More than a dozen different start menu programs have been created which all add a start menu back to Microsoft's newest operating system Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Depending on which program you install, you may have access to other features that improve the usability of the operating system.
The release of StartIsBack+ today introduces one of the coolest features yet: the display of the Windows taskbar on the Start Screen.
StartIsBack+ has been designed for Windows 8.1 exclusively, which means that you cannot use it on Windows 8. That's not that much of a problem though, considering that all Windows 8 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free in October 2013.
Once you have installed StartIsBack+ on Windows 8.1, you are greeted with a screen that informs you about some of the features that it introduces.
Note: The program is not free. You can try it for 30-days without restrictions. It reverts to a basic mode afterwards that is not that useful. You can buy a personal license for two computer systems for $3, which is a reasonable price, or a 5 PC license for $5.
Existing StartIsBack users do not need to buy a new license. It will work on StartIsBack for Windows 8 and StartIsBack+ for Windows 8.1.
StartIsBack+ for Windows 8.1
The taskbar is just one of the features that the program adds to Windows 8.1, but it is definitely one of the better ones, as you can access taskbar programs right away from the operating system's start screen.
The program ships with four different start menu designs that you can choose from. Plain8 is the default selection, but you can also select one that resembles the Windows 7 start menu style, and two that use Aero.
You can tap on the Windows-key to open the start menu, or Ctrl-Windows to open the Start screen. Those settings can be modified in the options:
- When I log on to my PC: Show Desktop, or Show Start Screen.
- When I close modern apps: Switch to the last used environment, or Switch to Desktop, or Switch to Start Screen.
- When I press Windows key: Show Start Menu, or Show Start Screen, or do nothing.
- When I press windows key+CTRL: Show Start Screen, or Show Start Menu, or do nothing.
- When I hold Windows key: Do nothing, or Show everything at once (focus charms), or Show everything at once (focus search).
- All screen corners are active on the desktop.
- Enable top screen edge (snap).
- Enable top-left screen corner (started apps).
- Enable top-right screen corner (charms bar).
- Enable bottom-right screen corner (charms bar).
- Enable bottom-left screen corner (Start Screen).
- All screen corners are active on secondary monitors.
And this is just one of the configuration screens StartIsBack+ offers. When you switch to Start Menu, you get the following options:
- My Programs: use large icons, display Start Screen shortcut, Display frequently used Modern apps.
- All Programs: Sort items by name, Display folders before items, Display as flyout menu (Windows XP style).
- General: Highlight newly installed programs, Open submenus when I pause on them with the mouse pointer, Display Start menu adjacent to vertical taskbar.
- Search: Search programs and settings, Search public folders.
- Right side items: Display user folder, custom folders.
- Power button default action: shut down.
You will find other options in the configuration. Here you can disable the recording of recently closed programs and items, whether you want to enable shared corners between multiple monitors, or modify the start menus' look and feel in detail.
The coolest feature by far is the integration of the taskbar on the Windows 8.1 start screen. It is a simply thing but it improves the usability quite a bit. You are probably wondering what is happening when you start modern apps on the start screen. The taskbar fades away so that apps use all of the screen by default.
If you are running a multi-monitor setup, you will benefit from other features that StartIsBack+ offers. This includes a start menu button on each monitor, options to disable hot corners between monitors so that you do not open them all the time when you are moving the mouse cursor from one monitor to the other, and options to selectively disable hot corners that you do not need.