A number of readers have recently asked me about the viability of my comments about the Start menu in Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference. There are a number of stories that make it seem as if Microsoft is adding the Start menu back into Windows 8.1. You’ll see article titles such as, “Windows 8.1 set to bring back the Start button” online. It’s only when you start reading the details in the article that you realize that the title is misleading at best—someone with Microsoft marketing might well have written it. The fact is, if you want Start menu functionality in Windows 8 or 8.1, you still need a third party product such as ViStart. I discuss the updated features of this product in my ViStart Updates post.
In order to get a better idea of just how Windows 8.1 changes things, you need to read articles such as “Leaked Windows 8.1 Build 9374 disappoints Start button fans.” I’ll also be providing updates as readers ask specific questions and more information about Windows 8.1 becomes available. Remember that Windows 8.1 won’t be released until late this year (assuming Microsoft remains on schedule).
So far, my take on Windows 8.1 is that it doesn’t change much—it mainly fixes problems or addresses fit and finish issues. For example, a lot of people rightfully complained about being able to display only one or two apps on screen. (After all, this is a step backward compared to Windows 7.) Even with Windows 8.1, the ability to view more apps on a single screen will only work when your device has sufficient resolution (a minimum of 1366 pixels in Windows 8). The new version is supposed to let you view up to four apps at a time, but it sounds as if you need a high resolution display to do it. It does appear that you’ll at least be able to split the screen as long as you have a 1024 × 768 display, but this really isn’t much of a help.
There are some window dressing changes as well, which I won’t address until I see an updated beta. In addition, Windows 8.1 could work on other platforms. The point is, the Windows 8 book you have in your hands now should work just fine with Windows 8.1 as well. I’ll provide updates on the blog after Microsoft releases Windows 8.1. In the meantime, don’t believe all the rumors you see online. Windows 8.1 is an incremental release, much as the version number states. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns about the book content at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.
In Part 2 (page 62) of Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference I discuss a Start menu replacement application named ViStart. The basic reason that ViStart attracted my attention is that it provides the means for getting the Start menu back. Getting rid of the Start menu causes productivity issues for most users, especially users who have worked with older versions of Windows for a long time. ViStart is only one of several such offerings. I chose it for the book because you can download it and try it out on your system. It also provides one of the best experiences in getting the Start menu back.
Since the release of the book, LeeSoft has made some useful update to ViStart. The quick list of changes is:
- Control Panel Added
- Ability to disable and enable these Windows 8 desktop features:
- Disable hot corners
- Disable charms bar
- Skip Metro automatically when booting the system
- Change skins at runtime using the Control Panel
- Change Start button at runtime using the Control Panel
- More context menus when you right click files in Start menu
- Fixed the problem that prevented pinning folders to the Start menu
- It’s now possible to drag and drop frequent programs to and from ViStart
- Pin to ViStart added to Windows file context menu
- More control over what the ViStart start orb does
- Show the ViStart menu
- Show the original Metro menu
- More control over what both Windows keys do with ViStart open
- Show the ViStart menu
- Show the original Metro menu
- Context menu for navigation pane items
- Rename navigation pane items
- Rename documents
- Hide/show items (to show a hidden item, go to control panel)
- Toggle navigation pane option to show as a file menu or to show up in an explorer window, like “Recent” in the normal Windows Start menu
- More stable, ViStart doesn’t crash as much as it did before
- ViStart has optional offset y and x properties for Start menu skins. When ViStart doesn’t appear in the correct position, you can offset the Start menu using this feature
- Install new skins with ease, ViStart no longer needs to be restarted to identify new skins
- Drag a pinned folder from the frequent programs to the navigation pane and ViStart will add it as a new navigation pane item
- More control over how the Start menu appears
- Toggle show program menu first instead of frequently used programs
- Toggle user picture
- Added Show Metro to the pinned program list
- Added Show Metro Apps to the pinned program list
- Added default program listing for fresh installs (such as Notepad and Command Prompt)
That’s a substantial number of changes. All of these new features should greatly improve your experience with Windows 8. You can see a video that explains the updates further on YouTube.
While nothing can make the Windows 8 experience precisely the same as using Windows 7, working with add-on products does help considerably. In fact, I discuss add-ons as part of my article entitled, “8 Ways to Reduce User Training Costs for Windows 8.” Let me know about your add-on experience at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.
I’ve just completed my 90th book, Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference. This isn’t an in depth book designed to teach you everything there is to know about Windows 8 and the new Metro interface—instead, it provides you with an overview of most features and detailed procedures for working with the features that people will use most often. While writing this book, I looked online through various newsgroups for issues people have been encountering, checked out all of the latest news stories, and ensured I kept up-to-date on stories directly from Microsoft in the Building Windows 8 blog. As a consequence, this book contains input from all of the sources you’d check out if you had the time to do so. In addition, my beta readers and editors have done a phenomenal job of providing just the right input (thanks to everyone involved).
So, why do you need this book? Anyone who is updating from a current version of Windows to Windows 8 is going to find the Metro interface extremely confusing. It doesn’t work like the old interface and you’ll even find that the Start menu is missing. Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference is going to make it possible for you to become productive in an incredibly short time. I focused on the essentials in this book. The book’s arrangement makes it easy to find a specific item of interest quickly. The book content is arranged into the following parts:
- The Big Picture: Windows 8
- Part 1: Navigating the Metro Interface
- Part 2: Navigating the Desktop Interface
- Part 3: Using the Standard Applications
- Part 4: Working with Gadgets
- Part 5: Using Internet Explorer
- Part 6: Configuring Your System
- Part 7: Interacting with External Devices
- Part 8: Accessing the Network
- Part 9: Performing Administrative Tasks
As you can see, I’ve hit all of the highlights. Anyone who is already using an earlier version of Windows will want this book to get going quickly. Believe me, the Windows 8 interface is going to prove to be a major hurdle for adoption (something noted by almost every beta reader as well). If you’d rather be working than figuring out the interface, get a copy of my book!
I’ve assumed that there is going to be a strong interest in getting your current applications working in the Windows 8 environment, so there is only one chapter devoted to the Metro interface, along with mentions of it in other chapters. In fact, I even show you how to get around the lack of a Start menu (something I found particularly annoying while using Windows 8) using ViStart from Lee-Soft. Using ViStart definitely makes the Windows 8 environment friendlier to those of us who didn’t really want the Metro interface. You do find out how to work with Metro apps in this book, but it’s not a major topic because it will be a while before people start heavily investing in Metro apps (look for future posts in the Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference category for updates on using Metro apps).
Don’t worry, this book also discusses how to use touch to perform tasks and I even cover all of the keyboard shortcuts for those of you who prefer the keyboard over the mouse. In short, there is something in this book for everyone. Please let me know if you have any questions about my new book at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, happy reading!