What Happened to the Start Menu in Windows 8?

Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Wednesday, releasing the latest build of its upcoming operating system to the consumer market for what amounts to a giant open beta test. If you’re reading this article, there’s a chance that you’re one of those early adopters who have decided to take Windows 8 for a test drive.

By the way, we can also help you figure out how to close apps in Windows 8, too.

Keep in mind that this information is subject to change as the consumer preview continues. Microsoft has made several major adjustments to Windows 8 since the developer preview began in late 2011, and it’s only logical to assume that Microsoft is going to take the feedback it receives from these early adopters to create a final product that will be more acceptable to the average user. Well, we can certainly hope so.

One of the first things a new user will quickly discover is that the Start menu no longer exists. There is no little button in the lower-left corner to give you immediate access to search, your programs, and system tools as there once was. Yes, it’s a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access these things just as easily as before.

Metro Apps Navigation

What Happened to the Start Menu in Windows 8?During the developer preview, users commented that the regular Start menu has been replaced with Metro. While this statement may seem confusing on the surface, the presence of the Metro UI is simply a full-screen programs menu that gives you access to your various apps and programs. At first, this screen is populated with apps that run within the Metro interface, though you can access your traditional programs by right-clicking and selecting All Apps in the options panel that appears on the bottom of the screen.

You can navigate through this often overwhelming amount of apps by moving your mouse to the right and left of the screen, using your scroll wheel, or swiping on a touchpad or touch-sensitive mouse. Depending on where your application is natively supported (Aero or Metro), it will open right up. You can actually pin apps from the larger pool of programs to the main Metro Start menu by right-clicking them in the All Apps area and selecting Pin in the options bar that appears on the bottom of the screen.

Switching Between Tasks

If you want to switch between programs you already have open, this can be done in a very interesting way no matter if you’re on your standard desktop or within Metro.

All you need to do is move your mouse to the lower-left or right corner and start moving it towards the center of the left side of the screen. Here, you will see a list of preview windows, each representing a program you have open. By clicking on the preview window, you’ll be brought to that program.

Charms

What Happened to the Start Menu in Windows 8?Charms are a very different word used to describe options available on the panel located at the far right of your screen, accessible by placing your mouse cursor at the lower left or right portion of the screen and moving it up towards the center of the right side. These charms include Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.

The Settings charm will take you one of two places. In the Metro UI, it will give you the ability to configure whether or not system tools appear in the full-screen Start menu. While in the Aero desktop, this menu will give you immediate access to Control Panel, Personalization, and PC information (the former properties option from My Computer).

On the bottom of each of the Settings menus you’ll find your network, volume, brightness, notifications, power, and language settings with an option to access a much more detailed settings interface for anything else you might need.

This can appear overwhelming at first, though the idea may have been to save you clicks to get to the most important things, while hiding the least necessary features away.

The Search charm allows you to quickly search for apps, settings, and files that exist on your system. Everything said, this is possibly the fastest way to get anything done on Windows 8, at least as far as I can tell.

Final Thoughts

Windows 8 is very, very different from any version of Windows before it. Borrowing from the hot corners feature of OS X, the touch-friendly interface of Windows Phone 7, and the tried and true Windows Aero experience users have come to know, Windows 8 Consumer Preview promises to be nothing more than a mishmash of form and function as it attempts to determine exactly what it will be when it grows up.

One can only hope that it’s heading in the direction of greatness, and not destined to be laid to rest next to Windows Bob.

52 comments On What Happened to the Start Menu in Windows 8?

  • “Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong”

  • “Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong”

  • “Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong”

  • Back in Sept. 2011 I made the same observations and was chastised severely by several readers for pointing out that the Developers Preview was exactly as you stated ‘ mishmash of form and function’. In comparing W8 to Windows Bob, you are actually being kind. W8 is nothing more than a shell of Windows Phone 7 with a button to click on the desktop, which reveals Windows 7. Nothing more, nothing less.

    W8 will propel the sales of the Apple iPad and Google Android tablets to new heights. Even my ‘poor man’s’ tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire, is more enjoyable to use.

    Windows 7 will now become the new Windows XP, in which people who need to do real work on a computer, will stay with W7. W8 is a gimmick with no real purpose for use on a PC.

