Windows 8 Why the Start Menu’s Absence is Irrelevant

Editorial Although every product deserves healthy criticism, many opinions of Windows 8 seem to be based on misconceptions, especially when it comes to the viability of Metro as a Start menu replacement.

For the record, I don’t care if you skip the update — hell, I might even pass it — nor do I care if it’s the most failed operating system in Windows’ 26-year history. Although some anonymous posters may try to convince you otherwise, I see nothing to gain or lose from the launch of Windows 8.

However, I believe that your opinion should be formed by facts, not irrational rhetoric online by so-called power users and companies that want to sell you third party programs. I can say without a doubt that many people who opposed the removal of the Start Menu have not even used Windows 8, yet they do not hesitate to inform you about the inadequacy of Metro by listing all the features. We do. The truth is, functionally speaking, Metro is basically the same as the Start Menu.

The Start menu serves as a means of quick navigation. With a mouse click or keystroke you can access a list of your most used and pinned applications, common Windows destinations, as well as the ability to quickly find other programs and files. All of the above is true for Metro. By clicking a single location or tapping the same key, you’ll get a list of your most used and pinned applications, common Windows destinations, and the ability to search system-wide.

There’s a difference in Metro’s fullscreen, tiled presentation, which is a bit irritating until you get used to it. Aesthetics aside (I guess it’s ugly too), opponents say Metro hinders multitasking because it blocks the vision of the desktop—a sound argument until it encounters reality. Again, we’re talking about Metro strictly as a Start menu successor and I don’t know about you, but when I access the Start menu, it’s a matter of three seconds: I open the menu. and I click on a program.

Metro is no different. Assuming it’s used to launch programs, I don’t see what you can do in the subway for so long that it feels like an obstacle. Likewise, I don’t understand what you can do in desktop mode that is so important that it can’t be covered for a few seconds. If your workload is so urgent, it probably deserves a dedicated display so it’s always visible. What’s more, the act of opening a new application seems to suggest that you’re somehow inviting distractions or shifting tasks.

In fact, one could argue that Metro improves multitasking and reduces interruptions. Live tiles show dynamically updated data with early examples including weather, finance, and calendar apps. It also seems reasonable to expect popular utilities such as those that monitor hardware usage and network traffic to be available. Metro can update you on a slew of information at a glance, while the really distracting things you don’t want to see constantly refresh in desktop gadgets or system tray icons.

Even if you don’t use Live Tiles, the fact that Metro is fullscreen shouldn’t hinder multitasking, as it should be fast and easy to find what you’re looking for. The Start menu shows 10 applications by default with support for up to 30 and if your desired program is not offered immediately, you will have to delve deeper into the list of all programs. This is less likely to happen in Metro as it can have more than 100 tiles (I didn’t bother to count further) 84 showing up on my 1080p monitor at once.

It’s also worth noting that you can run Windows 8 without ever opening Metro – I haven’t used it once for external testing. I also rarely use the start menu. Both are inferior to third-party apps like Launchy. It’s interesting to me that “power users” should be most able to embrace life without the Start menu, yet they’re breaking the news harder than everyone else. Windows never has been, and likely never will be out of the box. Windows 8 is no different: you’ll have to tweak things to your liking.

While I get tired of the senseless cursing, Microsoft is not without fault. Being the biggest change in Windows 8 and part of its forward-looking strategy, the company has put most of its marketing efforts behind Metro and its mobile-oriented features, where many people think Metro is Windows 8. is not true. If you avoid Metro—which, again, is pretty handy—Windows 8 is essentially a refined version of Windows 7, in the same way that 7 was a refined version of Vista.

For better or worse, Windows is on most of the world’s PCs and it will have tons of features for years to come.

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