It may look like it has vanished, but type-to-search remains another useful way to avoid getting hung up on the Start screen. Type-to-search behaves roughly the same way as it does in Windows Vista and Windows 7: Begin typing, and you see results. (You do need a physical keyboard, so this technique won't work on a tablet with just an onscreen keyboard. Instead, open the Search charm by swiping from the right edge of the screen.)
Simply begin typing from the Start screen to start a systemwide search. Note that the context of the search is determined by the highlighted item directly below the search box. (Click for larger version.)
A major difference with Windows 8 is that results are visible only one category at a time, instead of showing the first three choices from each category, as is the case with Vista and Windows 7. In Windows 8, categories are listed beneath the search box. Just use the arrow keys or mouse to navigate between categories to reveal relevant results.
Triggering a search from within a Metro app by pressing Win-Q will automatically have the current app used as the context for the search. (Click for larger version.)
Another way to keep from getting hung up on the new Start screen is to use a third-party program to re-create the behavior of the legacy Start menu. Stardock, makers of a number of desktop-enhancement utilities for Windows, have released Start8, an application that moves the Start menu back onto the legacy desktop and makes it behave more like the old Start menu. It even re-creates the original Start button on the taskbar. And now that Stardock has succeeded in working around Microsoft's latest attempt to block Start menu alternatives, expect other options to arise soon.
Caption: Stardock’s Start8 transplants the new Start menu into a popup window on the desktop, so that it behaves at least somewhat like the legacy Start menu. (Click for larger version.)
You can always go with the likes of PortableApps to access popular apps from a menu on the legacy desktop. PortableApps offers a curated collection of free and open source apps that run in a self-contained way, without touching the Registry or other system settings. It might prove a useful way to organize and update many apps you might already work with, such as Skype, Chrome, Firefox, and so on.
Use the PortableApps system to launch and organize many common open source and freeware applications, without accessing the Metro Start screen.