Start Menu Work Around for Windows 8

There are a lot of people who just have an issue using the new Start Screen in Windows 8.  I find it easy and have a lot of Desktop apps pinned to the Start Screen.

Windows 8 Start Screen showing Pinned Desktop Apps

Windows 8 Start Screen showing Pinned Desktop Apps

There are some power users that would rather have the old Start Menu back and so far any hack that does this breaks access to the Start Screen as well as some other new features.  This is not ideal I feel as the Metro apps are really cool.  In fact, I am using the Metro IE app to create this post.  Thankfully Microsoft gives us a full featured Desktop in Windows 8 and there is an old feature that will work nicely as a workaround.  You can still add New Toolbars to the Taskbar.

I believe this feature is as old as the Taskbar itself but I could be wrong and I bet a lot of Windows 7 users do not even realize it is still there.  So let’s get started. Please note that this will not bring the old Start Menu back, just a Start Menu like solution. Also, this will not make you lose access to the Start Screen and can work next to it just fine.

First, we need to do a few things to make this go smoothly.  First, we need to make sure all hidden files are visible as we will be dealing with hidden folders.  This process is very easy now with the Ribbon interface in Windows 8.  Just open any Explorer window and then click on the View tab.  On the right side, there will be a group called Show/Hide and above that there is a check box that says Hidden Items, make sure it is checked.

Hidden Items check box needs to be Checked

Hidden Items check box needs to be Checked

The second thing we need to do is copy some icons from one folder to another.  To do this open two Explorer windows and snap them side by side.  One Window needs to go to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and the other Window needs to go to C:\Users\Default\AppData\Roaming\Microsot\Windows\Start Menu

The two Start Menu shortcut locations snapped side by side

The two Start Menu shortcut locations snapped side by side

That Start Menu folder on the left is under the Default User and the one on the right is under ProgramData.  What you want to do is copy all shortcuts from the Programs folder from the Start Menu folder under Default User and past them into the Start Menu folder under ProgramData.

Most of the default shortcuts are under the Start Menu under ProgramData, however, some programs will install shortcuts under the Default User Start Menu folder and you will want to copy those to the other folder as well.

Now let’s create the Toolbar.  Right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars and then New toolbar …

Click on New toolbar... to add the Start Menu toolbar.

Click on New toolbar… to add the Start Menu toolbar.

This will bring up a file dialogue box.  Select that Start Menu folder under ProgramData C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

Select the Start Menu folder under ProgramData

Select the Start Menu folder under ProgramData

Now click Select Folder.  Ok, you’re done now right, well yeah you can call it good but you have probably noticed that this Start Menu Toolbar is on the right side of the Taskbar against the System Tray. Now you can leave it here and if you have the Task Bar locked it will look like it does below.

Start Toolbar Locked on the Right Side

Start Toolbar-Locked on the Right Side

Now if you want it more in the place where the old Start Menu was just unlocked the Task Bar and move it to the left.  To move it, right-click on the Taskbar and select Lock the taskbar so it is unchecked.

Make sure Lock the taskbar is unchecked

Make sure Lock the taskbar is unchecked

Now you will see three lines of dots appear on either side of the Start Menu Toolbar, click and drag the one on the left all the way to the other side of the Taskbar to where the Start Button used to be.  You will see your Pinned Taskbar icons move to the right and the Toolbar stretch out.  Now click and drag on the three lines of dots on the right side of the Start Menu Toolbar and drag it to the left as far as it will move.  It should make the Toolbar small again and the Pinned icons will be just to the right of it.

Make sure to drag that set of three lines with the dots all the way to the left (both sides of the toolbar) for the best look

Drag that set of three lines with the dots all the way to the left (both sides of the toolbar)

Now when you click the » to the right of Start Menu on the Toolbar will you get an old XP style fly out menu.

Start Menu Toolbar showing Menus in Windows 8

Start Menu Toolbar showing Menus in Windows 8

Is it the old Start Menu, no, am I going to write about a hack to get it back, no.  I love the new interface, Start Screen and all.  I do feel that this Start Menu Toolbar should be enough for any Power Users.  At first, I found myself going to this a lot however with the Start Screen and other User Interface options in Windows that I will go more in-depth in another article, I am using this Toolbar less and less.

