These free and low-cost utilities bring a classic Windows Start menu -- and respite from Metro annoyances -- to Windows 8
A less wide-ranging open source project than Classic Shell, Power8 provides a self-sorting menu of commonly used applications, a set of fly-outs for the main Start menu app hierarchy, and fly-outs for Computer, Libraries, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, and Network shortcuts. The old search functionality is also replicated, Modern UI features (charms, hot corners, etc.) are disabled, and -- one very nice touch -- apps that have Windows 7 Taskbar jump lists have those available through Power8 as well. On the downside, Power8 doesn't skip the Start screen at log-in, and it doesn't trap taps of the Windows key (pressing that still takes you to the Modern UI Start screen). Also, the number of configurable features is minimal.
Author: Power8 Team
Cost: Free (open source)
Pokki is a much more ambitious program than many of the others shown here. It doesn't just restore the original Start menu -- it also replaces the Windows 8 Start screen as a source for notifications. It does this via various apps, built using Web standards, that are available for (among other things) many common social networks from Pokki's own little app store. However, replacing Microsoft's app store with one from a vendor with far less name recognition doesn't seem like a great idea.
Pokki doesn't restore the original Start menu so much as come up with an enhanced replacement for it -- not a bad idea, since there's enough here that's familiar (links to common system locations, the Search box) to make it easy to dive into. I liked the button next to the Shut Down fly-out that provides you with quick access to the Start screen, since you can disable access to that and the hot corners. Plus, you can set the system to boot directly to the desktop.
StartIsBack is a startlingly precise re-creation of the Windows 7 Start menu, orb and all, although its appearance is a good deal more tweakable than the original. Each Windows 8 hot corner can be selectively toggled; the Start screen can be skipped on log-in, renamed "Apps," invoked with a dedicated hotkey, and reserved only for Modern UI programs; and Search retains its classic behavior. Right-click on a program in Explorer and you can pin apps to the StartIsBack menu. Even jump lists for apps show up in StartIsBack. There's little extra, but almost nothing is missing.
Cost: Free 30-day trial; two-PC license $3
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