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back to article Want a Windows 8 Start Button? Open source to the rescue!

Windows 8 users need not do without a Start button, thanks to an open source application titled Classic Shell that can banish the Interface Formerly Known As Metro (TIFKAM). El Reg's antipodean lab installed Classic Shell on a Windows 8 RTM virtual machine running under Oracle VirtualBox on Mac OS 10.7.4. We can report that the …

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Well

Now I'm interested in installing Windows 8, but you have to wonder, when will an "update" come done the pipe to disable it.

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Re: Well

They didn't do anything to disable Classic Shell in Win7 - so why start in Win8?

Now I'm waiting for the other essential fix how to get Quick-Launch back and working well.

That was a showstopper for me for awhile on WIn7.

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Re: Well

More likely an update will come which makes metro tolerable to desktop users. As it is there is way too much mouse travel involved and the metro screen is woefully inadequate for managing the number of programs and groups the average user may have. Interestingly if you choose All apps from the metro it will group apps (sort of) with a program group heading. Does it allow users to make their own groups? Noooo.

Everything is just so much of an extra effort in Windows 8. Lots of reviews contain lines such as "once i learned mysterious-key-combo things became so much easier" which just shows how hard MS have failed here.

I think they'll fix it eventually and maybe people will wonder what the fuss is about but metro as it stands sucks on a desktop and does a piss poor job of replacing what came before.

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Re: Well

Quicklaunch works fine with no problems. Right-click taskbar > toolbars >new toolbar, then browse to C:\users\<username>\appdata\roaming\microsoft\internet explorer\quicklaunch. Job done.

Jim

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Re: Well

@drxym

Supposedly you can use classic start menu to impose some structure on the Metro abomination or use the old trick of directly building the underlying folder structure.

...until MS find an excuse to rewrite it to ignore the folder layout ;)

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Re: Mouse travel

Interesting you talk about how far you have to move your mouse: I was talking the other day with a Mac user about the awkward positioning of the app menu at the top of the screen instead of attached to application windows (as per Windows). On a laptop this is a bit awkward, but on high res screens this must surely be a serious PITA right?? Not to mention the disconnect of not having an app's command where the app window is?

So I'm wondering is this a problem for frequent Mac users, something they'd like addressed even, or do you just get used to it?

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Pint

Re: Well

Jim, the lazy way

Use the %appdata% variable!

%appdata%\microsoft\internet explorer\Quick Launch

No faffing with user paths

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Re: Well

Quick Launch worked fine in windows 7

http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-7/add-the-quick-launch-bar-to-the-taskbar-in-windows-7/

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Re: Mouse travel

"So I'm wondering is this a problem for frequent Mac users, something they'd like addressed even, or do you just get used to it?"

Actually, that menu is a lot easier to get at than the Windows ones: the pointer can't go beyond the edge of the screen at that point—unless you've deliberately rearranged a multi-monitor set up to do so. Which would be weird. That menu is, in effect, infinitely "tall" as a result, so you just fling the pointer in the general direction of the menu item you want and you're done.

On Windows, the menus are below the title bar, so you have to be a lot more precise.

(Incidentally, there are books on all this. It's a known science.)

One thing that Windows 8 is doing is playing catch-up with Apple's move away from the increasingly archaic WIMP system. The mouse is a particularly annoying peripheral: it's the biggest cause of RSI, for a start. Furthermore, the vast majority of traditional computers sold today are laptops, not desktops. Optimising the GUI for (multi-touch) trackpads makes a lot of sense in that context. Apple already offer their standalone Bluetooth trackpad with their iMacs now. Microsoft's "Surface" tablet keyboard cover also appears to include a trackpad below the keys (though it's not always obvious in the pictures).

For those who have a desktop computer, you can always buy a Wacom tablet that also supports multitouch gestures. Such gestures haven't been brilliantly supported on Windows 7, but Windows 8 seems to do a better job. (Apple's "Magic Trackpad"* isn't officially supported on Windows and is a bit pricey anyway. The Wacom alternative does more for roughly the same price.)

Kiss that plastic rodent goodbye, because it's not going to be around much longer. And good riddance, frankly.

* (You'd never have guessed Steve Jobs had a seat on Disney's board of directors.)

