Is Pokki Beta A Viable Start Menu Replacement?

We find ourselves in an interesting transitional period. For those who have just switched to Windows 8 from Windows 7 or below, the sudden absence of the start menu is jarring. We feel lost, and just don’t know how to work the operating system as effectively as we did before.

Now, for the most part, a lot of us have learned to operate anew, but for a lot more of us there’s still that itch. That itching to keep the start menu around for a little while longer. Pokki’s here to scratch that itch.

Now, unlike a few other start menu replacement apps, which I will be covering over the next couple of weeks as well, Pokki doesn’t quite try to imitate the look of the old start menu, but instead gives you solid playground of sorts.

The layout is slightly familiar, with the shutdown button just above the cursor when you open it, and your general accessible folders, consisting of your documents, computer, music, pictures etc. But, there are a number of extra elements to the screen that are almost remixes of original start-menu features.

The Basics

First up, let’s take a look at the features that Pokki duplicates from the old Windows 7 Menu. I have been trying to suss out whether the search function is Pokki’s own, or piggy backs on to the default Windows search. From the looks of it, it functions pretty fast, and always finds what I’m looking for, so I’m led to believe it does actually function as Windows’ own search. As with normal search, just a quick tap of the Windows key defaults to the search box, so searching is as easy as ever.

One fantastic addition to the searching mechanism is internet results. Results such as definitions, dictionary results and generic internet search results are available, depending of course on what you search.

Another familiar feature is your most-accessed programs. Now, it functions pretty similar to how you think it would. The only unfortunate thing about it is there’s a limit to the amount you can have up there, which is 5.

The power options are fairly straightforward, giving you the usual shutdown options. With Pokki installed, it’s much easier to get access to these options, something that Windows 8 as a whole is lacking somewhat. Finally, you’ll be able to access the familiar “All programs” menu under “All apps”, as well as the usual direct access to folders

The Pokki settings menu gives us a little more control over Pokki. First up, you can pick the locations of the banner popups (more on this later), as well as some quick tweaks to the Pokki Menu itself.

The best options are available in the “Windows 8 Desktop” section, effectively being able to replace anything related to the Windows 8 ModernUI in the bottom left corner of your screen.

Now, I’m not sure whether this is normal, but in my version of Pokki, the control panel section does not seem to do anything. Nevertheless, it is still in beta, so I’m sure that the team are on to this and getting things sorted in an upcoming release. Of course there will still be bugs.

The New

Pokki brings a couple more new features to the fray as well. First up, we’ve got a 4 by 4 grid of “Favourites”, that can be filled with either Pokki’s own apps (we’ll get to those later) or they can be added from your general list of search results or apps just by hitting the Star icon next to it. Additionally, next to the power button is the option to switch back to the Modern UI interface.

After the successful re-imagination of the Windows start menu, Pokki also opted to bring a couple more features to its app. Namely its own, almost osx-like app store interface with a host of useful widgets and mini-apps that emulate a fair few popular web apps, usually as either a container for the web-interface, or as a core app that makes use of whatever API for that service is available. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Tweeki

Tweeki is one of the more popular Pokki apps, and like the initial two letters of to app tell, it’s a Twitter app. There’s a distinct resemblance to the basic twitter apps you can get for OSX, Android and iOS. There’s your regular Timeline, Direct Messages, Mentions, Lists and Search. The app itself looks smooth, and runs smoother. It doesn’t do much more than that, but it defines what makes Pokki “Pokki”. It does exactly what you think it does, sits in your start bar to be called upon at a moment’s notice.

Wunderlist

As with Tweeki, the Wunderlist app (a wonderful to-do list app) emulates the Windows application and Web App perfectly, and can always be on hand when needed.

Gmail

Finally, the Gmail app is more along the lines of a wrapper than something that feels like a native app, but a few added features makes this app a little more interesting.
This is where the notifications area comes in to play. Any new notifications that appear (such as newly received emails) would appear in Growl-like fashion in the bottom right corner of your screen, be it new emails or any other Pokki app that utilizes this feature. You will also find them in the main Pokki app in the new notification section.

This is a feature that sets Pokki out from the rest. Pokki knows it’s replaced the standard features of the start menu we know and love comfortably enough to get stuck in and emulate several other well known and loved features of other operating systems.

As with all apps, especially those in beta, there are some caveats. Due to the fact that it’s indeed a beta means that there’s still some underlying issues with speed and functionality, but nevertheless, this is still a fantastic start, though Pokki is entering in to a world of heavy competition when it comes to replacing the start-menu.

In moving to a more feature-filled direction, Pokki has set itself out from the rest as an effective tool for Windows 8, and even Windows 7, and is certainly off to a flying start.


Summary

In moving to a more feature-filled direction, Pokki has set itself out from the rest as an effective tool for Windows 8, and even Windows 7, and is certainly off to a flying start.

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