back to article Here's the $4.99 utility that might just have saved Windows 8

Veteran software outfit Stardock has offered Microsoft an elegant way to escape its Windows 8 Metro Notro dilemma. With Windows 8, Redmond foisted a new and radical touchscreen-driven user interface on a desktop PC market that was already in a once-in-a-generation slump - and both consumer sales and enterprise interest have …


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  1. Mark McC

    The downside

    Once TIFKAM apps are reduced to windows running on a desktop, it becomes even more apparent how crushingly inadequate they are compared to traditional desktop programs. I imagine this is going to be one of those things people try once for the novelty, before going back to ignoring TIFKAM apps once more.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The downside

      Yes and no. TIFKAM makes a lot of sense on a tablet or small screen. Even desktop apps run maximised, if the screen is small enough. Heck, I know people wit 27" monitors than run with the browser, Outlook etc. maximised all the time!

      But for power users, multi-windows on a large display (or multiple displays) is great and this app from Stardock should make a huge difference. This is something I said when Windows 8 Preview came out, TIFKAM didn't make sense on a large display and desktop users needed the option to window them.

      Using both a W8 tablet and large screen laptop, I see the point of TIFKAM on the tablet, but I sorely miss the windowing ability on my laptop. I'll be taking this for a spin on my laptop.

  2. Robert E A Harvey

    This continues to amuse

    Given that $MEGACORP have yet to migrate me to W7, and that at home I am entirely Apple/Linux, this remains a source of amusement rather than personal pain. But I am running low on popcorn!

    At least it should provide Mickysoft with a defence next time the EU competition commissioner comes to call. "People have to go to 3rd parties to make our stuff work. How can that be abuse of a monopoly?"

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: This continues to amuse

      How can that be abuse of a monopoly?

      You're right - it's more and more feasible to call it a former monopoly..

      1. Euripides Pants Silver badge

        Re: This continues to amuse

        "How can that be abuse of a monopoly?"

        Just call it abuse and be done with it....

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: This continues to amuse

        "You're right - it's more and more feasible to call it a former monopoly.."

        Don't start counting your chickens too soon.

        There are few things more dangerous than a cornered corporation rat.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: This continues to amuse

      How can that be abuse of a monopoly?

      The only reason Win8's TIFKAM even exists is because they are a monopoly - consumers are essentially forced to buy it if they want a PC at all. (As the OEMs are pushed away from Win7)

      If they had a choice, almost nobody would buy Windows 8 - you can see approximately how many would choose it by looking at sales of Surface and Surface Pro.

      I'm still pissed off that they neutered the task bar - so much of the cool stuff it did has gone :(

    3. TEQ

      Re: This continues to amuse

      I think it's more accurate to call it self-abuse...

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: This continues to amuse

      As far as the EU competition commission is concerned, so far it has been all American companies complaining and asking the EU for help. I suppose they felt Microsoft has the US DOJ in its pocket.

      The EU has perhaps got some compensation for the work but the benefit of keeping an eye on how Microsoft is using its monopoly I would assume to be international. You can read more about it downloading Case COMP/C-3/37.792 Microsoft and similar.

  3. K Silver badge

    Gets my vote..

    But I am ashamed to admit I brought this, not for what it-is, nor that I use Windows 8 - but the fact Microsoft majorly f*cked up, yet they will see me using Windows 8 an "endorsement" for it.. which it is not, to be brutally honest, I F*CKING HATE IT! (with the exception of how quick it is, and that is worth the value of Start8 itself!)

    1. Rebajas

      Re: Gets my vote..

      I bought it thinking it surely can't be that bad.

      I was wrong, but just like you I am now part of any statistical success Microsoft tries to spin around Win8.

      What annoys me most actually (most, among many other things) is that - having added my Music library to Windows Media Player, I thought I would be able to use the Music App as a replacement of sorts for the missing Media Center... but the Music app can't see my library still :\

      I like IE10 though - as a second browser - on my one Windows machine.

      1. EvilGav 1

        @rebajas Re: Gets my vote..

        Yes, the music app (along with the photo and video app) can see your music, wherever it is.

