Is there a workable solution to the Windows 8 Start conundrum?

Buried in a discussion about multiple-monitor use in Windows 8 are a few features that may make the classic, legacy Windows desktop usable. Or not

The biggest problem with Windows 8 isn't so much the lack of a Start button as the Jekyll-and-Hyde jumping between the "legacy" desktop -- where most of us work and want to keep working -- and the Metro Start menu.

Based on a Building Windows 8 blog that Microsoft posted last week, then yanked, then posted again yesterday, I'm beginning to think there may be a solution. At least, I think it might work for me, and it may for you as well.

The blog goes into great detail, as Building blogs tend to do, about multiple-monitor support. Most of the discussion centers around ways Microsoft is (finally!) bringing reasonably good multimonitor support to Windows. If you use multiple monitors with Windows 7 and have a good third-party program such as DisplayFusion, you already know most of the shtick.

But there's one part of the discussion that just might make a big difference in the way I use Windows 8 -- assuming I end up using Windows 8.

Here's the idea: You put a small touch monitor on the left, down near your keyboard. You put a big monitor (or monitors) up on the desk, just like you have now. The Metro Start screen runs pretty much 24/7 on the small touch monitor. The legacy desktop runs almost all of the time on the heads-up monitor(s). You use your left hand to punch Metro buttons, as the situation warrants. You use your right hand on the mouse (southpaws could reverse the locations).

You can wade through the discussion in the blog about how to lay out the taskbar, which taskbar icons get put where, and how the landing zone for the interstitial area between the screens comes down to six pixels. That's all well and good. But this approach, which isn't explicitly mentioned in the article, seems to me to be a reasonably workable solution.

To be sure, launching a legacy program from a Metro Start tile on the little screen isn't exactly optimal. Once launched with a tap, moving the launched program over to the big screen would require a click and drag (or perhaps some key combination, such as Windows key + right arrow), followed by the Windows key to bring the Metro Start screen back to the little guy. But that's doable, in a trained monkey kind of way.

In the comments section on the blog, a commenter who goes by the name of "super" comes up with the idea of using one touch and one nontouch monitor, which could be adapted to work the way I'm proposing here. Steven Sinofsky replies to him, "Yep, that's how I work. I have one touch (I use my primary) and one secondary (non-touch) connected to my tower. I run Metro style apps and do mail from primary and then when I go to the desktop I use multiple apps spanning across the two."

There are still lots of unanswered questions about multiple monitors. Foremost among them, will we be able to run two full-screen Metro apps, one on each monitor?

Talking about this method with nothing but a blog post in hand is quite a bit different from using it on a real machine, of course. With the Release Preview due the first week in June -- and reliable rumors running rampant that Microsoft has already signed off on the RP code, final build 8400.0.WINMAIN_WIN8RC.120518-1423 -- we should know a lot more in a couple of weeks.

This story, "Is there a workable solution to the Windows 8 Start conundrum?," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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