Technologizer

The Return of the Windows Start Menu: Good for Us, Good for Microsoft

The next version of Windows may restore a feature it never should have lost.

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Ever since the details about Windows 8′s massive changes became known, people have been talking about one of the biggest ones: the elimination of the Start button, Windows’ single most iconic feature. Pundits like me wrote about its elimination, and we wrote about its return in Windows 8.1.

But really, we’ve been obsessing about the wrong feature. When people find Windows 8 disorienting, it’s not because it doesn’t have a Start button. It’s because Microsoft ditched the traditional Start menu in favor of the wildly different Metro-style Windows start screen. The company keeps telling us that the start screen can do anything the Start menu could do and a whole lot more, but you know that a product has problems when its maker and a meaningful percentage of its most loyal users are at odds over basic functionality.

Now Windows guru Paul Thurrott is reporting that an upcoming version of Windows — possibly the big-deal one code-named “Threshold” — will bring back the Start menu, at least as an option. If so — and if it’s really the Start menu as we knew it — it’s a delayed capitulation on the part of Microsoft, which probably expected that only dead-enders would want an old-school Start menu by 2014.

It would be good news for the folks — there are millions of them — who find Windows 8.x intimidating because it has so little in common with any version of Windows before it. And by making a good-faith effort to ease the transition, Microsoft would greatly reduce the incentive for anyone to stubbornly cling to Windows 7 or, heaven help us, Windows XP. Which means that it would be good for its own bottom line.

Still, I wonder: Would Windows 8 adoption have gotten off to a meaningfully better start — thereby lifting the entire troubled PC industry — if Microsoft hadn’t waved a red flag in the face of so many customers by dropping the Start button and menu in the first place?

21 comments
~Lucidity
~Lucidity

Windows 8 is a horror. For the first time in over three decades, I am considering buying a Mac.

Rahul_Bhujbal
Rahul_Bhujbal

Windows 8 is a real pain.. I don't know who is the master mind at Microsoft who invented the idea of clubbing the desktop OS with mobile OS together.... Stupid... utter stupid. The person should be fired from his job .. because of his act for being anti-Microsoft. 


Microsoft is well known for its UI friendlyness and now if they has stopped providing it then now we have to choose some other option.


If Microsoft wants me to learn a new difficult OS then why will I pay for a licensed one, why I will not prefer to use any open source (of course difficult) OS?


Win8 would have been running great on MS mobiles but it frustrates you on laptops.... Microsoft, this was not expected from you. I think its a time for some new OS vendor in the market. IBM / ORACLE,  where are you guys, please come forward and vanish this Microsoft's monopoly in the OS market.


I would really like to see some new OS now... Win8 is pathetic!!

amarrftw98
amarrftw98

This can be the only explanation for the total disaster that is Windows 8:  http://l.bitcasa.com/kB1rGsRy


I had to spend 2 hours making it as close to Windows 7 as I could, getting rid of the stupid hot pockets, putting the start menu back, skipping the God-awful Metro interface on boot, and it is still worse than Windows 7. 

YvetteYasui
YvetteYasui

I installed windows classic shell, just do deal with windows 8.   i deleted all my "apps".   i hate it.

ga
ga

I can't stand Windows 8, worse than the lousy UI is the arrogance of the OS's creators  to decide when you need to upgrade and when the machine forces reboots. It's like I'm a guest of Microsoft on my own laptop which I need working all the time so I can make a living! After the 8.1 upgrade, I noticed that my local user id was swapped for some Microsoft network ID -- I was given no obvious choice to make this change. I decided that this was just too much and I'm going to figure out how to put 7 on  it. After some research, I found that installing W7 is full of problems and that most likely the drivers for my new Acer laptop would never work properly so I'm stuck with the way it is. I did manage to change back the user id  after wasting an hour reading how.

therealdude
therealdude

The Windows 8 mess must have been Ballmer's, given his recent departure and now the timing of this announcement. I personally hated the full-screen Metro UI but loved the performance of Win 8. 

If I had my guess, they will re-introduce "start" as a option, which shouldn't be too hard to do being that there are already plenty of 3rd party utilities that you can download that can do that now. Frankly, I can't understand why they didn't do that in the first place rather than tacking on a tablet ui on a desktop os, insisting people use it that way all while also expecting people wouldn't complain.

borrachon1
borrachon1

1) the start menu may not look the same. chances are it will be just the start screen smaller sized.

2) if it bugs you so much, get windows 7, vista or XP.

3) the big news is metro apps or window store apps will now be really nice for desktop users, making the windows store grow tremendously.

JonnyO
JonnyO

The Start Button has certainly generated its share of ink (blood?) but if Microsoft can find a way to sell the advantages of the Start Screen then people will be more receptive to the change.  Replacing button bars with ribbons was also a jarring change for many but the ribbon had clear advantages that quickly became apparent after you got over the initial bouts of "where did the put (insert feature here)".