        Like the old Media player, if you don't store it in the defined place, you need to tell the app where to find it. This is not done in the same way as the media player, but a 5 minute google found my answer - basically, you open up Explorer (Win + E) and add the relevant directory shortcuts under My Music, My Photos etc (i'm at work on XP, so don't have the exact manner in front of me).

        Before I get shot down with "but that's just silly", please remember that Media Player has been the same since it was launched, it assumed all media types were in the directory it wanted them and you had to tell them where to find the files if they weren't, nothings changed except how you tell it (which changed between Media 9 and Media 10 as well).

    2. mrweekender
      Thumb Up

      Re: Gets my vote..

      Using Start8 to boot directly to the desktop. Good solution to a shit experience. Don't use the apps, probably never will. Windows 8 boots faster than 7, overall happy with the speed and stability. Wouldn't use it as my primary OS, for me a Mac is far more productive for the effort expended.

  4. eek the geek
    Thumb Up

    Worked for me

    Got an email at the start of the year from Stardock advertising this. Ended up upgrading 5 family PCs and bought this for each one!

    1. CreosoteChris

      Re: Worked for me

      I ran with Win8 defaults for 6 weeks on a 3-screen no-touch desktop setup, thinking "give it a fair shot and see what happens" Never got to like it though... it was perfectly useable once the app/filetype mappings were adjusted to stop TIFKAM from appearing. But not preferable to W7 for a pure desktop.

      Then I installed Start8 and *instantly* I felt at home, thought "this is what it should have been at the outset" Start8 is very well-thought-out and has lots of nice touches. Classic Shell is OK, but Start8 is worth it, quality at the price of a pint.

      Bad mistake by MS, marketing Win8 without Start8 or similar features.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Worked for me

        Maybe MS will just buy it and make available as a powertool or whatever they call those things.

      2. Paul Shirley

        @Keith 72

        My problem with Metro is that MS dethemed desktop mode to match it's fugly look and that materially affects its usability.

        In Metro mode it really doesn't matter if you can't easily distinguish window borders, since you can have 1 or 2 of them in constant positions. On busy desktops it causes just enough confusion to annoy me.

        In Metro having UI elements poorly marked on a monochrome background might work - you don't *need* to use scroll bars with touch for example. On the desktop it makes for a hard to use and headache creating mess.

        My Win8 desktop became a whole lot more usable after installing the Royale 8 theme and restoring some sanity to the desktop chrome. Pity that takes hacking a 3rd party theme engine into Win8 and inevitably affecting stability.

        1. EvilGav 1
          Thumb Down

          @Paul Shirley Re: @Keith 72

          No offence, but if you'd spent 5 minutes longer you would have found that you don't need any 3rd party app's to do exactly what you want.

          On the Win 8 themes screen is an option to make the window borders context sensitive or static. Setting them to static and to whatever colour you want would, from your note, have done exactly what you wanted.

  5. Tezfair

    My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

    format c: /s

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

      Lets not forget to delete /windows/system32 too while we're at it. I've been told for years that this simple little trick does wonders for Windows!

      1. pompurin

        Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

        or deleting the WinSXS folder because it's 20gb for no apparent reason

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

          "the WinSXS folder because it's 20gb for no apparent reason"

          I asked Steve Ballmer about that, but he just said, "That's the secret of my SXS!"

        2. Adam Azarchs

          Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

          The SxS folder is almost entirely made up of redundant hard links. While these confuse file size counters, they don't actually take up that much space. In reality deleting the SxS folder would only free up a couple of gigs, not 20+.

          1. Silverburn

            Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

            In reality deleting the SxS folder would only free up a couple of gigs, not 20+.

            When a bunch of aliases/shortcuts takes up a couple of gigs, I know something has gone wrong somewhere. A couple of MB, tops?

    2. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: My cost effective solution that costs $0.00

      Is a Linux Live CD.

  6. Piro

    So what we're saying is..

    .. Once you murder everything Windows 8 stands for - full screen TIFKAM - with Start8 and ModernMix, you end up with a half decent OS.

