Windows 8 is right around the corner, and third party developers are scrambling to come up with ways to fill in any gaps and issues that Microsoft may have arguably left in Windows 8 since finalizing the code this summer. One big area where many developers are competing on improving are with the Start Menu. The “issue” with the Start Menu in Windows 8 to many is, well, that Windows 8 doesn’t have one.
Today San Francisco based startup “Sweet Labs” has announced Pokki, a full featured Start Menu replacement for Windows 8 that allows users to enjoy an experience more similar to Windows 7 while also giving them the ability to ignore the new “Modern” (previously known as Metro) user interface all together. Pokki certainly looks nice and functional, a great replacement for an aging, but traditional and loved, part of the Windows user interface. Other developers trying to get in on this space is Samsung with their “S Launcher” application, which is essentially a floating Start Menu replacement that is a virtual pixel-for-pixel reproduction of the Windows 7 start menu, and Stardock, developers of the popular Windowblinds application, with their already popular Start8 application.
Now, I have no problem with a user missing the security that the old Start Menu used to provide. It has been an incredibly convenient way to access applications since its first appearance in Windows 95, and became all the more powerful in Windows Vista when the it became an index based, search powered application launcher a la Spotlight on OS X. But there are just some things that the Start Menu isn’t good at, and some of those things just so happen to be things that Windows needed to start doing better if it were to continue to survive.
The biggie here is, of course, touch. Like it or not, touchscreen computers have arrived – and in a big way. Millions of tablets have been sold between manufacturers such as HP, Motorola, ASUS, Samsung, and of course Apple. Microsoft had to start playing this game, they had to get in on this space. And what better way to do it, in their minds, than by turning the Windows that’s been dominant for years now into a first-in-class touchscreen OS?
Hence the “Modern” Start Screen. Completely designed from the ground up to be a full blown touch interface for Windows with gorgeous, animated live tiles, it must have been clear to the Windows 8 team from the get go that this new UI immediately displaced the need for the old Start Menu. All the basic functionality is there – the advanced search based application launcher, the one stop directory of shortcuts, file navigation – plus the promise of being the potential home to hundreds to thousands to beyond of entirely new types of Windows 8 touchscreen applications. The Start Screen, it is evident, is the best of both worlds.
Of course many consumers will cry foul and be abhorrent to change. That’s fine. That’s why these applications exist. But I implore all you future Windows 8 users, please, whatever you do – give the Start Screen a chance. Use it as your day to day application launcher. Try out some “Modern” applications. And, if you get a chance, give it a shot on a touchscreen device, such as the Microsoft Slate. I think you’ll find that while it’s a little hard to get used to at first, you’ll grow to not only become comfortable enough with it to not seek that old school vestige of the past, but you’ll grow to love it. And if not, you can always install Pokki tomorrow.