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Re: Mouse travel

Also: OS X supports adding keyboard shortcuts to any menu item in any application as standard.

Power users therefore assign such shortcuts to commands they use most often and therefore hardly ever have to touch the mouse or trackpad anyway. (The user-defined shortcuts appear in the menus automatically—you don't even have to quite the application—and, yes, it'll work with Microsoft's apps too. It's a built-in feature of the Cocoa API; developers don't have to do anything to support it.)

When I use Windows, I find I prefer its CUA-derived keyboard support. I find [ALT]+F(ile) > O(pen) much easier to remember than seemingly arbitrary combinations of modifier keys and random letters for the more direct command shortcuts. The CUA system has the advantage of being (a) universal: any menu command can be accessed using this system, even if it lacks a direct shortcut; (b) consistent in every properly designed application, and (c), it's very easy to learn. Especially if your memory works best with spatial data.

This is one area where Apple did the right thing: their keyboards have had three modifier keys since the first Mac was launched. MS-DOS had just CTRL and ALT, while Windows 95 added that Windows Logo key. The latter has quite a few system-wide shortcuts linked to it that most people know nothing about, but I've never seen it used directly in applications, so it's basically wasted. Which is a shame, really.

It'll be interesting to see where Apple take this with OS XI. I suspect they'll ditch the ancient desktop metaphor entirely with that one. And Microsoft clearly want their developers to move towards Metro instead of the traditional desktop interface too.

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Re: Mouse travel

"I was talking the other day with a Mac user about the awkward positioning of the app menu at the top of the screen instead of attached to application windows (as per Windows). "

That's been a real design flaw in the Mac OSs from way back, even as far back as the time Apple made otherwise great computers. And that's a long time ago now. I don't know why they haven't fixed it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mouse travel

I can see the top menu made sense way back before OS-X when Mac didn't truly multi-task. Then it was a useful way of knowing what the 'active' app was.

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Re: Mouse travel

"you can always buy a Wacom tablet that also supports multitouch gestures"

Can you recommend one? I might be interested in this. I normally spend most of my time on the keyboard (shortcuts for everything), but it's good to try new things.

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N2
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Trollface

Re: Well

As to "when will an "update" come done the pipe to disable it"

Do you mean Windows 8 or Classic Shell?

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Re: Mouse travel

Indeed, to me, Mac user interfaces have never been logical and I absolutely hate the trend of other UIs copying them.

e.g. Windows 7 taskbar with lots of excessively large icons in view for no reasonc, Ubuntu and GNOME making themselves Mac-like by moving menus to the top, Ubuntu moving close button to left for no reason.

KDE FTW -- the only desktop UI that seems to innovate on common sense and logic rather than fashion!

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Re: Mouse travel

It's always been there on the Mac. The Amiga, ST and loads of other GUI OSes put the menu at the top.

It's actually a lot easier to go to the top of the screen than it is to go to a menu which may vary slightly in location. You can slam the pointer to the stop of the screen and not miss as the mouse pointer stops when it reaches the edge of the screen.

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Re: Mouse travel

The Mac menubar's positioning isn't really a large factor in usability to be honest. As pointed out, it being at the top makes it effectively infinitely tall for hitting with a cursor so that's good, but it always sits at the top of whichever screen you nominate as your main one so getting to it can be a real task, which is bad.

There's only one, which makes more compact, which is good. But that means that it's modal, which is bad.

From a subjective point of view, neither of the goods or the bads outweighs the other.

In practice I think it's even less of an issue because people that use computers a lot tend to use keyboard shortcuts anyway. Besides the task specific command+s for save/etc, the best Mac one for the menubar is command+shift+forward slash. That opens the search box in the 'help' pull down, so then you just type the name of the menu bar command you want (or some section of it) and hit enter as a sort of menubar-specific take on quick launchers.

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Re: Mouse travel Menu where it belongs - at the top

never ever understood why you would have one menu system (for the app) at the top; and the os menu system at the bottom.

Put 'em both in the same place - want to do ANYTHING - menu for that is at the top...

