A couple of months ago we wrote about a free Windows 8 Start Menu that provided the basic features you’d need from a Start Menu app. While it was extremely customizable I wouldn’t say it was my preferred style given how accustomed I have grown to the Windows Vista/7 Start Menu over the years. Stardock is cleverly making a Windows 7-style Start Menu for Windows 8 users, but it will cost $4.99 to snag a non-beta release later this year. The good news is that there is a free option that is amazingly good.
IObit’s StartMenu8 provides a familiar and polished Start Menu interface in Windows 8 for free. Searching for apps and files is as fast and seamless as it is in Windows 7. Expanding the “All Programs” will result in a list of apps being displayed right in the Start Menu, which is precisely what you’d expect.
The app isn’t without its flaws though. A good example of this is when pinning items to the Start Menu. You can easily pin any shortcut that appears in the “All Programs” list to the Start Menu, but you’re out of luck if you want to add something that lives outside of there. Searching for and right-clicking on files doesn’t present the “Pin to Start” option you need, and you can’t drag-and-drop items onto the Start icon either. I can live with that though since I tend to pin my favorite apps to the Taskbar anyway.
StartMenu8, like all similar apps, has a Skip Metro Screen option that is enabled by default, but can be disabled by right-clicking on the Start icon. With this option enabled you will boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop rather than the tile interface, but when starting your computer you’ll still see the tiles for a few seconds before it kicks over to the desktop. So you aren’t able to completely break away from the flagship Windows 8 tile interface… at least not yet.