A closer look at the Windows Start Menu

At BUILD last week, Microsoft demoed the new Start menu that will be coming to Windows 8.1 and we thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at what was shown off so that we can have a better understanding what to expect when it arrives.

We cut up the keynote announcement to highlight the Start menu announcement and you can see a few features of the menu that were not explicitly discussed but were shown in the video.

For starters, adding live tiles to the menu can be accomplished by dragging a modern app from the list on the left in to the ‘modern’ area. The ‘modern’ area of the Start menu is also adjustable in terms of how wide it is, as you can clearly see in the video.

You will also be able to adjust the live tile sizes and layouts in the Start menu as well, which will provide you another location to create your perfect application layout.

Finally, the vertical height of the Start menu can be adjusted too. As shown in the video, when the modern apps were added to the first column, it grew in height.

Of course, it is important to note that this is an early build of the Start menu and anything could change before it is released to consumers.

As for when it will be released, Terry Myerson only says that it will be coming to all Windows 8.1 users in a future update, but a hard date was not provided. Now that the Start menu cat is out of the bag, we can only hope that Microsoft will be more forthcoming about when it will finally be released.

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PotatoAlchemist said,
At least the more natural and native Start Menu that's coming up will put the third party solutions into irrelevance.

Wanna Bet?

Does Start Screen also exist in this update or gone? Because I do not see a need of it after the new Start menu.

I hope they don't REPLACE the Start Screen.... I hope you'll be able to decide which mode to use. Because personally, I prefer the Start Screen on my tablet and on my HTPC. However, I find the Start Screen cumbersome on my desktop computer that I use with a keyboard and mouse, and I wish I could use the Start Menu on the desktop, but the Start Screen on the other form factors..

Choices are a wonderful thing. I'm sure Microsoft will let users pick which interface they want to use now.

So if you unpin all Metro apps from start menu... is that wide space for metro apps are going to disappear then or not.

I dread the day the dreaded start menu will be back :( I hope there is a way that we can use the start screen instead.

I'm sure Microsoft has listened to the feedback and will give all users the choice on what they want to use.

As it should have been. :)

For me, the classic start menu of Win7 is more than a welcome feature of this update. As long as I can have that same functionality, and maybe even the addition of some live tiles, then I'm very happy indeed. I don't like the metro screen, I never have, so I'm very much in the corner of metro out - classic start in.
All with the goodness of Win8 too. :-)

I thought the start menu was a work in progress and not necessarily an example of what it will be (i.e. it might look totally different, etc.)? I know you put the qualifier that anything can change but it seems to me that you're reporting that this is the actual start screen versus something more nebulous. Regardless it's about time they decided to put it back in and frankly if we're having to wait until spring of next year that's too long. They need to get it out asap.

pcweber111 said,
Regardless it's about time they decided to put it back in and frankly if we're having to wait until spring of next year that's too long. They need to get it out asap.

Nothing can save windows 8.x it's failure is far worse than any other os microsoft has ever released, yes the start menu will win a few people over but it's too little too late, nothing can ever truly save windows 8.x.

Order_66 said,

Nothing can save windows 8.x it's failure is far worse than any other os microsoft has ever released, yes the start menu will win a few people over but it's too little too late, nothing can ever truly save windows 8.x.


I agree it's a failure, but far worse? I think Windows ME and Vista can give it a run for it's money :p

I'm pretty sure what they showed off is some UI concept and not working code, or if it is I'm hearing that's NOT how it's going to look when it's final though that could be close to it concept wise.

We have NO idea either way. All you and others have stated is pure speculation. Let's wait for more definite news before propagating a particular rumor.

George P said,
I'm pretty sure what they showed off is some UI concept and not working code, or if it is I'm hearing that's NOT how it's going to look when it's final though that could be close to it concept wise.

This isn't the Longhorn era - if Microsoft are showing it, it's real, and probably 90% of the final deliverable is there. I just hope there's a transparency option for a little consistency - Taskbar is, Start Menu isn't, Start Screen is...?!!?

Talking of Longhorn era... those icons, "wretch" - please MS, we know you listen...

Romero said,
We have NO idea either way. All you and others have stated is pure speculation. Let's wait for more definite news before propagating a particular rumor.

You can call it speculation from me but I've heard the same from those who you'd think are in the know, like MJF who has said as much. Only time will tell.

Dot Matrix said,
Looks decent, but those Windows 7 icons, and those god awful folder trees are killing it.

Have to agree. It's now a total clash of two very different design philosophies. Hopefully some unification work will be done in time for the update being released.

Dot Matrix said,
Looks decent, but those Windows 7 icons, and those god awful folder trees are killing it.

Ok, I can get the old icons.. but you dislike having the ability to organize your shortcuts? Aside from the fact that you can drop them all in one giant messy pile if that's your thing, but some of us have hundreds of shortcuts.. the wall of icons thing is extremely counter-productive. I expect that sort of thing on a phone.. but on a PC that's a huge step backwards. Great for the live tiles for the frequent stuff, not so much when you have to go hunting for something. Never mind you'll lose out on jumplists as well, another thing the 8.0 menu did away with which was stupidly handy.

