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Windows 10 Start menus: Start10 vs. Classic Shell

Woody Leonhard | Aug. 20, 2015
The best Windows 8 Start menu replacements bring their Win7-inspired magic to Windows 10. Which should you choose?

While Windows 10 has a phone book view of the All Apps list, with tiles for each letter of the alphabet, the fundamental lack of a hierarchy makes the whole thing unwieldy. Heaven help you if you forget that Paint is listed under "W" for "Windows Accessory."

The Classic Shell approach

Developer Ivaylo Beltchev and his team have put a lot of effort into Classic Shell since its release in 2009. It was once an open source product, but Beltchev converted it to freeware after he discovered people were selling it with little or no modification.

Installing Classic Shell couldn’t be simpler. You get a screen (Figure 3) with options to bring back a Windows XP-style Start menu and intermediate two-column menu, or the full-featured Windows 7 look-alike.

If you choose all the defaults, you get a Windows 10 Start menu that’s very similar to the Windows 7 Start menu, sitting on top of the Windows 10 taskbar. (See Figure 4.)

Windows 10 Start menu
Figure 3. The Classic Shell Start installation menu.

The entries on the left should be immediately obvious to most Windows 7 users, although there’s a quick link to the stock Windows 10 Start menu on top. You can pin additional programs to the top of the left side of the Start menu, just as you can in Windows 7, by simply dragging the program (or folder) to the top left and releasing.

Windows 10 Start menu
Figure 4. Windows 7 fans will breathe a sigh of relief.

Cortana remains unchanged. The Windows 10 search bar/Cortana still sits at the bottom, to the right of the Start icon, and it’s fully functional. But if you type a search string in the “Search programs and files” box, you get a real, live, old-fashioned search of your computer, not a far-flung Cortana/Bing-fueled search of every matching bit of flotsam on the Internet.

Remarkably, you can pin universal tiled apps to the top of the Start menu. Microsoft Edge, for example, “pins to Start” in all the usual ways. With a click and drag or a right click, you can move it up underneath Start Menu (Windows).

The All Programs link (Figure 5) brings back a bit of nostalgia, with fully customizable, nested menu items.

Windows 10 Start menu
Figure 5. All Programs shows a full, customizable hierarchy.

The entries in the All Programs menu have all the smarts they had in Windows 7. You can drag and drop them anywhere; pin them to the Start menu itself or to the taskbar; or rename or delete them. You can create new folders in the All Programs section (right-click any folder, choose New, Folder), then move apps from one folder to another. Once you move an entry somewhere, it stays put, so you can have Microsoft Office 2013 open up to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, in any order you pick, and stuff all the lesser Office thingies into a rarely opened subfolder.


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