While the most obvious advantage of these programs is the Start Menu, many also offer an optional ability to turn off other annoyances. All the tools listed here allow you to bypass the Start screen and boot directly to the desktop. For example, you can also disable Windows 8’s hot corners, including the App Switcher on the top left and the Charm bar hint at the top or bottom right.
ViStart will almost bring you to the Start menu of Windows 7. The interface is almost perfect and very intuitive. With ViStart, you will be pinning and launching the program in no time.
While many users will consider its theme similarity a great feature, it is about the only features it offers. While it has a few skins to choose from and the option to change how your Start button looks, you’ll see nothing of value above and beyond what the Windows 7 Start menu has to offer.
Start Menu 8 is also very close to the Start menu from Windows 7. All the interface elements you’d expect are there. You’ll have quick access to your programs and the ability to pin apps just like you could in Windows 7.
One key difference you’ll find with Start Menu 8 is a subtle nod to Windows 8. There’s a MetroApps menu that you can click to access all the Windows Store apps on your computer. This allows you to run these apps right from the screen as smoothly as any other program. Unfortunately, however, you can’t pin a modern app to the Start menu.
Start Menu 8 is highly customizable. There are many themes you can choose from. You can change the Start button style, change the font, and even the size of the menu itself. You can change the Start button style, change the font, and even the size of the menu itself.
Classic Shell is a program that will return the Start Menu, but it doesn’t stop there. All the links and buttons you remember from Windows 7 are here. The only noticeable difference is that you have to drag apps from the Programs menu onto the Start menu to pin them, not right-click like in the old days.
Classic Shell also provides a second menu for accessing your Windows Store apps. It also lets you pin these apps to the menu as you can desktop programs. This is a small but useful feature.
While the Start Menu is the star of the show, Classic Shell has a lot to offer. It comes with a very detailed settings page that allows you to change almost every aspect of the menu to suit your preferences. It also allows you to tweak File Explorer and Internet Explorer 9 to make their interface more comfortable for you.
Unlike the first three, the next option doesn’t look like the classic Start Menu you’re used to. While that may sound negative, it isn’t. Pokki tries to provide you with a simple way to access your programs while also improving the interface with new features.
Pokki is much larger than most Start Menu alternatives. It includes a pane on the left side of the window that contains most of the links you’d expect in the Start Menu, including Computers, Libraries and Devices, and Printers. On those links, you’ll find options for what shows up on the larger right pane.
The All Apps button shows you your programs. While there’s no separate menu for the Windows Store app, they’re buried in a folder inside this view, so they’re still accessible from a desktop environment.
The next option is a view of the Control Panel. This makes all the PC setup and configuration tools right in the Start Menu for easy access. And this also makes life much easier for system administrators and power users.
Finally, you have the My Favorites view. This view offers many tiles you can configure to link to any program or application you have on your computer. This is where Pokki shines because you can also connect to the apps you download from Pokki’s app store.
Pokki’s application is not very sophisticated; many people are simply websites or web applications located in their window. There are standalone apps for Gmail, Pandora, Google Calendar, and others that can be simple but useful.
The Start Menu Reviver, like Pokki, is not trying to recreate a classic Start Menu; Instead, it reworked the idea and updated it to fit Windows 8. This app combines the Start screen’s tiles with the Start Menu’s simplicity to create something that feels right at home in this modern operating system.
Start Menu Reviver includes a bar of links and a bunch of customizable tiles. You can drag any of the Windows Store or desktop applications onto the menu to customize the tiles to your liking. This is like pinning a program to the old Start Menu.
The link bar on the left side provides easy access to commonly used tools like Network, Search, and Run. You will also find the Application button in this bar.
When you click on the Apps button, a new pane will open up, displaying your desktop apps. You’ll see a drop-down list at the top of this page that you can use to change the view to show Windows Store apps, Documents, All Applications, or any other folder of your choice. This feature gives you easy and organized access to anything you want.