Max Norris said,

Ok, I can get the old icons.. but you dislike having the ability to organize your shortcuts? Aside from the fact that you can drop them all in one giant messy pile if that's your thing,

Messy and they all flow together. The current start screen and how they have programs/tiles listed is a PITA. The title for each icon group is the same color and same text size. Nothing stands out. I dont know how they decided this was an efficient means of organizing your program list.

Max Norris said,

Ok, I can get the old icons.. but you dislike having the ability to organize your shortcuts? Aside from the fact that you can drop them all in one giant messy pile if that's your thing, but some of us have hundreds of shortcuts.. the wall of icons thing is extremely counter-productive. I expect that sort of thing on a phone.. but on a PC that's a huge step backwards. Great for the live tiles for the frequent stuff, not so much when you have to go hunting for something. Never mind you'll lose out on jumplists as well, another thing the 8.0 menu did away with which was stupidly handy.

Folder trees are awful for organization in their current state. If they only went one level down, I wouldn't have so much of an issue with them, but when you're asking users to click into folders of folders just to find something, then that's not right. An application launcher shouldn't be hiding things like that.

techbeck said,
Messy and they all flow together. The current start screen and how they have programs/tiles listed is a PITA. The title for each icon group is the same color and same text size. Nothing stands out.

Exactly -- don't get me wrong, I really do like the "front" of the current start screen, but the back is just awful, especially if you like to keep your menu organized and not just dropped into a massive pile like it was a phone.
Dot Matrix said,
Folder trees are awful for organization in their current state. If they only went one level down, I wouldn't have so much of an issue with them, but when you're asking users to click into folders of folders just to find something, then that's not right. An application launcher shouldn't be hiding things like that.

So throw them all in one folder if that's your thing. Thankfully you're allowed to use it as you see fit as I personally think that's an awful means of organization. You're also forgetting by default a program typically sets itself up at the root of the menu anyway.. so it's up to the user to decide where he wants them to be. Where's the problem?

It is my hope (probably never to be realized) that Microsoft would set their UI team on Windows Desktop to revamp all the icons and graphics and common dialogs and such to bring the styling in line with the rest of the Desktop and the Modern UI... flatter, fresher, more in sync with everything else (like the window border styles, the new Office icons, etc.).

Being able to nest folders and organize shortcuts in them is one of the advantages of the start menu for desktop users (in addition to the recently opened files on the MFU program links).

This is a great example of why a hybrid UI can be such a mess. I suggest this -
1. Keyboard windows button and mouseclick on the start button brings up the start
menu
2. Hardware start button (i.e. tablet) and swipe in from right start button brings up metro start (make changes to metro all programs so that it has better distinguishing labels/fonts for each folder and it's subfolders but automatically flattens the view so all folder contents are visible)

That would be acceptable.

How about 1 click for the mini-screen/menu and two clicks for the full one? Or left-click for one/right-click for the other?

Dot Matrix said,
How about just one, unified screen? Why complicate matters.

Which is already there, nobody said they're doing away with the current implementation, never mind this new one wouldn't be terribly useful on a mobile device.. I have 7 running on a tablet, it works but obviously the start menu is far from ideal there. How about letting people pick what's best for them? It'll probably show up as an option like in the previous versions of Windows, new or classic start menu.

In other words, leave things alone? Works for me - I like the Screen.

I was just responding to the hardware-based selection idea. Not everyone who uses a mouse & keyboard prefers the menu, after all.

We need to be able to choose whichever one works best for us.

And I agree with that. I prefer the menu and would be perfectly fine if my way was an option that was easily toggled on/off. Choice, MS!

I like how this accelerated development initiative is actually making a difference. In the past you would have to wait for major new versions in order to get such sweeping changes but they are now coming thick and fast. Now I just hope they have proper high dpi support coming soon.

Good job, Microsoft.

Perfect.. live tiles and the flexibility of the drilldown menu at the same time. Best of both worlds, can't wait for this one.

I like it too. Only thing that'd irritate me a bit would be the blank space when a new Live Tile column is added and there aren't enough tiles to fill it yet. But that might just be me, I'm kinda OCD like that. :)

This is old news, we've already had an article about it...

I wonder how the transition between windowed metro apps and snapped desktop/metro app works.

Please explain me how this is old news if they released a video just last week. Quit complaining... Other articles were pretty much rumors. Now at least they showed us what Start button will do and how everything will look like.

webeagle12 said,
Now at least they showed us what Start button will do and how everything will look like.
Which could still very much change though.

webeagle12 said,
Please explain me how this is old news if they released a video just last week. Quit complaining... Other articles were pretty much rumors. Now at least they showed us what Start button will do and how everything will look like.

