Clearly one of the biggest changes needed with Windows 10 was with the Start Menu. In Windows 8 the number one problem many had with it was the Start Screen. It was a Start Menu that took up the whole screen. If you were working on the desktop, having to open this screen obliterating menu just wasn’t practical.
I actually liked it, but it took me awhile to get comfortable with it. The hidden charms menu and other hidden things took getting used to, but I made it work. However, when you think about a good operating system, having to find a way to “make it work” isn’t worth the trouble for most users.
In Windows 10 they have reworked the old Windows 7 Start Menu to include much of what people are used to with that menu but added in a smaller version of the Start Screen. In its current state it is a cross between Windows 8 and Windows 7. It has the menu down the side and you can choose to display apps to the right. The whole menu can also be enlarged to near full-screen (always retaining the taskbar unlike in Windows 8) so you can view more apps if you so choose.
Overall it works pretty well. Some of the live tiles don’t work for me for the apps, plus the menu stays open even if I click somewhere else on the desktop (possibly a bug since sometimes it does hide again). The menu has two categories on the left, Places and Most Used. The places category has 3 listings, File Explorer, Documents and Settings (the Modern version of control panel). Most Used obviously will vary as you use your apps – though only seems to reflect Modern app usage.
Finally there is an All Apps option in the bottom left where you get all your apps and programs in an alphabetical listing. You cannot currently jump to a certain letter of the alphabet (no doubt this will be added in the future) but it works pretty well with its inline listing (sometimes you have folder listings one level deep). The folder icons look like crap and some non-Modern icons don’t look so good since they may be desktop ones made to look Modern.
You can change the background color of the whole Start Menu as well and it is said that transparency will be supported in the future. In the upper left you have your account picture (a circular photo) and account name. This is more than looks, it is a menu for signing out and switching users who are logged in. Also on this menu is a power icon with choices to sleep, re-start and shutdown. I guarantee many are happy to see that, though personally for me I got used to doing it the Windows 8 way. Finally there is an additional icon that makes the menu go full screen or return to one-quarter screen (not sure what to call it) – “normal” size.
The apps section you can group together pretty well and rename each section. The way the tiles line up is better than on Windows 8. They don’t automatically try to line up a certain way. You can put them how you want. There is an ellipsis that lets you easily drag groups around as well. It also scrolls vertically, which is welcome from the style of Windows 8.
The current state of the Start Menu should be a welcome change for most people coming from Windows 8. It took me far less time to get used to it than the Windows 8 Start Screen since it is a more natural move from the Windows 7 menu (which I use at work). It is true it may change some more during the Tech Preview or forthcoming Consumer Preview, but should be a happy middle ground for most. Yes there will be things some won’t like, as in alphabetized programs, or they want to get rid of apps but the menu doesn’t shrink; but it is still early, some things could change.
One final note on the menu. You may notice it doesn’t have a Search bar like Windows 7. Well yes it does, but it is called Cortana and it is right next to the Start Button. I’ll look at this next as it is integral to using Windows.