However; now we have wide screens - the OS menu goes to the left (or right) -- and that is where I want my APPS menu too - gives me more real estate for the app that way

Not that Micro$oft has ever had the moveable task bar working properly; par for the course; Micro$oft; no standardisation across their own apps; half the stuff works at best 90% utter ruddy fail

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well

LOOK WE MISSED THE BOAT ON SMARTPHONES NOW WERE MAKE DAMN SURE WE GET THE TABLET SPACE PERIOD. IN FIVE YEARS YOU WILL ALL LOOK AT MICROSOFT AND THINK WOW THEY HAD VISION PERIOD.

STEVE B

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mouse travel Menu where it belongs - at the top

Well, app at the top, OS at the bottom makes some sense to me. At least more than Ubuntu last time I used it, which had OS at the top and bottom and app attached to the windows.

Also, with the Mac it's pretty easy to move the OS menu bar (i.e., dock) to a side and it's perfectly functional, whereas the last time I tried this with Ubuntu, I couldn't adjust the width of the menu due to a bug and thus couldn't see the names of any of the windows.

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Re: Mouse travel

PC gamer I presume?

Bye...

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Re: Mouse travel

It is brilliant ... As others pointed out, you just flung the mouse up in the direction of the menu item you want, cannot go past it ... cool on laptops as well, just swift the finger - on large screens, max out acceleration !!! Besides, Macs have standard shortcuts for most things and an easy edit screen to create new ones ...

What most ui designers do not get is the fact that we have plenty of horizontal yet limited vertical screen real-estate. All ui's I have seen on a computer so far have menus at the top .... put them to the right-hand side, you morons, coz makes much more sense as that is where the eye is trained to look first anyway for most (sorry Israel etc).

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DN4

Re: Mouse travel

> Actually, that menu is a lot easier to get at than the Windows ones:

> the pointer can't go beyond the edge of the screen at that point...

> so you have to be a lot more precise

Ah, the classic Fitt's law argument. With the classic flaw. Unless you just want to quit the program you also need to move the mouse *back* from the menu to the working area.

So, for maximized windows it indeed makes sense to place menus at screen edge (i.e. they'd better be fullscreen, not just maximized) while for everything else menus in the window win if the movement back is included.

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Trollface

Re: Well

Welcome back BDG555 (not).

But why are you trying to hide?

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Re: Mouse travel

Trackpads are the abomination - always jumping of with a life of their own - triggering themselves off when using the keyboard. Try setting them up to suit yourself - then get sweaty fingers (it's HOT here) - or need to support a different users laptop - UGGH.

I always have a spare mouse for when I need to work on an "alien" system - otherwise I'd tear our my own hair and the owners haor too !

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Excellent

Now just bring back Aero/Glass and we're all set

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excellent

Did I hear Aero snap (is that where you pull a window to the side and it half fills the screen, or to the top and it maximizes?) is gone too?

The transparency was nice looking - IMHO - but being able to easily split the screen has been very useful for me.

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Re: Excellent

Its still there.

But why leave Win7 if there are features you miss in Win8?

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Re: Excellent

"But why leave Win7 if there are features you miss in Win8?"

Good question. In Windows 8's defence it does IMO have some useful improvements. File Copy is far better implemented and even the ribbon style explorer is a step up on the IE-esque explorer in W7. But the metro UI and lack of start menu would annoy a lot of people.

I suppose if someone produced a reasonable start menu replacement it might just tip someone towards w8. I wouldn't be so convinced that the replacement was good until I used it for a long while though because MS would have polished the experience to a shiny point, not something that a few month old project is likely to replicate very well for a long time to come.

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Re: Excellent

"I want to upgrade to Windows 8, because that's the version they made file copy work correctly"

Damned by faint praise

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Re: Excellent

From my brief testing of the Windows 8 RC in a Parallels virtual machine, I wasn't able to do very much, but I could do it quite a bit quicker than in Windows 7 in a Parallels VM on the same MacBook. If I could get the Windows 8 performance improvements with a Windows 7 interface, then I would move to it.

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Pint

Re: Excellent

You may be interested in WinSplit Revolution, good sir. I'm on 7 of course, but still, WinSplit Revolution is an improved version of Aero Snap. You can customise the snapping percentages, snap to corners, remember the window position and snap to that... and so on.

The default hotkeys honk a bit, though. I recommend Win+Numpad combinations to toss windows into all corners of the screen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excellent

Aero Glass is awful, esp. if you don't have perfect eyesight. I find seeing a blurry image of what's under the window I'm trying to focus on VERY distracting, and turn it off asap!

