Releasing public preview versions of operating system is something of a new venture for Microsoft, but after doing just that with Windows 7 they are trying the same with Windows 8.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been available for download for a little while now, and after reading about how the next version of Microsoft operating system is going to look from industry insiders, everyone now has the opportunity to try it out for themselves.
There’s certainly a great deal to look forward to in Windows 8, but something that many people have found off-putting is the new Metro interface.
This is an interface that has clearly been designed with touchscreen devices in mind and one of the most striking things is that the Start button we’ve come to know and love has vanished.
The left hand side of the taskbar can still be used to access the re-designed Start menu, but many people are likely to find that they accidentally launch Internet Explorer or whatever program shortcut has been created to the far left of the taskbar.
Of course, there is always the option of hitting the Windows key, but many people prefer to use the mouse to navigate.
You may also find that the new look of the Start menu is not to your tastes for an entirely different reason. While the notion of clicking a ‘start’ button to close down a computer when work is finished may be odd when you think about it, it is something we have become used to.
Windows 8 removes this option from the Start menu, instead requiring you to remember a keyboard shortcut (Windows + I, Up, Enter, U), or requires you to navigate through the charms menu with your mouse – a multi-movement and click maneuver.
These are all issues that Start8 can help with. This is a free app from Stardock, the company behind the likes of WindowBlinds and LogonStudio [Editor's note: Don't forget ObjectDock.] which can be used to not only restore the Start button to its rightful place in the taskbar, but also make it easier to access Run and Shutdown options.
1. Download the Software
Hit the Download button and then click the download link that is revealed.
2. Install Start8
You can either opt to download the setup file and start the installation separately, or you can choose to run the file to cut out an extra step.
Run through the installation in the usual way – there are no options to configure besides choosing where the software should be installed. Click the Finish button when this is done and close the readme file that opens.
3. Explore the Start Button
You’ll immediately notice that a Start button has been restored to the taskbar. Click this and you’ll be greeted by a completely different Start menu that is an amalgamation of Windows 8’s Metro menu, and the familiar menu from older versions of Windows.
You can launch any program that appears in the Start menu by clicking it, or start typing to search for anything that is not immediately visible.
4. Start8’s Extra Options
Right click the Start8 Start button and the context menu that appears provides access to a couple of useful options such as the Run dialog and the ability to quickly select shutdown options.
Rather than having to use the right hand charms bar of Windows 8, you can instead select the Shutdown option of Start8 and then use the drop down menu to choose between shutting down, restarting, signing out of your account or switching users.
5. Customizing the Start Button
Stardock is a company famed for its tweaking and personalization software, so it should come as little surprise that Start8 not only enables you to restore the Start button, but also customize it.
Right click the Start button and select the ‘Pick a different Start Button image’ option. You can then choose from one of the samples that are included with the installation.
6. More Start Menu Options
While Start8 does not completely restore the Start menu that you have become used to in older versions of Windows, it does shift the focus onto the apps you have installed. It may be the case that you like the new style of the Start menu in Windows 8, but just want an easier way to access it.
To simply use Start8 as a means of launching the Metro Start menu, right click the Start button and tick the option labelled Show Fullscreen Metro Start Menu.
You can also gain access to a small, scrollable version of the Windows 8 Start menu that does not run in fullscreen mode.
To do this, simply right click the Start button and untick both the Show Fullscreen Metro Start Menu and ‘In small mode default to apps page’ options.
However you choose to use Start8, you are placed back in control of your Start menu. If you are a fan of the Metro interface, you can view this as a utility that simply makes it easier to access, but if you’re finding it hard to love the new Start menu, this provides you with a great alternative.