    This is coming from a tried and true ‘Windows Fanboy’ who has been using Windows since it was in diapers.

    One word: Sad.

    • Pretty Biased and bolony reasons ron, Sad to here from someone well respected around here even by me.

      Windows 8 is windows 7 with the Metro UI added for the immediately fast boot.
      Example’s where metro UI booting in as little as 3 seconds will be loved
      -For users who wanna access the internet VERY quickly
      -For Touchscreen computer useage
      -For those who do not need the typical desktop as you see on older windows OS’s and Mac’s/Linux.

      You can enter the desktop and literally find everything windows 7 is right their, just without a start menu, now that i’m quirky about myself, but i think that will change.

      It’s Vista hatred all over again i can feel it, another way for people to eat up mac’s or literally buy hundreds of copies of windows 7 and convince microsoft to extend it’s support and make another windows, Very quickly.

      You see Windows vista was hated for many obvious reasons, but the way i see it. People were trying to get it to work on systems that came bundled with an OS that 6-7+ Years OLD, and here’s where it got ugly, The Companies didn’t wanna make drivers For it!, OMG THATS MICROSOFT’S FAULT RLY? OH WELL Microsoft went into and added a new flippin tool bar, and wall paper, and a little extra user friendlyness and made vista even better. Ya they Did manage in that as little as 2 year window, tax in faster hardware support and everything, but really…like….

      Windows 8 will be a disaster thanks to guys with the attitude like you ron, and now the world will be over run with Apple cultists. And microsoft will be scrambling up Windows 9 ( or w/e they choose to call it ) Just as fast as they did with 7.

      Just Think, Repeat the Process! only this time Windows 8 will work on vista hardware!
      and since 7 somehow managed to work on some insanely old systems that vista would not, i can image 8 will to.

      I tested this consumer preview on a 1.8Ghz Pentium 4 with 1GB of Memory and a 64MB GPU Chip for Running Aero Basic. And it booted the metro UI in 3 seconds, and went into the desktop just as fast. That’s Impressive.

  • Back in Sept. 2011 I made the same observations and was chastised severely by several readers for pointing out that the Developers Preview was exactly as you stated ‘ mishmash of form and function’. In comparing W8 to Windows Bob, you are actually being kind. W8 is nothing more than a shell of Windows Phone 7 with a button to click on the desktop, which reveals Windows 7. Nothing more, nothing less.

    W8 will propel the sales of the Apple iPad and Google Android tablets to new heights. Even my ‘poor man’s’ tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire, is more enjoyable to use.

    Windows 7 will now become the new Windows XP, in which people who need to do real work on a computer, will stay with W7. W8 is a gimmick with no real purpose for use on a PC.

    This is coming from a tried and true ‘Windows Fanboy’ who has been using Windows since it was in diapers.

    One word: Sad.

  • I tried the Windows 8 Developer Preview. It lasted 5 minutes before I killed it.

    What was MS smoking when they designed this steam pile of excrement?

    I will never install Windows 8 on a computer. I will never buy a Windows 8 computer.

    • Ever since you switched ron you’ve turned slowly into a cultist following jerk.
      You rant on windows in every way possible and think that everything about a mac is so much better. Why can’t you be like several others who would agree that windows 7 is a dam good Operating system hm? Just like OS X!. And how can you not see that Windows 8 Is Windows 7 (like 7 is vista) and that it just added a GUI for the amazing fast boot up and quick use? AND For touchscreen computers and other arm devices?! the momment u hop into the Desktop It’s good Old Windows again. Your Getting old and disappointing every minute. Your not thinking right anymore, you got screwed over when the computer world was young and vulnerable and needed years and time to get better, and you take it out on windows becus over 90% of the computer world uses it, and hackers want to target that, and not the below 10% useage of MACS.

      Your an ex IT in my eyes, and no longer a Windows expert.
      So why is it that you went and installed the consumer preview anyway, So you could post a comment on how disgusted you are by it and how much you love macs?
      No i don’t think so ron, I think you still like and respect Microsoft, I think your struggling to become someone who likes all computers including Macs, regardless of Operating system choice.

      Let someone (not me) show you that path, who is not an Apple cultist.

