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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?

start tiles scrabble
Credit: flickr/JakeandLindsay Sherbert

Most every longtime Windows user knows the sad saga of the lowly Start menu. Born as a button in Windows 95, modified in XP and Vista, and blossoming into its most usable form in Windows 7, the Start menu anchored the Windows UI until Microsoft foolishly discarded it with Windows 8, sparking an entire cottage industry of third-party replacements. Now two of the leading makers of Start menu alternatives for Windows 8 have released counterparts for Windows 10.

Do you need a replacement Start menu for Windows 10? Some users will find the Windows 10 Start menu to be good enough, but many won’t. Many Windows aficionados yearn for the Windows 7 Start menu, and the two products reviewed here strive to give it to them, pasted on top of Windows 10.

Classic Shell concentrates on providing a close-to-exact replica of Windows 7, and it’s free (formerly open source, now freeware). Start10, from Stardock, takes a few liberties with the Win7 look, which you may or may not like, and costs $5. Both hide the live tiles unless you expressly ask for them. Plus, they throttle Cortana and add custom cascading windows to the All Apps list. Both let you drop back to the Win10 Start menu with a single click.

What’s wrong with Windows 10 Start?

Many users will have no problems at all with Windows 10’s Start menu, shown in Figure 1.

Windows 10 Start menu
Figure 1. The Windows 10 Start menu in a fresh install.

What’s not to like?

First, the live tiles on the right look a lot like advertising (in many cases, they are), and their movement is distracting. You can unpin all of the tiles (right-click), but when you do, you’re left with an ugly black strip that can’t be removed. The Win10 Start menu can be resized, but only in fixed-size blocks.

Windows 10 Start menu
Figure 2. The All Apps list keeps going and going and going.

Second, there is a woeful lack of customization. You can create tiles for programs or folders among the tiles on the right (right-click and choose Pin to Start), but changes on the left side are limited to a list of items that can be added to the bottom of the menu: Start, Settings, Personalization, Start, Choose which folders appear on Start. What you see here is basically what you get.

Finally, the All Apps list on the left is an unmanageable one-dimensional mess, as you can see from the shot of Office 2013, as installed on a bone-stock copy of Windows 10 (Figure 2). You can’t move the entries or slide them underneath other header entries. You can’t even delete them without deleting the app itself.


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