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back to article There is life after the death of Microsoft’s Windows 8 Start button

The disappearance of the Start button in Microsoft’s new Windows has proved unsettling for users. “I want Start. Start I say,” said an early tester in a post entitled "Worst 60 minutes in my entire life". One year on, and the Start screen is still a contentious issue. “The advantage of the overlaid menu is that it preserves …

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Meh

I too found after some use

That what I originally thought was going to be an awful experience turned out to be not so bad, I mean it's a departure from tradition sure and it does take a bit of getting used to.

Also I still can't see why (OK, I can, it's all about metro / ModernUI / Touch / App store) Microsoft can't allow you to install one or the other (or both) interfaces during a custom setup.

I gather the Aero style was a bit old hat and the flat, bland tiles are the new design paradigm but I rather like my Win7 desktop, you can keep your dull, flat, lifeless tiles thanks

I won't be rushing out to buy Windows 8, I simply have no need of the new features but equally I won't die if I was forced to use it

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Re: I too found after some use

I've just got to the point where I'm now forced to use Windows 7. This isn't my "first run" by any means - only the other week I was testing out Windows 8 on touchscreen PC's with a view to a purchase next year.

I tell you now, having been "forced" (i.e. I broke my previous laptop and you only get Windows 7 drivers etc. for things now, especially Optimus graphics) to use Windows 7 the very first thing I actually consciously did was go and download the Classic Shell program mentioned here. My way of working is just incompatible with the new-style menus no matter what the OS (Ubuntu has the same problem now).

Even to the point that I then played with all of the options on that program and turned OFF things like searching through my program lists etc. It was too annoying, and inconsistent as new programs install, to get to a program the same way every time. A nicely organised start menu (which is a rarity among people who don't use computers much but is something of a necessity to me since even Windows 3.1) is quicker, smaller, smarter, more well-organised and logical. It just is.

Literally, while pulling off the data from my old laptop to put onto the new Windows 7 one, I spent more time faffing to find programs than I did anything else. And I've barely got 1% of my software library installed on 7 as yet. In all the HOURS that it took to copy that data over, over several days, with me trying to install things that I needed as and when they cropped up, I took enough of a productivity hit from the new menus to warrant finding a replacement, downloading it, installing it, configuring it, tweaking it, etc. and still make some profit in time.

YOU may like it. I have tried it, several times over several years, for several EXTENDED tests with a view to deploying on hundreds of machines. And I'm telling you that it slows me down and gets in my way.

Don't even get me started on the "Computer" windows which I am really struggling to keep them from looking ugly while still providing the functionality I need.

Everyone has different working processes. So keeping options is a GOOD thing and people who enjoy the new interface can use it and not be hindered by those who don't. Windows 8's interface - I spent ten minutes with a colleague working out how to close a metro app without using the keyboard shortcuts - just takes away options. It's like saying "Sorry, sir? You're used to driving a car where you can move the seat? But we've made a car that has the optimal position already set and unchangeable for every driver!".

My desktop is my desktop. Playing with it and removing features and options is like coming into my office and pushing all my stuff onto the floor. Providing the OPTION hurts no-one, because people DO work differently. Forcing people to use something new because it's "better" is like forcing people to only use electricity for tools, vehicles, heating, etc. because "it can do the job of everything else".

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"Only get Windows 7 drivers"

If you can turn up a copy of Windows XP x64 Edition, you should be able to use the Win7 drivers with it; you may have to screw around some to get them to install, but they should work without too much trouble. (I've successfully installed 32-bit Win7 drivers on a 32-bit XP machine, at any rate; I see no reason why the 64-bit equivalent should not work as well.)

Of course, finding a (legit) copy of XP x64 may be its own problem in this day and age, to say nothing of learning your way around its multifarious foibles...

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Re: I too found after some use

Can I suggest that you investigate the Windows 7 downgrade rights?

http://www.microsoft.com/oem/en/licensing/sblicensing/pages/downgrade_rights.aspx#fbid=66BVjcQ4aQ8

From reading your posts its clear that you won't be happy with anything less than exactly the same behaviour that you are used to. Yes everyone has different working processes, but there are also some people who just don't like change - you appear to be one of those people.

In my (humble) oppinion Windows 7 is superior to every previous version of Windows in pretty much every way and the start menu / task bar is no exception.

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Re: I too found after some use

. Providing the OPTION hurts no-one, because people DO work differently.

It does though. It's expensive for one thing, every single option literally doubles the size of the test matrix, so adding more choices pushing up the cost of development exponentially.

