Windows 8 Start Menu to be Completely Overhauled

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft says it is rethinking the way the Start Menu will work in Windows 8. It's partly a response to user behavior and partly a recognition that more people will be using touchscreen devices in the future.

By default, the Start Menu appears on the left-hand side of the screen, either when the user clicks the Windows logo in the bottom left corner, or presses the dedicated Windows key on their keyboard.

Fewer Users Use Start Menu, Says Microsoft

The Start Menu menu serves several functions by listing recently used applications, commonly used applications, a complete list of all applications, access to Windows tools such as the control panel, as well as being the primary launch point for starting applications.

Microsoft says it has tracked how Windows PC owners use the operating system and found a significant shift towards people launching applications from the taskbar. That's the menu permanently displayed at the bottom of the screen, consisting of large application icons from the left and smaller notification icons on the right.

In short: many users are now putting icons for their favorite applications on the taskbar and thus rarely use the start menu. (Source:

Full-Screen Display the New Default

According to Microsoft, this makes it all the more important that the start menu is easy to use when people turn to it. As a result, it's decided that Windows 8 will instead feature a Start screen that fills the entire display. It will be more customizable, giving users control over what appears and in what way.

The big difference is that rather than small icons and labels in a horizontal list, the Start screen will be made up of tiles: rectangles of varying sizes, which can be placed into groups. Tiles can be filled with larger images or logos relating to the application, rather than the standard, small icons.

It will also be possible to have tiles that contain "live" information from the Internet; for example stock prices, weather, or the latest emails a person has received.

Windows 8 Start Menu Similar to Windows Phone

Instead of folders, individual items will be grouped into blocks of tiles with a relevant heading. Users can zoom out to see all the blocks, then zoom in to see a particular set of tiles.

It's no coincidence that this is very reminiscent of the home screens on smartphones running Windows Phone. The new smart screen has been designed with the idea that many users will be running touchscreens, meaning Windows 8 should transfer to tablet devices smoothly.

The big question is whether this will come at the expense of maximum usability for the majority of users who are still using a keyboard and mouse combination. (Source:

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