      • Anthony McDaniel

        Dude, who are you?  Stop going off about “Apple Cultists” when you’re clearly a Windows cultist.  And there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing, but let everyone have their own opinion without feeling the need to constantly defend Microsoft.  I can assure you, they don’t need your help.

    • 5 mins is not even giving it a try! But hay if you can’t adapt no big deal! The young geeks just will take over for them unwilling or unable to adapt:)

  • I really dislike W8.  I pulled it off in less than an hour.  

  • So I guess it’s time to dust off those old “Vista” jokes?

  • So I guess it’s time to dust off those old “Vista” jokes?

  • Russ the Engineer

    There was nothig new in Windows 7  …. Ive been using taskbar shortcuts for years on XP.  I’ve installed Office 2003 Pro on my Win 7 portable and everyting works fine.  HP issued new universal drivers for my 8 year old LaserJet.  Works fine.   I have my old MENUs instead of the brain dead RIBBONS.  Complete compatability without any STUPID INOVATION from MicroIdiots.  And, NO additiional cost!  (-;)   Hades will have freeze over before I ever run Windows 8.  I want an efficient classic interface without a stupid phone interface on my laptop.  RIP MicroStupid!!!

    • Come on guys! Microsoft’s new attempt to create a unified OS for the PC as well as their phones is not a bad idea at all! I would say that I like the new Windows no matter what others say. It us much more fluid to use and boots MUCH MUCH faster. And for those of you saying that the Metro interface sucks, you could always switch back to the desktop! No one is forcing you to use the interface. Just consider your new W8 PC as a computer that boots so much faster!
      As for all you Apple fanboys. You think Apple brings something new i every OS upgrade? Dude they haven’t even changed the look of their OS for the last 6 years! When they bring in Launchpad and Mission Control to mimic iOS, then it’s okay, but when Microsoft does that (and much better at that), you say it is difficult to use? Man, the only reason you guys got used to that stuff is because you THINK that OS X is the best and adapting to it is your job. Try adapting to W8!
      Try thinking what “new” features OS 10.8 Mountain Lion brings…. OOOHH I know, iMessage! What else? No shit.
      Grow up people. Respect both companies. I do. I criticize Apple because I am literally tired of Apple fanboys. No one is stopping you from loving Apple, but you should not criticize Microsoft just because you love Apple so much. Most people here have no idea what they are talking about when they say Windows sucks. I’d say Macs are extremely limited. The best software companies use PCs, not Macs, because they are so fucking limited.

      R.I.P. Steve Jobs

  • LOL exacly! windows 8 is just terrible, microsoft is tryin to force everyone to use there stupid metro crap! Its ment to be a PC not a frikin TABLET!

    • Been a windows user a long time, each os has its ups and downs [some more than others]. I think microsoft is coming at this tablet ui from the wrong side. I have previewed the new windows ce and its clean and fast. Why not “metro” that largely forgotten os thats still being developed and leave the desktop os as is for a bit?

      In addition i think metro its self needs a lot of work still, its way to simplfied for he hardware it ships on leaving users like me feeling we arent using the full potential of the hardware. Personally love the craftsmanship the hd7 has but i hate the limited nature of theos on this device. Day to day i use a g2.

      For home i use windows 7 and see no reason to update to a metroed windows 8 atm. I run a hybrid android on my fujitsu tablet because windows was too large and slow to run well on it. Ce runs nice though [having replaced android for the moment].

  • I can judge Windows if I want.. Apple cultist? I’ve been using Windows since the age of 3, who are you to judge who you don’t even know..?

  • I can judge Windows if I want.. Apple cultist? I’ve been using Windows since the age of 3, who are you to judge who you don’t even know..?

  • What’s the deal with this ‘Gibson’ character replying to almost every comment calling them an ‘Apple cultist’ .. Looks like someone is jelly 😉

  • What’s the deal with this ‘Gibson’ character replying to almost every comment calling them an ‘Apple cultist’ .. Looks like someone is jelly 😉

  • Misterfireking

    Look out Linux, here come the masses.

  • Misterfireking

    Look out Linux, here come the masses.

  • My upgrade crashed, then, on my second attempt I got an error message that my BIOS hardware was incomparable.  I guess I’ll have to live with Vista for a few more years until my computer takes a permanent leap into malfunction land (only way I’ll be buying a new one).