For another thing, it means you have to come up with multiple ways of surfacing each new bit of functionality, made worse by the fact whichever way you chose to expose it in the "old" arrangement will be changed functionality there anyway, so you're effectively changing functionality in the old feature even though you're supposedly keeping that there for people who don't want change.

Finally, but perhaps more importantly, it's lazy. It's so easy when designing a User Interface to sidestep every difficult decision by just saying "Well we'll include both solutions and just make it optional". This is a disservice to end users, leaving them with something that just feels unfinished and clunky. As a designer you have to make the hard choices and come up with something that works. Users might complain about change at first, but, if you made good decisions, they will thank you in the long run when they adapt to the change and find themselves becoming more productive as a result. The is one of the reasons Apple products are always held in such high regard, because it's something they tend to be much stricter on than anyone else

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Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

I have no more than one or two applications pinned on my 16:9 monitor, because I need the rest of the taskbar to, you know, display my running tasks. I have 13 such windows active right now and would avoid grouping them if possible.

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Quite possible to avoid grouping

"7 Taskbar Tweaker" is what I use for that; it's lightweight and lives in the system tray, and can be configured to turn off grouping. Works quite well, installs cleanly with no BS as far as I recall.

Another good reason not to pin anything to the taskbar: I use the Virtual Dimension desktop pager, and pinned apps always appear, whether I'm on their desktop or not. This would rather defeat the purpose of using virtual desktops.

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A suggestion with regard to widescreen displays

Try putting your taskbar on one side or the other, rather than at top or bottom. You can fit more open windows onto it that way, and it frees up a considerable amount of vertical space, which is a boon when dealing with aspect ratios which don't give you all that much to work with in the first place.

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Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

I'm the same. But I also enabled WinXP's Quick Launch bar because that happens to work for me. Many people don't realise that Win7 still has it, but disabled.

I have to use WinXP at work and I choose to run Win7-64 at home, and I have to say I miss an awful lot of Win7's features when at work.

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Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

Yes, I not only like the Quick Launch, I have several of them.

And Yes, Put the task bar up the right hand side, and stretch it a bit, it makes lots of use of the widescreen layout, and lets me see a bit more of each document or spreadsheet.

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Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

How small is your screen?

I can fit around 40 task buttons on a 22" screen. I have the ones I use all the time (about 15) pinned and everything else is launched by searching the start menu.

Personally I have no problem with the Windows 8 start screen apart from the way the search no longer automatically selects settings or documents when the applications are exhausted

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Facepalm

Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

My guess would be that he is using a NetBook, either that or he hasn't managed to find the "Use Small Icons" option.

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Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

I am using an ordinary laptop with full HD resolution. At this pixel size, using the "small icons" option makes the icons too tiny to be useful for me.

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Still has Quick Launch?

I am one of those people! Thanks for the clue --

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Re: Not this "pin everything to the taskbar" argument again

The Windows 7 taskbar is inefficient in terms of space and flawed in terms of usability, even when small icons and labels are enabled (the scattered "quick launch' icons get annoying). For how it should be done see KDE4.

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Mac OS X

I've had a Mac for a few years and initially I struggled with the lack of a Start menu. Then I repositioned my Applications folder to the bottom-left corner and lo and behold it looked much more like my familiar old Start menu!

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Re: Mac OS X

I just use Quicksilver. A couple of key presses and you can find anything, apps, docs, emails etc.

http://qsapp.com/

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Re: Mac OS X

or Spotlight, or Alfred or Launchpad..

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Anonymous Coward

the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

It's the new ribbon. No one wants it in the first place but everyone has to just learn to live with it. Eventually the moaning will stop and we'll all carry on buying Microsoft, whatever UI they force on us.

I really wish I could see a different future.

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft understands...

the inertia of its existing customers. Microsoft knows that business customers already using Windows will gripe and moan about the changes, but will eventually get used to whatever they have to use. After all, most Windows users don't really have strong opinions about the way a desktop UI ought to work, or they would have already been complaining about the lack of configurability in XP and Win7 desktops, or simply switched to a different OS. And as we know, most lusers use the desktop defaults without changing a thing.

No, Windows 8 is about milking more revenue out of Microsoft's existing customers. At 92% desktop market share, they know that they don't stand a chance of getting many new customers. Instead, they will use their established model of forced obsolescence through incompatibility to an even greater extent going forward.

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Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

Not all of us will "carry on buying Microsoft". Only the sheep without the wit to do more than follow the herd.

Some of us will choose other options.