As to having to hack an OS with a third-party add-on to make the user interface acceptable, well that's just a major FAIL.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excellent

aero snap is still there, and still as annoying as ever.

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Stop

Re: Excellent

"But why leave Win7 if there are features you miss in Win8?"

But why leave Windows XP in the first place?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excellent

"But why leave Windows XP in the first place?"

We were pushed with the DX10 stick.

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Re: Excellent

I have installed it on two pcs, one as a clean install, one as an upgrade. The clean install machine is incredibly quick to start and I would not go back to 7 for anything. Metro would not have been my first choice, but you get used to it, and I spend most of my time using applications, not the underlying OS. The upgrade, incidentally, took a long time to install and, although quicker that 7 (both running and starting up/shutting down) it is not so spectacular as the clean install - as I suppose it shouldn't be.

I eagerly await being voted down for giving the facts about my own experiences.

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Zot
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Re: Excellent

With the file copy, do you no longer have to babysit a large copy because of possible folder copy questions? That was crap on 7.

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Linux

Re: Excellent

It's "support".

Sooner or later the likes of Apple will stop supporting you and you will be unable to run latest version of doo-dad. Trapping your OS in the past means that you have to trap your apps and drivers in the past too. Not everyone is cool with that.

There's also security fixes to consider.

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Re: Excellent DrXym

File Copy is far better implemented !

What, you mean ie will no longer download files to %tmp% first then move them over to %WhereEverIWantedToPutTheFileInTheFirstPlace% taking ages doing so for "big" files? Naaaa, I do not believe you ... simply cannot be true.

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Hostage using open source too

It hurts double time when Apple abuse open source software which can be recompiled to push their users to upgrade.

How long would it take to compile new Apache on a xeon? 10 minutes?

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Mushroom

Going nuke?

Great, now ms may just all out nuke future ability to run win in vbox.... Not sure whether it would be legal to issue a service pack that does not warn that it is going to gut various versions of windows if a vm other than the ms approved vms....

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Banish you mean hide and how well?

I have been using classic shell for ages and knew they were experimenting with Win 8 previews.

I haven't tried it on Win 8. The interesting part is how well it gets rid of TIFKAM. I bet it still sits there wasting disk space and memory.

What happens for example when you stick in a CD, does it still pop up a big stupid tile saying 'finger me' or something? Seeing that pop up on the desktop convinced me I had seen enough of that last Win 8 preview (about 30 minutes worth).

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

The lack of a Start button is hardly the biggest problem with the disaster that is Windows 8.

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Re: "Why?" Hmm. Famliar style - is that you Barry?

In fact this program resolves two issues for those who do not have a touch screen or wish to work primarily in desktop even if they do. Not only does one have a very familiar start menu but the pc default boots to desktop when you restart or shut down and restart (I have very recently installed it and tested it myself). As far as the rest of the operating system goes for desk top users it is in fact somewhat faster and more efficient than Win7. Having said that of course, if one has a good Win7 install that one is happy with and touch interactions are not relevant then there is not an amazingly strong case for upgrading. However, don't let facts get in the way and spoil your enjoyment of your membership of the Anti Microsoft Choral Howling Society.

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Happy

Re: Why?

For the simpleton it will be. They'll go... "this isn't Windows! Where's the god-damn start button I've been accustomed to for 15+ years!? Boxes? What do these boxes do? I can't touch them, I have no touch screen monitor. Oh, I need to be sold a touch screen monitor for it to work? Oh damn, I've been conned by PC World to spend more money than I needed. Now I'm broke and confused."

Anyway to @AC 02:36 - good luck having fun pointless navigating between two different screens just because Microsoft didn't think about the common desktop user. *waves* That's why the icon is a smiley one. I certainly won't be touching it unless forced upon me like a nasty rash.

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Anonymous Coward

See also StarDock's Start8

This one's also free and work's well:

http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/

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@AC

Cool, nice to see they're still in business. This sure brings back memories!

I've used Stardocks object desktop (iirc) on OS/2 for years. Not so much because the default was lacking or something, but because their software really enhanced the options. Good to see they now turned their attention to Windows.

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