    This is basically the answer to what everyone was saying through the development of Windows 8. I remember the Dev Preview.. then the Consumer Preview... The complaints. The complaints didn't subside with RTM, either, as expected.

    I'd still have rather had them polish up the Windows 7 parts of 8 then spend any time on TIFKAM, it's still not the finished OS I'd like, even avoiding TIFKAM, it still doesn't show enough shine. Also, the flat windows still look crap, 7 Aero still looks better..

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: So what we're saying is..

      Vista. Win7 and Win 8 are thus pointless for laptops & desktops and all users & Business really want is a SP4 for XP that removes some bugs and inconsistencies.

      Most of the stupidity of Explorer's design is STILL in Win8.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Mage Re: So what we're saying is..

        ".....all users & Business really want is a SP4 for XP....." Yes, but M$ can't charge for a new license for just a service pack.

  7. Adam Trickett

    Classic Shell?

    Some WIn8 users I know tried Classic Shell, it's free/open and made Win8 usable.

    I don't run Windows myself so I'm not sure whet the differences between the two are.

    1. Ian Yates

      Re: Classic Shell?

      I was coming on to say exactly that. My girlfriend's brand new laptop had Win8 and I put Classic Start (part of Classic Shell) on it.

      Completely skips Metro (or whatever it's called) and works exactly as she'd expect it to.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge

        Re: Classic Shell?

        Thanks for the heads up on Classic Shell. Personally I use KDE on Gentoo or SSH to BASH for most things but the new laptop I bought my wife came with WIn 8. This should make it rather more usable for her.



    2. Asok Asus

      Re: Classic Shell?

      I've used Classic Shell for years, including on Vista and Windows 7. I like it because it's so customizable and brings back XP-style foldout menus, which I find to be more productive than other menu styles. You can make your customizations and then export them for reuse in an XML file and then import that into new login ids or new systems. And it's free. Oh, and it's free. Did I mention that it's free?

    3. Eletruk

      Re: Classic Shell?

      This, in conjunction with Classic Shell works Great! Classic shell adds an app menu, and with Modern Mix, they act just like real windows programs, imagine that.

    4. Grogan

      Re: Classic Shell?

      I run a computer service (not sales, just good on site service). Classic Shell makes my people happy, when they have subjected themselves to Windows 8 through a new computer purchase. I don't configure much, I just install it and choose the option of "Vista/Windows 7" for the start menu style. This brings back a Windows 7-like shell and goes directly to the desktop after login. It also brings back traditional shutdown menus and stuff.

      I was previously offering Windows 7 "downgrades" for a nominal fee, but that's a lot of bollocks tracking down drivers from the chipset manufacturers (especially on notebooks where the OEM doesn't provide them) and also other concerns. (Hint: Microsoft doesn't allow "downgrade rights" for consumer editions of Windows)

      Unless someone would like to try a nice Linux distribution (which I am more than happy to have done, also for a nominal fee), I think Classic Shell is the best solution for Windows 8 shitboxen. It's Free (MIT License), does exactly what most users want with almost no configuration (with assloads of options available for those who do know what they want) and to my knowledge, doesn't cause any problems. It seems to be implemented as an extension to the explorer shell, rather than a shell replacement. That could be a matter of semantics, but I'm guessing it's less likely to cause any unexpected surprises that way.

      So that's what I'm doing now, for anyone I encounter who expresses exasperation at that absolutely retarded user interface.

      I set up local logins (Microsoft wants everyone to use a Windows Live login and people think they have to), I add back the solitaire games from Windows 7 (google for that, if interested) so they don't have to have a Games for Windows Live account and go through the chicken before egg bullshit of needing to update the client software because it can't log in, and I also tell people to resist drinking the Microsoft Store koolaid.

      They get an explanation of my ideological objections to this blatant attempt to establish apple-like lock-in dumb-down, for no charge.

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Classic Shell?

        "I was previously offering Windows 7 "downgrades" for a nominal fee, but that's a lot of bollocks tracking down drivers from the chipset manufacturers"

        There, and I was starting to believe the FUD that Linux is "difficult". It just works straight off and what's more I don't have to hand over an arm and a leg to get the privilege of using it.

