The Windows 8 version of the traditional Start menu feels more like a quick afterthought, and we were disappointed. It works, but it’s not elegant. When would the average user ever need to see Event Viewer? Do you really want your end-users anywhere near the Power Shell? It appears to us that Microsoft put their artistic mojo behind the 8.1 Start screen and not the Desktop Start button. Other than the new look of the button itself, it’s utilitarian all the way. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, we saw a new thing in the Start menu that wasn’t in the initial build we used: clicking on the Start button can also launch a “Modern” interface overlay (the tile screen) right into the desktop to let you open your apps. We’re not sure if that’s going to replace what’s here (we hope not), or be a configurable option. From a business perspective, it’s the Modern interface that will confuse traditional users on traditional devices, so having it set to launch back to a Modern overlay will not be a good thing, if it’s not something that IT admins can configure or eliminate on traditional form factors.
- The Shutdown Menu Returns—One of the big complaints about the Windows 8 desktop was that you had to engage the Charms to access the power button and shutdown options, and that was three steps that were not intuitive if you are used to working from the desktop. With 8.1, Microsoft added the shutdown options back to the Start menu (in the most boring way possible—but it’s there.)
- Background Sync—If you do open up the Windows 8 interface on traditional desktops, you now have the ability to synchronize the background image in both the traditional and Windows 8 areas. It’s a small thing, but you’d be surprised how effective it is. Windows 8 at times felt like a schizophrenic experience, all sleek and touch in the Modern interface, then traditional and not touch-friendly in the desktop interface. There’s still the feeling that you’re dealing with two different operating systems even in 8.1, but doing the Background Sync lessens this sense. We like it.
So there you have it: our first impressions of the new-old Start button. Watch this space for more insights into Windows 8.1.
Windows XP reaches final end-of-life on April 8, 2014. What this means for your organization is that Microsoft will stop providing Service Packs, security patches, and support after that date. It’s time to break up with XP; click here to start crafting your exit strategy.