As I mentioned last week, the Stardock Corp. has added some new functionality to Start8. This latest release is version 0.87 which indicates that there may be some additional features when version 1.x is released. Version 0.87 offers the following features:

– Adds a “Start” menu to the Windows 8 taskbar.

– Quickly access and search your installed applications

– Automatically load your Windows desktop on login (vs the start screen)

– Adds Run… option via right-click menu

– Adds Shutdown… option via right-click menu

– Choose a custom “Start” button image

– Adds control over Start menu size on Explorer desktop






– Adds option for WinKey to show fullscreen Metro desktop

To test this out, I went into the Parsonage Data Services lab this afternoon and re installed the Windows 8 Release Preview in fresh Virtual Machine. I’d beating up on Win 8 pretty heavily so starting fresh was the best way to go.

Stardock Corp. is currently offering Start8 as a freebie.  Just click the “Download” button and Stardock will e-mail you a download link. The installation process is pretty simple. You will be asked one important question:

Do you want to by-pass the Metro start screen – great for tablets but not so great for desktops/laptops – and go directly to the Windows 8 desktop? Click “Yes” and when the installation is complete, restart Windows 8.

Here’s what you’ll see:

First, there is this screen  that will be displayed whenever you’re not logged in to Windows 8. There’s a fix that bypasses this screen altogether and shows the actual log in screen as the default . (I’ll try to locate this fix as soon as possible.)

Clicking on the default screen will take you to the Log In screen.

This is pretty much self-explanatory. Click on the arrow to the right of the password dialogue box and you may or may not see a quick flash of the Metro start screen. (Since I am running Windows 8 in a virtual machine, there may be a slight lag that allows you to see the touch-oriented Metro screen.) If it does appear, it will be brief and  you will arrive at the Windows 8 Desktop.

As you can see, there is a familiar-looking button in the left-hand corner of the screen. At present, clicking this button will display a Metro-ish start menu.

 If you want something more like you’re used to, I suggest that you give Classic Shell a try.

As you can see, there are work-arounds that will give you something close to what you’re more familiar with and at this point, I cannot say what enhancements will be added to Start8, Classic Shell, etc. between now ant the Windows 8 release date. My advice is that you wait a bit before migrating to Windows 8 unless your current PC dies and all the new machines are loaded with Win 8.

Finally, all of this should not be necessary but as it stands now, Microsoft seems bent on reducing the flexibility in its latest operating system. This might be a good time to consider Linux.

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