment, "I have set my XP upgrade to have tiles that look like my icons on my XP desktop." Under Win VIsta, I booted directly to the desktop. Under Win 7, I booted directly to the desktop. So give me a valid and logical reason why I should have to deal with tiles particularly when the dumbass reason provided by Microsoft is "it makes it easier for tablet users". Would you like to compare the number of computer users just in North America to the number of tablet users? A small drop in the bucket by comparison! What's the next illogical step for MS to take? Have Windows X only work with touch screens? I have no problems with improvements but this is NOT an improvement and MS lately seems to be into making changes that are NOT an improvement, just a change for the sake of change. Why do you think MS Office 2007 received such deluge of criticism? Because the changes were good? Their sales plummetted and MS Office 2010 wasn't much better. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not interested in greeted with the additional tasks of making up tiles to replace my icons just so my desktop and laptop look like a tablet which, in my opinion, is nothing more than a tool for entertainment or mindless idiots who can't do anything without immediately posting to facebook or some social media. If you like tiles, good for you. I don't! Furthermore, I found it a total waste of my time to "upgrade" my laptop to Win 8 and then most of a day removing the operating system; cleaning and reformatting my hard drive and then reinstalling the software programs that I use on a daily basis. It seems that MS is so determined to pump out new versions of WIndows OS that they don't really care if a change is beneficial to the majority of users or not. As long as it is a change, that is what counts.

remmeler
remmeler

As soon as I upgraded to Win 8 there was a calculator live tile staring at me. I haven't used it long but when I went to the right side - Apps came up and I found the apps I used in XP and dragged them over in small tiles. I could also put them on the bottom of my Desktop just like with XP. I don't see the problems.

KaonGheta
KaonGheta

I agree, I also sometimes accidentally look for it, and the new Start screen/Metro screen doesn't fully replace it. But it is far better than the old start menu and things like searching for a program in the start menu could easily be done in Computer or File Explorer better.

KaonGheta
KaonGheta

I disagree. Everyone wanted ipads, touches, android tablets, etc. So they are listening and giving you Windows 7 with an option to go into the Metro UI. You don't even have to use Metro- and the Start menu was provem pointless through polls... we just are still looking for it to feel comfortable to what we are used to. On top of that Windows 8 also now works with the ARM architecture. Windows tablets, phones and touchscreens just got faster and much better, and Windows 7 just got some big advancements if you choose to use them- in the form of Win 8.

KaonGheta
KaonGheta

I have it on both my normal non-touch PC and my touch tablet-pc. Metro does not need touch at all and just gives you a better looking start menu that gives you all the features of ipads and android in addition to still having a full upgraded Win 7.

BRomeroT
BRomeroT

No my friend, you can move your mouse to lowler left corner and have Start Screen Tile, you can pin yours programs to Start Screen so you can take Access too

remmeler
remmeler

I just upgraded an XP system. It now boots in a fraction of the time. As soon as my upgrade was complete, I had a big Desktop tile looking at me. If I click on it, I'm on the desktop. Now on my XP, all my well used programs were icon shortcuts on the desktop and also on the bottom bar. On my Win 8, I looked for those Apps and created little tiles and also put them on the bottom bar on my Desktop. So now I can click on the application tile and it opens in desktop or I can click on Desktop tile and go to desktop and click on the icon on the bottom bar. Pretty much the same as XP. Now power off is even simpler. In XP, you have to click on start, then turn off computer, then turn off or restart. In Windows 8 you mouse over to the right corner, click on power and then click on power off. I think that is actually one less step.

KaonGheta
KaonGheta

It's almost exactly like a faster copy of Win 7 with a new Start menu... in which the old start menu was useless I might add, since everything could already easily be done through Computer, File Explorer, etc. On top of that your Start menu can now act like an additional ipad/android-like OS in addition to your "Win 7" desktop if you choose to go that far.