I will say that this Toolbar makes it easy to Pin apps to the Start Screen, just right-click on them and click Pin to Start.  I suggest doing this and using the Start Screen and other interfaces in Windows 8 more as you go forward using this new exciting operating system.  Check back here for more articles about using Windows 8.


The Windows 8 Start Screen, Will it Work?

There has been a lot of discussion about the Windows 8 Start Screen and the lack of the Start Menu. So much so that there are those that want Microsoft to bring the Start Menu back. So this does beg the question, Will the Start Screen Work? Well, the first thing I say is to try it.

It should be no surprise to my usual readers that I fit in the group of a computer power user. I make Windows work for me no matter what version and feel right at home from Windows 3.0 to Windows 7. I even still remember many DOS commands, of course, being a Windows guy my favorite is still Win, but what about Windows 8.

I started using Windows 8 with the Developer Preview in September and have not since moved on to the Consumer Preview in February. The Developer Preview did knock me off of my game at first but I was quick to adapt and I liked it. The Consumer Preview makes me feel right at home, they did a great job at getting the keyboard and mouse interfaces smoothed out.

As time goes on I do believe that touch will be the primary interface for computers. I used to work for a major electronics retailer in their tech support department. One of my responsibilities was setting up new computers for customers and these new All-in-ones are really popular. They all, but a few models, come with touch screens. I will say that using the Start Menu with a touch screen in Windows 7 is a pain. It takes a lot of practice and every touch screen computer is different in calibration I noticed. Most of my other techs would just pull out a mouse and keyboard instead of fiddling with it.

I was also a long time Windows Mobile user and both of those phones were touch screens. Even here trying to use your finger to touch a menu item was at times difficult. Now Windows Mobile 6.5 was a great improvement over Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.0 or 5.0 which I had used at some point. When my Windows Mobile 6.5 device was giving me some issues recently I really took a good look at Smartphones and was not impressed. Yeah, there was iPhone which does feel like playing whack an app, Android is the new Windows Mobile with a lot of the modding community heading that way. Blackberry feels stuck in a time warp, Nokia was non-existent in the American market (which I was upset, they are back now, yes!), and Palm had an interesting operating system but their devices were just horrible. The Chicklet style keyboard was too small and the raised plastic around the keyboard made me want to take a file to it. So I stuck with my Windows Mobile device and thought about going back to a regular cell phone or at least a feature phone. Then my roommate got a Windows Phone.

I used Windows Phone 7 for ten minutes and I knew this was love at first touch. It was so fluid and fast and really reminded me of my Wife’s Zune HD. I really actually like the Windows Phone interface better than the Zune HD in fact. I was done and knew that was my next phone. And after getting one and using the apps on it, I was sold. I just love how easy to used it is. It is many levels above and iPhone and worlds better than Android.

Now what does this have to do with Windows 8, well the Developer Preview was devoid of a lot of apps and the Metro interface felt unfinished because is was. The Consumer Preview, however, has some App Previews and the App Store is now up and running. With the apps and the revised Metro interface, I felt right at home like I am using my Phone. I can already tell and will go all in and say that Windows 8 will be every bit as great as Windows Phone. It makes my day-to-day general computing stuff easy and enjoyable. And when I get into my power user mode I still have the Desktop. I can still pin apps to the Task Bar and I can pin Desktop apps to the Start Screen. If I really want I can add a new toolbar to the Task Bar and point it at the Start Menu folder under ProgramData (I will explain this in a post later) Windows 8 for me is really the best of both worlds. It is slick, fast, fluid, and dare I say enjoyable.

So what am I using now? Well on my Desktop I still just have Windows Vista and Windows 7 as sadly I have run out of room on the desktop and am planning a complete storage upgrade on my workhorse. I also plan on making a Windows Home Server so my data is more central and my desktop can have a break. On my laptop, I am running Windows 7 and Windows 8 and I find myself spending more and more time in Windows 8.

Now as I close this rant of a post I will be covering a lot of Windows 8 material, but I will also still be covering Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and even on occasion Windows 2000 or earlier. As for the question yes, I think it will work just fine and I am excited.