Windows 8–Why the Start button and menu are gone

With the public release a few days ago many users may – or probably will – be frustrated when they find that in the Desktop mode there is no longer a Start button or menu. The start button has long been a subject of discussion/criticism from a usability point of view and has had minor changes over the years. With the introduction of the live tile screen in Windows 8 and the removal of the start menu from the Desktop view it’s time to step back and think of why Microsoft have gone with this approach and specifically why is there no start menu when you’re viewing the desktop.

When I first started using Windows 8 a few month ago, I used to describe it to friends and people I talk to as ‘Windows 7’ plus ‘touch’. However, over time I have come to realise that I was completely wrong. If you look carefully you will realise that Windows 8 is a new era the Microsoft operation systems and is not an add-on to Windows 7 to enable touch capability. This is why I think Microsoft are correct when they say that Windows 8 is windows reimagined and the changes in the start screen/menu are a reflection of how this is the case.

Look at the screen below and think about the steps you need to take to get to desktop mode.

You start your laptop/tablet/surface PC and the first thing you see is the new live tiles touch enabled screen from which you have an ‘icon’ – tile – through which you get to Desktop mode. Now if you think about this for a second you’ll realise that in this instance Desktop mode is just a different viewwhich enables you to continue to do some functions in the same way you did before. An easier way to think of it – though not technically true – is that Desktop mode is just another app that you can use in Windows 8 and with both of these two points in mind I think this is precisely why Microsoft removed the Start button and menu from the Desktop view. It’s the only way to move forward! If like me you used to use the start menu to access some common functions quickly like admin tasks then don’t panic! There is still a way to quickly do that as mentioned in my Where’s my start button post.

So why is removing the start menu and button from the desktop view the only way to move forward then? Well, imagine what would happen if it was still there in Windows 8. If it was, then it would literally mean that you have 2 operating systems bundled together serving the needs of two separate types of customers. Now that approach may make a lot of people happy but it certainly wouldn’t help Microsoft transition to the future because you could end up having some Windows 8 users that never actually use or see all the new stuff and that defeats the purpose of all the new changes. This is one reason I think Microsoft created the Windows RT version that doesn’t run any of the old legacy apps but still provide the Desktop view in Windows RT which allows you to run Office 2013.

Time to forget the past and embrace the future, the start button and screen have certainly come a long way since the early days. The windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and X-Box 360’s unified experience is the way of the future and before you know it the Desktop view is eventually going to be retired!