Install Third-Party Start Menu Utilities in Windows 8
Though there’s no way to enable Microsoft’s own old-school Start Menu in Windows 8, a number of third-party utilities provide alternatives that are almost as good. Here are three of our favorites:
- ViStart: Visually the most similar to Windows 7’s Start Menu, ViStart places the familiar Windows logo orb in the lower left corner of your taskbar and shows an Aero styled menu with subfolders. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect replica as you can’t drag and drop shortcuts onto it or right click to change their properties. ViStart takes over control of the Windows key on your keyboard so that, when you press it, you open the menu. Keep in mind that breaks some built-in keyboard shortcuts.
Some users have also reported that the orb overlaps other taskbar icons, but we didn’t have that problem. However, we did find it was far too easy to accidentally click on the Metro start button on the lower left corner of the screen when we were targeting the orb.
You can download ViStart for free from LeeSoft software. Make sure you hit decline when the installer attempts to load RegClean Pro.
- Start8: Made by Stardock, a company famous for its UI-enhancement utilities, Start8 makes Windows 8’s Metro “all apps” menu serve as the start menu, forcing it to appear in the lower left corner of the screen when you click its start button. Though a departure from Windows 7’s UI, we like Start8’s approach because it allows you to see all of your apps using Windows 8’s built-in menus, without the hassle of leaving the desktop.
You can even configure Start8 to show the actual Metro home screen in a frame, allowing you to see all the live tiles, without leaving your desktop. Unlike ViStart, Start8 prevents you from accidentally launching Windows 8’s built-in Start Screen. When we clicked in the lower left corner of the desktop, Start8 — not Metro — opened. You can download a beta of Start8 from Stardock’s website.
- StartMenu7: Like ViStart, StartMenu7 emulates the look and feel of a traditional Windows start menu, with lots of options thrown in for customizing the background and font size. However, we found the program a bit clunky as it creates a huge menu that floats several pixels above the taskbar. Like ViStart, it does not allow drag and drop, though unlike ViStart, it does support right clicking on its shortcuts.
Thankfully, StartMenu7 does not take control of the Windows key, but it fails to prevent you from accidentally opening the Metro menu when you click in the lower left corner of the screen. A more robust, customizable version of StartMenu7 is available for $19.99, but you can download the basic version for free from StartMenu7.com.
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