      2. Dana W

        Re: Classic Shell?

        Except my Mac is neither locked in nor dumbed down. At least Apple can tell a desktop from a Tablet and that they are actually DIFFERENT things.

  8. Efros

    Startisback is a very good Win 8 Start button utility 5 PC license is $5, 2 PCs for $3. Configure it right and you won't see metro at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yes, I endorse Startisback. With it, I actually prefer Windows 8 to Windows 7, except for the infuriating popup box that says "There's a pretty useless, inferior Windows app to do what you're doing", or words to that effect.

    2. SleepGuy

      Agreed, I just bought a business license pack for Startisback for our Windows8 standard build. It's a great product with a lot of flexibility (I am also partial to the "XP Style" flyout's just more efficient)...

      1. Silverburn

        Startisback = brilliant name btw.

        And at least we're seeing some developers making serious cash out of Win8...

      2. John 62

        flyout menus

        I thought the flyout menus were win95-style. Though Windows XP probably does the best version of the Windows 2000 theme (Win7's is pretty darn good, too).

  9. RRoker

    Metro Apps = painfully slow

    I'm running Windows 8 on my Core2 laptop with an SSD and (before I reset all of the defaults) it would take about as long to open the Metro picture viewer as it would to open Photoshop (and a lot longer than just using the normal Windows preview tool). (So I'm not sure I'd be that bothered about being able to run Metro apps in a window as I don't want to run them at all).

    I'd recommend classic shell to anyone else running Windows 8, as apart from the interface it is better than previous versions of windows (and when I brought it was a lot cheaper than upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista on my laptop)

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Re: Metro Apps = painfully slow

      Sounds like a configuration issue to me.

      I'm running Windows 8 on an old Dell AMD box with 4GB of RAM and a 5400RPM 2.5" HDD, and I don't see that kind of lag.

      As for the whole interface issue, Microsoft is clearly trying to shift from their classic "worker-bringing-work-interface-home" strategy to mimic Apple's "home-user-bringing-toy-to-work" strategy. The sad thing is, if each of them stuck to the market they (used to) serve best, both companies' products could be a lot better.

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Now with that add in W8 might be OK at home

    I dread the idea of "upgrading" at home, simply because the missus will freak out with things being in different places (or simply having a different icon/colour/name). You would not believe the level of complaints I got when I installed Office 2010 at her insistence to be compatible with her work environment (Office 2007), and it was not pixel-compatible with her machine at work. Before that I drew flak about having LibreOffice to handle docx files (which always mess files up, according to her). I was somewhat amused that MS-Office 2010 made a similar pig's breakfast out of the same Office 2007 docx files from her work.

    Thank God I use LaTeX!!!

    <deep breath>

    Sorry, end of rant, I needed to get that off my chest

    With workarounds to make it look like W7 I might be spared quite some pain.

    The kids will have no problems with the transition, I would guess.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Ballmer gets out the chequebook and buys out Stardock

    then fires them all. Stuff like this makes MS look bad.

  12. jptech

    never heard of modern mix

    I started using windows 8 a couple of months ago. I started with the open source "classic shell" and then I moved to start8 because it's a nice implementation.

    I actually don't use metro at all. The only time it's ever started for me was by accident when one of the apps is set as default for a file type. And then getting back to start8 is easy.

  13. Schultz

    Alternative option...

    Just install proper programs for mail (Thunderbird), images (Irfanview or Picasa, or the like), and anything else you need and forget about TIFKAM completely. Worked for me.

    And Classic Shell gets my vote for offering the familiar start menu of the good old days.

    1. csumpi
      Thumb Up

      Re: Alternative option...


      I have Win8 on my new laptop, use all desktop programs, and it works great. In fact it seems faster than Win7, and looks nicer and cleaner.

      In fact I don't mind the removal of the start menu. Gives me more space on the taskbar. And you can use the full screen start menu the same way as the old one: hit the windows key, type the name of the program, hit enter.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Alternative option...

        Yeah... uh... typing the program name to run it is a feature that they had -before- Windows. In fact, I think they stole it from CP/M.


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