    •  If you pc came with Vista it should work. I loaded it on a 12 year old AMD box  without much issue. It loaded every single driver on its own!

      See if there are updates for your BIOS.

      • I could look into it, but, it says specifically that I would have to upgrade the physical hardware.  Also, Matts1 is telling me that I probably can’t upgrade from Vista.  I’m curious, were you running Vista on your AMD?  I wish I had the time to search around for upgrades for my BIOS, but, compromising my computer would be very counterproductive at this point in my work.  I really appreciate the advice, though, and my loyalties will likely remain with Microsoft when I am ready for the next big upgrade.

        • I only meant that you couldn’t do a upgrade from Vista to Win8. I didn’t mean you couldn’t put Win8 on there in a clean install. My computer was bought with XP on it and I have had Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 on it without any problem. 

    • I don’t think the Dev or the Consumer Preview supports upgrading from Vista. It might when its final but right now it only upgrades from Windows 7.

      • Thanks!  I hope only a small handful of people are still using Vista if that’s the case. 🙂

        • Its only for the pre-release versions of Windows 8. When it RTMs it will probably support Vista just fine..

    • I don’t think the Dev or the Consumer Preview supports upgrading from Vista. It might when its final but right now it only upgrades from Windows 7.

    • I don’t think the Dev or the Consumer Preview supports upgrading from Vista. It might when its final but right now it only upgrades from Windows 7.

    • I don’t think the Dev or the Consumer Preview supports upgrading from Vista. It might when its final but right now it only upgrades from Windows 7.

  • My upgrade crashed, then, on my second attempt I got an error message that my BIOS hardware was incomparable.  I guess I’ll have to live with Vista for a few more years until my computer takes a permanent leap into malfunction land (only way I’ll be buying a new one).

    • I don’t think the Dev or the Consumer Preview supports upgrading from Vista. It might when its final but right now it only upgrades from Windows 7.

  • Lower left corner, Chris!  Click on Global icon and the World is yours!

  • Windows 8 is just fine. Haters just don’t like changes. 

  • Windows 8 is just fine. Haters just don’t like changes. 

  • I’ll admit, I had my reservations over whether the metro + desktop combination would work well together (even as I type this within Windows 8′ preview on a regular non touch screen laptop), but it’s really not as painful as naysayers would have us all believe. I’ll admit, it is a bit disorienting to switch back and forth between these different UIs (perhaps because the switch takes merely milliseconds and doesn’t give the user time to adjust to the transition). But, I think the advantage to this “dumbed down” metro interface is that it makes finding things -such as the programs you use most often- a much faster process. In Windows 7 and below, if you had a large number of programs (and are perhaps a user like me that doesn’t want a desktop full of icons), you had to open the start menu, click All Programs, and find the program you were looking for after scanning through a long list of folders and icons. Not only did this take longer, but it wore on the eyes after a while if you did this on a regular basis. With metro, you get buttons that are easy to read and can be moved according to your preference: put the ones you use the most on the left screen, put the ones you use the least on the right side when you scroll. I was already used to not seeing the start orb since I’m a long time rocketdock user and I triple boot ubuntu (yes, 11.10 for you unity haters) with windows 8 and 7 so maybe that’s why the loss doesn’t leave me scratching my head. I know it’s not fully baked, but I wouldn’t call this another Vista just yet, if this is what we’re to expect in the official release.

  • I’ll admit, I had my reservations over whether the metro + desktop combination would work well together (even as I type this within Windows 8′ preview on a regular non touch screen laptop), but it’s really not as painful as naysayers would have us all believe. I’ll admit, it is a bit disorienting to switch back and forth between these different UIs (perhaps because the switch takes merely milliseconds and doesn’t give the user time to adjust to the transition). But, I think the advantage to this “dumbed down” metro interface is that it makes finding things -such as the programs you use most often- a much faster process. In Windows 7 and below, if you had a large number of programs (and are perhaps a user like me that doesn’t want a desktop full of icons), you had to open the start menu, click All Programs, and find the program you were looking for after scanning through a long list of folders and icons. Not only did this take longer, but it wore on the eyes after a while if you did this on a regular basis. With metro, you get buttons that are easy to read and can be moved according to your preference: put the ones you use the most on the left screen, put the ones you use the least on the right side when you scroll. I was already used to not seeing the start orb since I’m a long time rocketdock user and I triple boot ubuntu (yes, 11.10 for you unity haters) with windows 8 and 7 so maybe that’s why the loss doesn’t leave me scratching my head. I know it’s not fully baked, but I wouldn’t call this another Vista just yet, if this is what we’re to expect in the official release.

