Bring back Windows start menu with Classic Shell

Update, 06/04/2012: Classic Shell is still working on Windows 8 Release Preview, build 8400.

I have already posted an entry about third party applications that reproduce the missing Start button in Windows 8, but neither of the two was enough to be the real thing (see my previous post here).

So here comes another Start menu called ClassicShell. ClassicShell was originally designed to bring back features of XP's and Vista's start menu and explorer to Windows 7 but now fits well on the Windows 8 desktop. It has some minor bugs and flaws as well, but these don't really stop your workflow and additionally ClassicShell is the most customizable start menu of the three candidates.

Upon installation you can choose what features of the suite you would like to use - apart from the start menu, there also is a classic explorer menu as well as a classic Internet Explorer design and others.

The start button integrates into the panel really well and comes with a beautiful seashell-formed Windows icon.

The start menu settings are available through a sub-menu or on right-click and can edit nearly everything - from delays to skin, width, numbers and menus; you can even switch between different styles of menus (XP, Vista, etc.) and with a bit of fiddling, you can also adjust your skin to your likings entirely - head for the homepage for a guide. The programs are displayed in a sub-list, just like they were in XP and in the typical recently used programs menu. By default, ClassicShell disables the bottom-left hot corner that opens the Metro screen (though it was enabled for me for some reason once) but Metro is still available by holding Shift while clicking the start button.
So far, if ClassicShell gets rid of minor bugs, it might be the reason for me to install Windows 8 on a machine later on.

But it does not only bring along a start button, it also changes the looks of your explorer if you want it to. If you ticked the option during installation, the ribbons in your explorer will be gone and replaced by a much simpler interface:

As for the start button, there is a great number of customizations you can apply to the explorer bar. You can adjust it to the looks of XP or Vista and add many of the standard explorer actions to the top bar as icons.

You can download ClassicShell here:

Restore the Start button in Windows 8

Update, 06/04/2012: Start8 as well as ViStart are still working on Windows 8 Release Preview, build 8400.

Probably one of the most annoying things Windows 8 has brought is the removal of the Start button in the bottom left corner - when you now press the Windows key, you are brought right back to the Metro UI. Being the main menu in Windows for many versions, many will have problems to get accustomed to its lack and the new ways of navigating Windows and it might also have greater impact in businesses.

Since the day after the release date of Windows 8 people have been busy scripting third-party solutions to restore the missing menu button and a few good results are already available on the internet.

Start8 by Stardock

Start8 represents a Start menu in the new Metro UI style and therefore replaces the Metro screen completely. It is possible to call it with the Windows key and it also contains a search bar just like the Windows 7 menu that is able to search all your installed apps for the keyword you enter.

Since it still is a new piece of Software it contains some bugs just like Windows 8 itself. Upon right-clicking an app from the app menu to select it, the right part of the menu fades out - but does not fade in again after deselecting the item. Furthermore, the tiles in the bottom right pane of the menu are unclickable - this is not a great problem though because they all are present in the main pane as well. If such a menu is suitable for you depends on you. I find it a bit unpractical since you don't really need the large app list (you cannot scroll through it with the mouse wheel either) but only use the search function.

If you want to try out Start8, you can download it from the Stardock homepage:

ViStart by Lee-Soft

ViStart was originally developed to serve as Vista styled Start menu for Windows XP, but was adjusted to be compatible to Windows 8 after the Consumer Preview release. It looks nearly as the original Vista menu and works almost the same. Other than Start8 it does not disable the Metro interface so you may rather use the Windows key to open it than to hover your mouse over the bottom left corner.

You can download ViStart on the developers homepage (it's also downloadable on other pages, but the developer always provides the latest version):

Care during install: the installer asks for permission to install other software that you definitely won't need, so read carefully and decline all agreements on extra software. If you would like to customize your Start orb, Lee-Soft also provides alternative skins and more on their website.

Create New Metro Tiles On Windows 8

Since you now won't get around to use the Metro Start-screen on the recently released Windows 8 Consumer preview, it might be good to know how to add some functionality to it.

To add the usual Windows tools or Apps you can just open the Metro menu and right-click some free space. On the appearing menu at the bottom of the screen, choose All Apps. You now get to a list of Windows components and apps, which you can right-click to open their menus. From there, click on Pin to Start:

To pin other programs or folders to the Start-screen, go to the classic desktop and right-click the item you want to have on the Metro screen. Here, you also have the option to Pin to Start.

A way to produce more customized tiles is to create a shortcut on the desktop which you can assign switches to. For example, if the shutdown button is too hidden for you, just create a new shortcut and assign the path shutdown /s to it (for more options, open a cmd and type shutdown /?). Stick it to Metro as described above, give it a nice icon before maybe, and your shutdown button will be far more accessible than the original one.

Install SpeedDial Screen For Firefox

Apart from the usual Bookmarks and Bookmarks Toolbar, the SpeedDial screen introduced a great visual option for quick access to your most commonly used websites. It currently is the main new-window-replacement on the Opera browser and can be downloaded as an add-on for Firefox.

It can be downloaded on the Mozilla Firefox add-on page here:

The screen is highly configurable in terms of when to show up, which actions to perform on click and keyboard input, largeness of panels, number of panels etc. You can also put them together to groups which are then displayed as tabs in a seperate group bar.

Monitor Processes With Windows PowerShell

Maybe you have already come across applications that require you to rearrange things on your desktop for optimal visibility or which you only use in combination with other programs or items - an automated startup or rearrangement would come handy in those situation.

The following little PowerShell script allows just this - automatical actions on process start and/or end.

$target = "firefox"
$process = Get-Process | Where-Object {$_.ProcessName -eq $target}
while ($true)
while (!($process))
$process = Get-Process | Where-Object {$_.ProcessName -eq $target}
start-sleep -s 5
if ($process)
"Place action on process start here"
start-sleep -s 2
$process = Get-Process | Where-Object {$_.ProcessName -eq $target}
"Place action on process exit here"

The script above runs continuously until it is terminated or the current session is ended. With a wait time of 5 seconds to give the CPU a break it checks if the process is running - if not, it continues to check, if yes, it spills out some text you can replace with the action to perform on process start and waits until the process is ended. Afterwards, it returns some text to replace and continues to wait for process start again. Currently, the process that is monitored is firefox and is specified in the $target variable at the top of the code.

To run the script, copy and paste it into a notepad, save it as .ps1 file and schedule it on startup with the Windows Scheduled Tasks service if you like. To run the script completely without pop-ups, have a look here.

Save Time On Windows Start-up

To boot your Windows machine faster, it is possible to disable the graphical user interface used during system start-up (the Windows logo loading screen). To accomplish that, hit Windows key + R on your desktop to call a Run prompt and enter msconfig. On the appearing window, go to the Boot tab and activate the No GUI boot checkbox. Hit Apply and/or OK and reboot the machine afterwards for the changes to take effect.