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Windows 10 – The Start Menu

The Start Menu is Baaack!
Window 10 is here! July 29, 2015, marks the start of a new era for Microsoft and, in turn, for millions of PC users worldwide. Microsoft Windows has come a long way since evolving out of the DOS days, and Windows 10 brings some great new features to the modern computer. One of the most astonishing aspects of Windows 10 is the price tag; if you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Home or Pro versions) you can get a legal, licensed upgrade to Windows 10 without paying a dime! And you’ve got until July 2016 to make take advantage of the free upgrade offer.

In these next few blog posts, I want to tell you about some of the great new features you’ll be enjoying in Microsoft’s latest offering. In this first article, we welcome back and old friend – the start menu!
 
windows 10 start menu
 

A Start Menu History

The Start Menu was introduced in Windows 95 (20 years ago!) and it was a very controversial move when it was removed from Windows 8, and replaced with the “Start Screen.” This change felt foreign and jarring to many people and so user adoption from Windows 7 was slow. In fact, some users even used third-party applications to hack Windows 8 to act more like Windows 7. Well, all of that is a thing of the past now because the Start Menu is back, and it’s better than ever!
 

Live Tiles

I personally really like the Start Screen in Windows 8. Granted, it’s better suited for tablet devices with touchscreens, but I’ve always kept my start screen organized with all my app icons right where I can get to them. 
 

3 Start Screen Advantages

There are three advantages to the Start Screen method over the traditional Start Menu:
  1. The icons can be arranged and grouped for quick access
  2. The icons can be resized for easier tap targets
  3. Some icons can even display live information

In Windows 10, Microsoft has returned to the old Start Menu since it’s what so many people are familiar with, but they’ve also brought all of those Windows 8 Start Screen advancements with them. Live Tiles allow the app to show you information without even launching the app. For example, the MSN News app will show you the headlines right on the app icon. The weather app will show you the current temperature. Live Tiles are a handy feature, and I hope more developers will start incorporating this into their app icon functionality. This feature also works well with resizable icons, since larger live tiles can display more information. Resizing your app icons is simple to do, and makes organization a cinch. You can have all your most often used apps live right on the Start Menu, which makes it easy to use in tablet mode (more on that later), so you’re not digging through menus.
 

How to Use This Feature

  • Just tap (or click) and hold the app icon
  • Tap the circle with the ellipsis and select a size.
  • To rearrange them, just tap and hold an icon in the Start Menu, then drag it where you want it.
 

Newly Installed Apps

A feature of the new Start Menu I like is that any time you install a new app (whether from the App store or not), for a limited time it will show up at the top of the Start Menu so you can begin using it without hunting through your long list of applications. You should take advantage of this feature immediately and pin the icon to the Start Menu if you know it’s something you’ll be using regularly.
 

How to Use This Feature

  • Just tap the Start Menu
  • Tap All Apps at the bottom, and you’ll see the list right there at the top.
  • The rest of your apps are now handily organized alphabetically, so you can find what you need quickly.
 

Continuum

Windows 8 favors tablet devices heavily over traditional desktops and laptops, and if you don’t have a touchscreen device, it can be unwieldy to handle. Windows 10 fixes that through the use of Continuum. Continuum attempts to detect how you’re using your computer—whether with a keyboard and mouse or as a tablet—and adapts the interface for you on-the-fly.

This means that if you have a Windows tablet (i.e. Surface Pro, HP Stream, etc.) the Start Menu will turn back into a Start Screen (á la Windows 8) and all of the tap targets (the buttons and icons you’d normally click with a mouse, but now have to tap with a finger or stylus) get bigger and easier to hit. However, if you connect that tablet to a keyboard and mouse (click!) the entire interface reverts to desktop mode, complete with a compact Start Menu and smaller tap targets. Having said that, though, you can resize your Start Menu to get more space, and I certainly recommend it. There’s no reason to limit yourself! Just drag the edge of the Start Menu out and size it to whatever works for you.
 

Personalization

Just like previous versions of Windows, you can move your taskbar to different parts of the screen, which also repositions your Start Menu. I like the Task Bar on the left side of my screen, which puts the Start Menu in the top left. 
 

How to Use This Feature

  • Just click and drag the Task Bar to a different edge of the screen (You may have to right-click on the Task Bar and uncheck “Lock all taskbars” first).

Even though Windows 10 now includes Cortana (more about her in another blog post!) you can still use that old trick of launching an app by hitting the Windows key on your keyboard, and then just typing the name of the app you want. Get used to hitting the Windows key to invoke the Start Menu and you’ll soon be a Windows 10 pro!

PC stands for Personal Computer, so let me recommend you take a few minutes in Windows 10 to make it your personal computer by arranging your apps in the new Start Screen in a way that makes sense for you.

If you need help getting Windows set up, or deployed to your company, drop me a line; we’re wizards at this stuff!
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Author

Samuel O. Blowes, Director of IT
Samuel O. Blowes

Director of IT

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