  • I’ll admit, I had my reservations over whether the metro + desktop combination would work well together (even as I type this within Windows 8′ preview on a regular non touch screen laptop), but it’s really not as painful as naysayers would have us all believe. I’ll admit, it is a bit disorienting to switch back and forth between these different UIs (perhaps because the switch takes merely milliseconds and doesn’t give the user time to adjust to the transition). But, I think the advantage to this “dumbed down” metro interface is that it makes finding things -such as the programs you use most often- a much faster process. In Windows 7 and below, if you had a large number of programs (and are perhaps a user like me that doesn’t want a desktop full of icons), you had to open the start menu, click All Programs, and find the program you were looking for after scanning through a long list of folders and icons. Not only did this take longer, but it wore on the eyes after a while if you did this on a regular basis. With metro, you get buttons that are easy to read and can be moved according to your preference: put the ones you use the most on the left screen, put the ones you use the least on the right side when you scroll. I was already used to not seeing the start orb since I’m a long time rocketdock user and I triple boot ubuntu (yes, 11.10 for you unity haters) with windows 8 and 7 so maybe that’s why the loss doesn’t leave me scratching my head. I know it’s not fully baked, but I wouldn’t call this another Vista just yet, if this is what we’re to expect in the official release.

  • I’ll admit, I had my reservations over whether the metro + desktop combination would work well together (even as I type this within Windows 8′ preview on a regular non touch screen laptop), but it’s really not as painful as naysayers would have us all believe. I’ll admit, it is a bit disorienting to switch back and forth between these different UIs (perhaps because the switch takes merely milliseconds and doesn’t give the user time to adjust to the transition). But, I think the advantage to this “dumbed down” metro interface is that it makes finding things -such as the programs you use most often- a much faster process. In Windows 7 and below, if you had a large number of programs (and are perhaps a user like me that doesn’t want a desktop full of icons), you had to open the start menu, click All Programs, and find the program you were looking for after scanning through a long list of folders and icons. Not only did this take longer, but it wore on the eyes after a while if you did this on a regular basis. With metro, you get buttons that are easy to read and can be moved according to your preference: put the ones you use the most on the left screen, put the ones you use the least on the right side when you scroll. I was already used to not seeing the start orb since I’m a long time rocketdock user and I triple boot ubuntu (yes, 11.10 for you unity haters) with windows 8 and 7 so maybe that’s why the loss doesn’t leave me scratching my head. I know it’s not fully baked, but I wouldn’t call this another Vista just yet, if this is what we’re to expect in the official release.

  • It doesn’t seem fair to label him as an “Apple Cultist”. What if he’s just a hardcore Linux guy? 

  • It doesn’t seem fair to label him as an “Apple Cultist”. What if he’s just a hardcore Linux guy? 

  •  Microsoft has gone and completely removed the Start Menu in
    Windows 8 and replaced it with the Start Screen. Rizonesoft started a petition
    to try and get the start menu back or even just a choice between the Start Menu
    and Start Screen  and we need all the
    help we can get (signatures) to accomplish this almost impossible task. When we
    have enough we will let Microsoft know and see if they actually listen to their
    users.

    Please visit the following link, it is a legitimate petition
    and we hope it will make a difference. Go here, http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/bring-back-the-windows-start-menu.html
    to try and get our Start Menu back. I will only post this once and not nag,
    because being a blogger myself I do know how irritating spam can be.

  • Exactly.  Gibson you sound kinda like a dick here.  People are posting what “they” think and you slam them.
    Calm down dewd! People are entitled to their opinions.  Are you paid by MS to trash peoples opinions if they don’t happen to like W8?
    I tried it out last night and so far think it’s trash.  So I suppose im wrong since I don’t agree with you right?
    Get a life man.

  • We have to wait for Windows 9 to create another operating system that works. I’m restoring Windows 7

  • Hemanth Srinivasan

    Windows 8 is driving me to mac.

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