Debian + Trinity Desktop Environment is my choice.

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Mushroom

Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

All this bloody sheep nonsense flying about. Makes you look like right pretentious twat. "I am considerably cleverer than yaouw" etc etc. Still it re-enforces the stereotypes I have about you free-as-in-free-speechers, so continue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

Personal computer market != Business market and it is in the business desktop market that Microsoft is king and nothing much will change that until people stop using Word and Excel.

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Re: Microsoft understands...

"forced obsolescence through incompatibility"

rerversi from windows 1.0 still works on win7 32-bit (64-bit windows can emulate only 32-bit apps)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

Lots of people found Ribbon an improvement, including myself.

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Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

>Only the sheep without the wit to do more than follow the herd.

Er, and those who use software not available in Linux are what, exactly? Engineers, designers, people who find it useful to use the same systems as their suppliers and clients...

We're all supporting to your right to choose, so why knock other people's choices?

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Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

And unlike you, I think the ribbon sucks donkey balls. But I was forced to use it since I had to upgrade to a newer version of Office because Microsoft changed the way Office went to the docx and xlsx formats that are incompatible with older versions of Office. And don't talk about the compatibility Pack addition for older Office versions as I've been down that road and it has it's own problems.

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Mushroom

Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

@TimeMaster T

Yer so cool.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

"Lots of people found Ribbon an improvement, including myself".

Well whoopee-fucking-doo.

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Pint

Re: Microsoft understands...

You can even still use Cardfile on Windows 7 x64.

You need a copy of the executable from Windows NT 3.51, but it works.

Incompatibility in the Windows world is very little, very, very little to complain about. We've been treated to a frankly gratuitous amount of backwards compatibility.

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Linux

Re: Microsoft understands...

"the inertia of its existing customers. Microsoft knows that business customers already using Windows will gripe and moan about the changes, but will eventually get used to whatever they have to use. "

surprisingly these were touted as being reasons to stick with Microsoft and not switch to Linux... logic being that your users would need expensive training and would be confused by Linux's differences from Windows...

Come on Microsoft, you can't have it both ways...

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Re: the issue disappears as you learn new ways of working

@TimeMaster Just up-voted your post to counteract the idiots who downvoted it because you switched to a different OS and they didn't like your choice. I thought Windows 8 was terrible and jumped ship too, and had the same down vote experience as yourself (although my OS choice was not the same).

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Re: Microsoft understands...

There's a 32 bit build of SkiFree that works on Win 7 64 bit, though http://ski.ihoc.net/

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Anonymous Coward

I'm still yet to try Win8, does Win+R still work to get the run dialog up? Also:

"Presuming you work mainly in the desktop, having PDF documents open in the full-screen Metro reader is annoying"

This seems to imply random switching into Metro mode depending on file associations, is that true? That sounds nasty if it is.

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Run dialog isn't needed.. just hit the win key and start typing your command. Same as for Win7.

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"This seems to imply random switching into Metro mode depending on file associations, is that true? That sounds nasty if it is."

If the file association is a Metro app, then yes, it will switch you to that. But it's entirely your choice what programs you associate with what file types, just as it is previous versions. The only reason the writer is having this problem is because the Metro PDF reader is probably the only PDF reader they have installed. If you install Foxit or Adobe Reader or whatever your preference is and make it the primary for PDFs, they'll open in the Desktop just as normal. Win7 didn't come with a PDF reader installed, as far as I recall, so it's really just the same as Win7 in that you need to install something, with the caveat that if you can't be bothered, there's already the ability to open them present on the system.

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There's nothing "random" about it. Documents open in the app their file type is associated with, just as they always have done. Obviously if you open a document that is associated with a Metro-style app, it opens in that app.

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Re: Run dialog isn't needed..

Run dialog works great when you're on a slow machine and just want to ping something or bring up a command line without searching the index of every email you've ever written for the word "ping"

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Re: Run dialog isn't needed..

The "Power Users" menu - bottom left corner, right-click - has the Run dialog as one of its options. It works the same way as ever.

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Anonymous Coward

"The "Power Users" menu - bottom left corner, right-click - has the Run dialog as one of its options. It works the same way as ever."