Microsoft will soon have a bigger problem on their hands when people realize that Surface Pro tablets aren't the one device to end carrying both a tablet and a laptop.

wandmdave
wandmdave

It was a bit jarring at first and required I make new habits but I don't miss the start menu anymore.  In fact I wouldn't go back if I had the choice.  Sometimes it takes some effort to transition to something new.  You can either b!tch and moan or you can get on with making the transition...  I prefer the latter myself but to each their own. 

stevek77536
stevek77536

Humor writer Dave Barry: "I have been a loyal Microsoft user forever. FOREVER. I have stuck with Windows even when it was really, really bad (Hello, Vista!). I WANT Microsoft to make good software that I can use, I really do. But whoever decided that it would be a good idea to, basically, combine two operating systems, which look completely different, and which require two completely different sets of behaviors on the part of the user -- well, I hesitate to use the word "insane," because as a rule insane people are not paid for being insane, but -- this is UNBELIEVABLY annoying to those of us who actually have to use our actual computers to work, OK? I'm talking about people who have been using a keyboard and mouse (or touchpad) for many years, and are fine with that. I'm talking about PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WORK ON A TABLET, WHICH IS A LOT OF US, OK, MICROSOFT?"


A search on "Windows 8 Sucks"  returns over 50 million hits.  Maybe Microsoft should try talking to people outside their building.

~Lucidity
~Lucidity

If I wanted a giant phone, I would buy one.

borrachon1
borrachon1

@JonnyO the advantages of the new menu are clear when you don't use a desktop. and given the tablet market is taking over desktops, the start menu of old is useless.

borrachon1
borrachon1

@wandmdave like the 3.1 program manager getting killed, a lot of people whine, but in the end, everybody gets over it.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

It's not so much putting down people who don't want to take the time and energy to adapt to something after 20 years of it being one way just to be able to do the things they used to do.  It's the fact that you will never again get back the time you took to accommodate Microsoft's desire to push ads to your computer and monetize your desktop.


Some people stand on principle.  Some people roll over and are happily raped.  But to each their own.

borrachon1
borrachon1

@stevek77536 apple sucks returns over 80 million hits. google sucks returns 270 million hits. just saying.

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@stevek77536 I suppose the fact that Barry is a “humor writer” will make it easier to pretend the obvious isn't true.


But while Dave's point is not to be missed, allow me to make mine: Microsoft never defined the scenarios for why people would want these new-fangled touch interfaces on old-fangled word-processing, spreadsheets, etc. The iPhone was transformative not because it allowed a better way to do old things, but because it allowed many people to do things they never could before. For Apple, the touch interface was necessary to let a tiny device have a decent-sized screen (while not typing); for Microsoft it was just a way that supplemented the keyboard that they bundled with the Surface, a way that was inferior to the keyboard, at that.


Win8 was all about Microsoft's needs; they never thought about what unmet need consumers had. They got exactly the result they deserved for not trying to help people enjoy their life (or work) better.

borrachon1
borrachon1

@DeweySayenoff people adapt. the ipad has no start menu. neither does android. you don't see anybody saying that the start menu is that defines a computing device. it's silly to even think that way.

wandmdave
wandmdave

@DeweySayenoff I can think of plenty of principles I'd stand and die for, refusing to use the metro interface because it has a slightly different layout from the start menu I used to have isn't one of them.  But draw your lines where you will.

borrachon1
borrachon1

@WaltFrench @stevek77536

actually contrary to your view, surface works without a keyboard wonderfully, and I can't count the times I see some appel tool with a Bluetooth or keyboard attachment on their ipad. do you know the #1 ipad accessory? keyboard. if it is so flawless, why is real life so different from this metaphysical world you imagine where ipads and keyboard never mix?

amarrftw98
amarrftw98

@borrachon1 @DeweySayenoff True, but the ipad and android are generally used for content consumption whereas PCs are used for both content consumption and content creation. 


Windows 8 is not for serious power users. 

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@borrachon1 @stevek77536 Did I say that the iPad was flawless without a keyboard? (No.) Or are you fighting a strawman argument of your own imagination? (Yes.)


Let me reiterate: for extended typing, you can't beat a first-class keyboard. OK?


I wrote that Apple's touch interface made the iPhone (and iPad) possible, while Microsoft's allowed Office to run on a touchscreen. People who really want Office on a device will really want a real keyboard and decent mouse/trackpad, because Office is still not built from the ground up for a touch interface… too many tiny checkboxes, too much difficulty dealing with all the options that Office users demand.


I don't doubt that Surfaces work fine for all the non-Office apps built for it. It's just that those aren't why people buy Surfaces. Every “for everything in your life” ad emphasizes applications that really want a keyboard.


I know a couple of people who use and love their iPads. They love them for apps that are far better on that platform than any other, or that allow convenient access to typing-light apps. I'm sure there are people for whom a Surface is a better solution than an Ultrabook-type laptop, but the sales numbers suggest there aren't many of them.