remmeler
remmeler

I have not booted directly to desktop, but I have seen a lot of articles saying they know how to do it. Also, I upgraded a slow retired system and found it now to be useable and quite fast. So if you had a computer like mine, you would also had to buy a new laptop and then do all the steps to clean out the Windows 8. Even if you don't boot directly to desktop, you could wipe out all the tiles and just leave the desktop tile, add the third party Start Button and uses the included program (I forget the weird name) that allows you to bypass the login and guess what you have? You have a faster, more responsive O/S that presents you with one tile that says Desktop, which you can bypass if you want or just click on it. It would be faster to do that configuration than to redo your entire system to an older O/S. I think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

remmeler
remmeler

So, you can set it up to look like a Win 7 or Xp if you want. You can use touch if you want. You can run it on tablets if you want. You can add a third party Start Button, if you have to have it. You can boot directly to the Desktop (I am told). So why complain if you can do whatever you want with it and it is faster and more responsive and who knows what other improvements will become evident or updated in it. Oh, and they will sell it to you for $40 as an upgrade.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

can skim more of your money. If they had left the command set in Vista, Win 7, and Win 8 the same as it was in Win XP all that software and hardware designed to work perfectly with Win XP would work perfectly with them, but Microsoft made a deliberate choice to make them incompatible so that software would not just transfer over and they could now sell you new copies of MS Office that will work properly because the older version of MSO won't work properly with the new versions of Windows. Many businesses have mission critical software and / or hardware that works perfectly with Win XP and there is NO new version that works on Win Vista, Win 7, or Win 8, thus they have NO option but to stay with Win XP. In some cases there are new versions, but that requires a significant outlay of extra cash in a poor economy when staying with what they have continues to work perfectly, so why spend the money just because Microsoft want to rip them off.

Gretsch001
Gretsch001

You're missing the point. No one is complaining about less time to boot. The complaints focus on "change for the sake of change", hence the metaphor "new dog on the block searching for a fire hydrant to pee on (the odour left behind announcing his arrival to others) Using some of your examples: - in Win 7 to power off...click Start; click Shutdown = 2 clicks. What could be simpler? - in XP, all your well-used programs were icon shortcuts on your desktop. I like a clean desktop so mine aren't. What problem does Microsoft or you, for that matter, have with "choice" vs change for the sake of change. - if you like to create "little tiles" all over your desktop, go for it! I'm not interested in creating "little tiles" and resent being forced into doing so. I am quite capable of clicking Start --> Programs --> (select the program) = 3 Clicks. Furthermore, how many tiles do you want to create for one program. For example, System Mechanic Pro has two main programs - SMP and Drive Scrubber. Do I create 2 tiles for the desktop? How about Norton's Internet Security? There is "Update", "Quick Scan", "Full Scan", etc. There's another 5 or 6 tiles. Do you now get the point because I have numerous other examples if you don't! If you want to be a sheep for MS, I'm happy for you. But give me a choice and let everyone be happy with real improvements, not cosmetic ones and certainly not one that is geared towards a small minority called "tablet users".

remmeler
remmeler

On Windows 7 you can just hit shutdown. In my case I have to click because what I do on Windows 7 is Hybrid Sleep. I was doing the comment from XP and looking at that. I knew I did the same steps on Windows 7, but forgot that it is because of my sleep choice. It still holds that mousing to the right and clicking on Power and shutdown is only two steps for those that think it is three steps and that it is a big deal are wrong.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"1. On my Win 7, to shutdown, you must click on start, turn off and then you get a window that asks you to choose between Restart and Turn off." I support over 100 W7 systems. On all of them, to shut down I click teh Start button and then the Shutdown button. It sounds like you're clicking the menu button with the triangle icon located to the right of the Shutdown button.

remmeler
remmeler

I am sorry I didn't see this sooner, I hope you are still around. 1. On my Win 7, to shutdown, you must click on start, turn off and then you get a window that asks you to choose between Restart and Turn off. That is 3 steps. on Window 8 you mouse over to the right corner and choose power and turn off, which is two steps and it doesn't grind forever to actually turn off. 2. With my antivirus programs and I have tried several. You click on one icon and then get a window that tells you your choices. Just one click. 3. Individual programs may require some adjustment, but the only advantage to the Start is that fact that you can pin programs there also or have it display recently used programs. So if you need that, then you can use an add on program to get that back. Overall for me, it looks very similar to the way I have my XP and Win 7 set up, but much faster, so I don't see the big deal. P.S. I just read that if you mouse over to the left side, you get your Start back, but I have not tried it yet.