That makes me happy. :)

"If the file association is a Metro app, then yes, it will switch you to that. But it's entirely your choice what programs you associate with what file types, just as it is previous versions. The only reason the writer is having this problem is because the Metro PDF reader is probably the only PDF reader they have installed. If you install Foxit or Adobe Reader or what"

I was under the impression that apps would function in one of two modes, or would open with an appropriate reader for the mode you're in, to explain: Adobe Reader is installed, if you open a PDF in desktop mode, a desktop mode Adobe Reader is shown, if in Modern UI mode, then Adobe Reader is opened in it's Modern UI mode (if it has one) or if not, a separate Modern UI PDF reader would be used, but not switching between modes based on opening a file. That sound clunky at best.

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Anonymous Coward

Waste of my time

It's a total waste of my time to have to learn a new way to do what I already know how to do. Completely unproductive and utterly frustrating. And that's just for me as an individual - for businesses there is no upside at all, just loss of productivity.

I'm fed up with having to relearn how to do tasks at Microsoft's whim - I'd still like to beat toa bloddy pulp the guy who thought that forcing me to use the ribbon in Office was a good idea.

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Mushroom

Re: Waste of my time

I'm sure you said the same when you changed from Wordperfect in DOS to Word in Windows.

Change happens, get used to it.

For what it's worth, not convinced with Windows 8 either, but do like the ribbon in MS Office.

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Unhappy

Re: Waste of my time

"I'm sure you said the same when you changed from Wordperfect in DOS to Word in Windows."

But if you had to use Word for Windows without a mouse, would it be an upgrade over WP?

On a tablet, the (ugly, to my eye) Metro UI may make sense, but like many oythers here I use a keyboard and dual monitors for most of my work and I can see precious little advantage in moving to touch-sensitive monitors. Can't see any point, don't like being pressured.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Waste of my time

I am totally fed up with IT guys refusing to learn new skills. Do you not see the irony in working in one of the fastest changing industries in the world and bitching about having to learn new stuff? I work for a backup company, we sell one of the big three Enterprise backup packages and associated hardware, and I see it every day from backup admins, "we're not going to install a single new backup system to replace our shitbag aging systems for X, Y, Z "technical" reasons."

Where "technical" reasons are a load of excuses which are ill informed, out of date or just plain wrong. It's always for the same real reason though: I like my cushy number here and I don't want to bother to learn anything else, despite the fact that it will be good for my CV.

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Re: Waste of my time

There were benefits to doing that. In Windows, what you see on the screen is what you might see on paper when you print it out. You don't need to stick a sheet of paper on your keyboard saying what all the function keys do. You don't have a completely different set of key-press sequences to do similar things (eg open and save files and text formatting) in Lotus. You don't have to install printer drivers separately for WordPerfect and Lotus123. You can run both at the same time and copy things between them. You can have both of them up on screen at the same time.

What are the benefits of running Windows 8? It is a bit faster than Windows 7, which is nice, but most computers can run Windows 7 plenty fast enough.

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Re: Waste of my time

So, you think it would be a really smart move for the UK to decide overnight that everyone should be told to drive on the same side of the road as Europe?

Of course not. It would cause chaos and kill lots of people.

Well, Windows 8 has made the same mistake, except it won't kill so many people. (It will certainly kill some. Annoyed or stressed users having heart attacks. Emergency service operators or medics failing to react correctly or fast enough because they are struggling with the unfamiliar new interface. And so on)

Yes, I'm sure I could get used to it. I just don't see why I should waste my time on a completely pointless change.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Waste of my time

Learning stuff is what prevents your brain from turning into mush.

Or do you want to be one of these VAX or DOS experts no longer in demand?

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JC_
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@Nigel 11

Bad analogy: Sweden switched sides of the road (45 years ago) and it went smoothly with a decrease in accidents. FWIW, I'd be more than happy for the UK & Ireland to make the switch, and with metrication, too.

The secret of course was that the Swedes prepared drivers for the change; MS released the developer preview of Win8 one year ago, so if you work in IT and are still not ready then maybe the problem is with you...

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Re: Waste of my time

"I am totally fed up with IT guys refusing to learn new skills."

Umm, 99% of PC users are *not* IT guys. Perhaps the IT guys who you claim are "refusing to learn new skills" are the ones who play a support role, either as part of their job or to their friends and families.

Then again, as the article notes, none of the "reasons why it doesn't matter" are actually discoverable. Microsoft is assuming that we are willing to trawl through endless "Windows Guru Secrets" blogs in order to learn how to make their latest offering even palatable.

How about I shit on your lunch and then point out that a few days googling on the web should throw up some sanitisation options at quite reasonable prices? Do you understand why normal people might find that attitude a little tiresome?

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Re: @Nigel 11

Being a sparsely populated country with vastly fewer cars on the road than the present day probably helped, too.

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