More than a dozen different companies and individuals have created programs that bring back the start menu to Windows 8. What set my favorite replacement Stardock's Start8 apart from the rest was the integration of Windows Store Apps in the start menu, which all the other start menu alternatives did not offer.
This changed with the most recent release of Classic Shell, an Open Source program that is bringing back features to Windows that Microsoft has removed. It is more than a start menu replacement, as it can also take care of Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer on systems it is installed on. You can however select to only add or replace the start menu on your system if you prefer that.
When you have installed the latest version of Classic Shell or updated your existing installation, you will immediately notice the new Apps folder in the start menu. The folder lists all Windows Store apps that are installed on the computer. A click on one of the apps loads it just like any other program on the system.
Classic Shell recognizes new app installations or removals automatically and changes the start menu accordingly to reflect those changes so that you always work with an up to date listing of apps in the start menu.
The search covers both classic programs and new Windows Store apps and will display suggestions the moment you start typing. The programs folder lists all desktop applications installed on the system plus links to the Windows Store to quickly open the store on the start screen.
You can remove or move the Apps folder in the program options if you do not want it to be displayed in the start menu at all. The program is versatile in this regard, making available a number of options to change which items the start menu displays. You can for instance use it to remove shut down items or system folders that you never use from the start menu.
The program maps the Windows-key to the start menu and Shift-Windows-key to the original start screen of the Windows 8 operating system. You can change that and other features in the - extensive - preferences the program makes available. Here you can for instance change the start menu style to Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, change the look and feel of the start menu button, or change the skin of the start menu.
The integration of apps shortcuts in the start menu is a big step for the project as it sets it apart from the majority of programs that aim to bring the start menu back to Windows 8. Definitely a step in the right direction and something that moves the program right next to Start8 in terms of functionality.
You can download the latest version of Classic Shell from the official project homepage over at Sourceforge.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.