Start8 and ModernMix: making Windows 8 work on a desktop
The excellent Start8 tool from Stardock allows you to put the Start menu back into the desktop version of Windows 8 – transforming desktop Windows 8 from an awkward, clunky nightmare into something that’s almost a delight.
Start8 gives you a Windows 7-style Start menu back where it belongs, and builds an expanding app list just as you’d expect. All of the muscle memory that we’ve accumulated ever since the release of Windows 95 comes back naturally into play: you won’t have to go fumbling around in Metro looking for the bits and pieces, just do it straight onto the desktop.
I won’t beat about the bush – Start8 has completely changed my view of running Windows 8 on a large desktop-orientated computer. It pushes Metro into the background, where you don’t need to use it unless you want to, which is entirely how it should be; use Metro’s capabilities where appropriate, but don’t get forced to when they’re not.
Not only that, but Start8 lets you boot straight into Windows 8 desktop automatically, bypassing Metro entirely. Manna from Heaven! The utility isn’t free, and nor should it be given that it’s work done by a third party, but the price is reasonable at only $4.99 (call it £3 per PC). It’s going straight onto all my Windows 8 machines as a standard fixture.
I’ve also discovered another tool from Stardock, called ModernMix.
ModernMix enables you to run Modern (aka Metro, aka Windows Store) apps in their own windows on the Windows desktop. You don’t need to go back to the full-screen view, or the docked view, to use them – you can run them on your desktop like any other app. On my large-screen Dell desktop computer, this utility has made Modern apps useful again; I can contain them at a sensible size, so they don’t take over the whole 27in desktop.
ModernMix is free to try for 30 days, after which it costs only $4.99 (the same as Start8).I’ve found it reliable, useful and easy to use.
In my opinion, the installation of ModernMix and Start8 – once they’re both properly finished – will be compulsory on all future Windows 8 desktops and Ultrabooks/laptops. It’s a different story for touch-based tablets, however, where the Modern app size is more appropriate, and desktop apps look a mess (the fingertip control doesn’t work on a quasi-pen-based interface). However, it’s a no-brainer on a desktop.
So far, there’s little to suggest Microsoft has listened to the complaints of desktop users and built Start8- and ModernMix-style functionality into Windows Blue (8.1). To be honest, I doubt it will do so any time soon – Microsoft is fixated on a vision of desktop computing that’s touch-based and full-screen.
The fact you might own a bunch of legacy applications appears to be of little concern; just look at the way the company strives to control the web-browser experience, much to the detriment of many line-of-business applications. Blue should be a shot in the arm for Windows 8, but I fear it’s likely to be more of the same design mandate.