I have seen several third party Windows 8 Start Menu replacement programs during the preview stage of Windows 8 over the past year. The one I have always liked the most is Start 8 from Stardock. Now, the company has a new beta version that’s been redesigned, and it’s the best Start Menu replacement for the Windows 8 desktop I have used yet.
When Stardock last updated Start8, it included the ability to bypass the Windows 8 Start screen and bring you directly into the desktop. It still has that feature, and has been redesigned to really look and feel like the traditional Start menu in Windows 7.
Here’s an example of it running on the Windows 8 Pro RTM.
Select All Programs and you’ll have access to traditional desktop and Modern Style Windows 8 apps.
Start8 brings back the familiarity you’re accustomed to with the Windows 7 Start Menu, including the search box – much easier than going to the Start Screen to do a search.
Of course clicking on a Modern Style (formerly called Metro Style) app will open it in that interface. For example here I’m opening the Windows 8 App Store.
Then just hit the Windows Key to get back to the desktop.
It still gives you the option to customize the look of the Start Button as well.
The new Start8 version is currently in Beta stage and it’s free. It’s not clear yet if it will still be free when the final version is ready. If you’re annoyed about there not being a Start Menu in Windows 8, and want a solid and familiar replacement, I highly recommend Start8 over any of the other options out there.