Some thoughts on the Start button

Windows 8.1 Start Button

Windows 8.1 has arrived, and with it we herald the triumphant return of the Start button. My response to the complaints over its absence in Windows 8 was simply “press the one on the keyboard”, but as I pondered how that response has gone down with users over the last year, I came to a realisation.

There are 3 basic types of computer users:

  1. Those who never noticed that almost every keyboard they have used for at least the last 10 years has a Windows key on it.
  2. Those who have wondered for 10 years what that key on the keyboard does.
  3. Those who pressed it 10 years ago and found out.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

18 responses to “Some thoughts on the Start button”

  1. Kyle David Sankowicz says :

    Wait that’s all they added, was the button? What does it just take you to the same old (new…ish) start screen?
    I thought they were bringing back the whole start menu.

    • Zonker says :

      Sadly no.
      Just the start button, and the start bar to keep tract of your open programs; so one out of two isn’t so bad.

  2. ScottishTech says :

    From the very quick test I did on Win8 when I had time to even look at it about 6 months ago, I found that pressing the Start key on the keyboard just brought up the stupid “Artist Formerly Known As Metro” screen, rather than anything resembling the Start Menu of olde?

    Or am I misremembering that completely?

    I daresay I’ll find out next time I have time to look at 8.1 – apparently that’s needed so I can create policy files for IE10 on Windows 7. Or Server 2012.

    • The Angry Technician says :

      Yes, that’s exactly what it does. The Start Menu is gone for good, and the Start Screen has been improved in Windows 8.1 so it’s easier to manage and customise now. Again, I’ve not really had any problem with it.

      I remember similar whinging about the File menu changing in Office 2010, the ribbon replacing the toolbar in Office 2007, and long before that people despised the Start Menu itself when it was introduced in Windows 95. Everyone got used to them eventually.

      • eb1c4d says :

        I think what annoyed people was Microsoft egregiously changing a UI paradigm that has been perfectly adequate for many years just so they can look like they are trying to stay relevant. The metro shell might be great for those using touchscreens but for most it is a hassle. MS only set it as default shell on the desktop so they can push their Windows Store ecosystem on more consumers.

        If they were sensible they would write off this whole experiment as a bad move and reinstate not only the start menu but the taskbar and desktop. I don’t want to have to hit Win-D or have to install a hack like classic start or play with the registry just to have what should have been default behavior. It would be easy for Windows Setup to setup the metroshell as default if a touchscreen was detected (and enable other assitive tech like a virtual keyboard if this condition exists with no physical keyboard). The very least they could have done would be an option, say right click on the “new” start button in 8.1, click the Classic mode check box and we can wake up and end this hideous UI nightmare.

        Windows shouldn’t be trying to emulate Apple. If we wanted an iOS like interface we would purchase an iPad.

        • Simon says :

          The box said “Share your Anger” so I thought I would… I hate people saying they “don’t like the new Windows 8.1 Start screen and wish the start menu came back”. Don’t these people realize that the Start screen is a bucket load better than having to surf through various different menu levels to find the program you’re looking for…?! And it was much better in Windows 8 (Rather than 8.1) when the Start Screen popped up straight away when you logged in – then you keep icons off your desktop and on a lovely FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE SCREEN which great big buttons organized how you want it to be so it works best for you, the user, as opposed to either a list of different programs on different folder levels or a desktop so full of tiny icons you go blind just looking at it…
          Also, it is not just for touchscreen users, I use a trackball and have to say I think the new Start Screen is excellent.
          Furthermore, it is quicker to use the Start Screen (when it just popped up) because you don’t have to double click to start a program – therefore you save a mouse click at very least. When you think further down this road you realize the Start Screen is much better for productivity unless you take the time to arrange your Classic Start Menu carefully…

  3. ScottishTech says :

    Out of interest – how does the 8.1 Start Menu/Screen/whatever cope with something like this:

    Programs\Departmental Applications\Computing\Visual Basic 2010 Express.lnk
    Programs\Departmental Applications\Sciences\Biology\Crappy Application1.lnk
    Programs\Departmental Applications\Sciences\Biology\Crappy Application2.lnk


    • The Angry Technician says :

      Only top level folder names are shown. All of your shortcuts would be shown under a single Departmental Applications group.

      Probably not the answer you were hoping for, but personally I think you’re a sadist for having a multi-level Start Menu folder structure in the first place. :D

      • ScottishTech says :

        It’s the joys of having umpteen rooms which are used by umpteen different depts with umpteen different applications, so it’s just a LOT easier to have all site-licenced applications available on all PCs.

        By the sounds of it, this may require ANOTHER change to cater for Win8. I’ll maybe script it to break the Departmental Applications up..

        Computing Applications
        Maths Applications
        Science Applications

        Which gives me the screaming ab-dabs just thinking about it on a normal Start Menu, but might work out better on 8’s Start Screen.

        That’s assuming our Altiris 6.9 rig plays nice with Win8. I’ll know more when I get a chance to look at the damn thing, I guess. Which’ll probably be in time for Windows 9.

        Mind you, going by the initial reports of how badly IE11 on 8.1 is behaving, it may work in my favour to hold off :)

  4. Rob Welsh says :

    Start8 – its the only way forward

    • ScottishTech says :

      I saw Start8. I also saw how much it’d cost for 4500 licences

      (4500 being a fairly conservative estimate of the number of PCs in our authority)

      Granted, not all of them would be on 8 immediately but if we were pushing 8 then you can bet your boots it wouldn’t take long before we start getting “We need IE11 across the board” (for a site used by about 1% of the teaching staff)

    • Cizzit says :

      I use Start 8 on my personal 8.0 box (not in a rush to upgrade to 8.1). After paying for it I found ClassicShell which does the same thing but for free.


      • ScottishTech says :

        Yep I saw Classic Shell.. I’d originally entertained the notion of putting that on our Win7 PCs, but in the end didn’t – the Start Menu isn’t THAT different.

        Definitely worth a look if it’s for 8, though.. The sheer number of complaints I had about how different 7 looks from XP really doesn’t fill me with warm happy thoughts when they see 8 :)

        It may require some coaxing of Line Managers who don’t like Freeware – perhaps I’ll let them try to use it and see what happens :)

  5. voo says :

    I agree with your sentiments regarding Windows 8/8.1. Most of the complaints are just the same old OMGWTFITSUX brigade from Vista etc piping up again. They’ll get used to it. Or they’ll use something else and stop whinging. Win-win either way.

  6. James Pepper says :

    There is a 4 user. The ones that didn’t even know programs were located under there. They’ve only been there since Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0. I’ve lost count the amount of user that have said a program wasn’t installed because the shortcut wasn’t located on the desktop.

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