Feeling More Comfortable in Windows 8’s Desktop View

By the time you read this, Windows 8 will have been made available for your general consumption, and pleasure. But, as will be the case with most of us who have been wanting to upgrade, but are fearful of the new ModernUI, how much of a shock will it be to all you future users, when you find yourselves amidst the strange waters of the Modern UI?

Well, I’ve been a guinea-pig of sorts, subjecting myself to the the likes of Windows 8 as my primary operating system for quite a while now.

Think of the ModernUI as an exquisitely woven velvet tarpaulin that has been draped over the inner workings of your desktop. The man behind the curtain, so to speak, is still there, in all its desktop-y glory. You didn’t think they would get rid of the desktop altogether, right?

I’ve had quite the daring experience of using Windows 8 (consumer previews) as my main OS for a good while now. That’s right, no Windows 7 to be seen. However, I still do occasionally forget that I’m running Windows 8. Why’s that? Well, I just stay in the desktop mode. It’s really that simple.

But the start menu!

I know I know, I miss the start menu as well, but not as much as I thought I would. I’ve slowly weaned myself off of it (with the help of a few select apps, more on those below) to the extent that I’m really using Windows just as I normally would have Windows 7, just with the added benefit of Windows 8’s performance improvements (I dare say you’ve already read up about what else Windows 8 has to offer) and added features and streamlining.

Today I’ll give you a little insight in to how I operate with the likes of Windows 8’s desktop view, and after that I’ll give you a couple of examples of some fine apps that pretty much negate the experience of not having a Start menu.

Sound good? Let’s go.

The Windows 8 desktop

Of course, the first thing you’ll see when you log on to your computer is the Modern UI, full of squares, information and the like. Let’s just ignore this bit. Sure, it looks a little odd, but we’re not here for that. The one to look for is of course the desktop button, which will bring you to something familiar. The only thing missing? The start button.

Launching Your Apps

Well, there used to be three ways of getting things done in terms of running your programs: the taskbar, the start menu, and the desktop. With the start menu gone, we’ll have to rely more on the other two. It’s no fuss, really, it’s quite simple to keep your favourite apps always on hand, you can just pin them to the taskbar.

The apps I use most frequently don’t differ very much, so there’s not much of an issue with finding those apps if they are either on my desktop or on the task bar. Any new apps installed usually place a shortcut to themselves on the desktop anyway, so it’s a small issue of re-arranging to best fit the frequency of use.

The only thing missing is really a list of recent apps/documents used, which used to be found on the start menu. Alas, there’s not much to be done about that. It’s one of the only things I have not found a workaround for.


One of Windows 7’s most useful features was the search function which has returned in the guise of Windows 8’s new search function. It’s still provides the same searching features as windows 7’s search, but this time it’s frustratingly split in to three sections: Apps, settings and files. You’ll be able to switch between these 3 sections fairly easily, though, so it’s just another simple step to take.

WIN-Q Will bring you to the (full-screen) global search. Don’t worry, once you’ve used it, it’ll head back to the desktop. From here you can type as you see fit. For instance, to load up Spotify, I merely quickly WIN-Q’d, typed in “spo” and hit enter without waiting for the search to even finish. It knows what I wanted anyhow, and it loaded up Spotify smoothly and quickly. The same went for any other searches. If there’s more than one result, the first would be selected upon hitting enter.

Searching for files? All you need to do is the same as above, but hit the down arrow until ‘Files’ is selected. In this way, the searching is just as speedy and useful as what was in Windows 7. Alternatively, you can also hit WIN-F to head straight to the file search, rather than global.

There is one thing that the file search function has over the one in Windows 7, as the full-screen view means it’s actually easier to see more results at once. Fantastic.

So all-in-all, although it seems to be a little weird at first, searching in full-screen mode, it’s rather easy to get used to. Frankly, the same goes for most of the other differing methods of the functions and features of Windows 8.

The Control Panel, shutting down, and accessing your other

Just like the search function, it may be counter-intuitive at first to get to the control panel. Of course, because there’s not start-menu, there’s no control panel option. However, a quick WIN-I and enter will bring you to the control panel. This is, in fact, much faster than doing it the old way, so surely that says something for windows 8? Don’t forget to change the Control Panel options to ‘Small Icons’ to get the classic, and far more useful view.

As with the control panel, you’ll find the power options on the WIN-I menu as well. One of the biggest complaints about the new Windows 8 UI was how difficult it actually was to be able to shut-down the computer, but frankly once you know how where to go, it’s just as fast as in 7.

Like I mentioned before, getting to the file search is easy as pie, with just a quick WIN-F. But, to access your documents, it’s probably better to have an icon on hand. A quick right-click on the already-existing folder icon on your task bar will bring you to all you need. Again, there’s an existing shortcut you can use to do this as well, just hit WIN-E to bring up Windows Explorer!

Conclusion, and Alternatives

Though many of these workarounds may take a little while to get used to, it’s sometimes no replacement to actually getting your start-menu back. Thankfully, the internet is always on hand, and even before the release of Windows 8 proper we’ve got several worthwhile alternatives to keep you satisfied. Look out for reviews of these over the next couple of weeks.

It’s odd, really, that most of these workarounds had already existed in Windows 7 in the first place. That is, most of the hotkeys available to you. I guess we just didn’t really need them. Who knows what Microsoft thought when they decided to get rid of the start menu in Windows 8, but that sure isn’t going to stop us.