Because there already was on article ON NEOWIN about this very feature with a screenshot of this video.

nice default for desktop users while keeping the tiles and modern apps in the ecosystem. still, I'm not sure that the live tiles should be there since they don't serve much purpose now. They may as well be just static icons.

what would be nice would be to bring the lives tiles to the desktop. maybe review the old "widgets" from vista but this time they are modern apps capable of doing actual stuff.

neonspark said,
still, I'm not sure that the live tiles should be there since they don't serve much purpose now. They may as well be just static icons.

Sure they serve a purpose.. showing live information as they were intended to. Far cry from a static icon, which is what the left side is for anyway.

It's awesome for sure. One thing I was thinking of is instead of having the menu show up vertically, to have it show the tiles horizontally for people with wide screen monitors. Also would be cool to have the tiles have more functionality and act as widgets, kind of like the gadgets in the Windows SideBar from long, long ago. I miss that thing.

Also, not the build number 9600, clearly Windows 8.1 still. Anyway, I wonder how they will handel the start menu and screen now.

I reckon, either:-

a) You get the option to chose between Start Menu & Start Screen.
b) Pressing the Start Button gives you the Start Menu. Then hitting the old "All Programs" link will take you to the Start Screen. Windows Key/Button goes straight to Start Screen from anywhere.

For tablets though it'll be hardcoded to be Start Screen only.

It will most certainly be an option for everyone. No major features of windows itself are left out, even if the device is an ARM tablet.

TheShark said,
For tablets though it'll be hardcoded to be Start Screen only.
Proof for this silly assertion, that too at this early stage?

Why is it silly?

Plus I said "I reckon", so there's no proof. I really don't see why you'd want anything but the full Start Screen on a tablet though.

TheShark said,
Plus I said "I reckon"
Your "reckon" sure didn't look like it applied to anything other than either of the two points, since you clearly said "For tablets though it'll be hardcoded to be Start Screen only". Anyway, if I always use a mouse or have the tablet docked for any length of time to a larger screen why shouldn't I be able to use the Start Menu instead? It should definitely be a choice on all devices.

TheShark said,

For tablets though it'll be hardcoded to be Start Screen only.

Because you clearly have ZERO idea of what you are talking about.
My bet is, you have never owned a tablet much less seen one.

ass-u-me much?

Note to a lot of the rest of you who most certainly have absolutely No Clue what so ever you are talking about claiming Win8 is a flawed OS.

A:} most likely you have never used it
B:} your a follower of sudo-techno jurnos who have no clue what they are talking about
C:} you are just plain clueless
D:} You have zero capacity to relearn a better way to actually interact with Windows.

Windows 8 is not flawed. The OS over all is extremely solid, faster than Win7 and more reliable over all. Actually quicker to navigate as well. Can't help when people screw with their systems and break things, cause let's face it, everyone who thinks that they can setup a Facebook account, figures how hard can it be to fix a PC?, or make it run proper, or make sure you have to proper hardware, or make sure you are buying from a proper OEM and Model that can actually handle it? Not buying garbage systems, cheapo specials?

BTW, I have Win8.1.1 running flawless on a 4 year old Laptop and a 7 year old Desktop
So please save the fud and hyperbole.

The problem is not Windows 8, the problem is PEBKAC.

With all that said,, I will add, that the changes they are potentially going to make, may be nice changes. And I am not against them in anyway
If what they showed at Build is what we will get, then I am very excited.
They will be extremely nice additions to the OS in general.

It is what I have asked for myself many times.

Not because there is anything wrong with how Win8.x is now
but because it would add to the richness of the experience as a whole.

Yes, I like what exists now in Win8.x, but wanting more is not a bad thing.

lomas said,
I still prefer the classic start menu... :D

That's okay, you can install Start 8 or ClassicShell for that! :)

No, he was referring to the promo where you buy the Windows 8 upgrade for $40 if you already had an existing Windows license (Windows XP, 7)

TAKEITBILL said,
cheap price?
they are free.


IF you read, he was referring to Windows 8.0. When windows 8 first got released, Microsoft had promotion to upgrade to Windows 8.0 for $40 from previous windows.

webeagle12 said,
yeah but that why they offered upgrades for cheap price :p
Yea but it's already been out for 19 months and the patch for the start menu is not out yet, that's a long time to be forced to use a flawed system (that depends on your opinion of course, a strong minority of people like the silly screen)

If you feel you're being "forced" to use the Start Screen then revert to Win7 or just download Classic Shell or Start8 or StartIsBack or ...

webeagle12 said,


IF you read, he was referring to Windows 8.0. When windows 8 first got released, Microsoft had promotion to upgrade to Windows 8.0 for $40 from previous windows.

I took advantage of this promo! w00t!

Rudy said,
That's how it should have been in Win 8.0

I'm still going to be using the Start Screen and not understand why you don't want the space and organization of a full screen. But I'm still happy for you all :)

brianshapiro said,
I'm still going to be using the Start Screen and not understand why you don't want the space and organization of a full screen. But I'm still happy for you all :)

... and yet people say there are no aliens!!! :) here is one!