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October 9, 2012

Me and Windows 8 (and Start8)

After a month of using Windows 8 on my primary computer, here are a few considerations. In summary, great desktop, still puzzled by Metro. Which is why I like Start8.

After a month of using Windows 8 on my primary computer, here are a few considerations.

Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 desktop experience is to all effects very similar to that in Windows 7. The new style is less rounded and has fewer transparencies (like for windows borders), but I tend to prefer it. Most everything works the same. At times, a dialog box has a Metro style (pardon, modern style) even if it is clearly a Win32 pane. Like when you share your desktop with an external monitor.

However, there are several core applications working so much better. One is the Task Manager, which is incredibly better compared to the previous one (not that this was difficult, given the previous one was really limited). See the image below for an example of what I mean:

Another one I like is the graphical throughput of large file copy operations. But there are many core areas of the product that work much better than Windows 7. And boot time is significantly faster, at less than 10 seconds (with a SSD).

There are also issues. Windows 8 most times thinks that my internal DVD is disconnected, but Dell seems to have a fix they'll release on October 26th (not sure why they cannot release it sooner...). I'm also experiencing a few severe problems, but they might be caused by hardware errors, so I'm not tying them to Windows 8 for now.

In terms of software compatibility, I had to re-install VMWare and Camtasia. Good I had the latest version, if not I'd had to buy an upgrade and this wouldn't have been great. Delphi (I have XE2 and XE3 installed) works fine and so do my Delphi applications. I did notice some changes to UAC and protection, but need to study them a bit more before I have a firm conclusion.

Windows 8 WinRT/Metro

At this point you might ask, if you like Windows 8 desktop how do you like the WinRT / Metro / Modern UI part of the product? The most honest answer is "I don't know", simply because I don't use it. Yesterday I had a tour of the store, installed Microsoft card games and another minor game. There were a number of apps I have no use for, because there are web sites I use or existing Win32 applications I use for the same task and I see no reason to change. I browsed for about 10 minutes, but there was nothing I found really relevant. I know, I'd have my kids install from the store rather then download Win32 "unsafe" apps, which they don't even know how to find. But for professional users, can you suggest a killer app for WinRT, for which there isn't a better equivalent in the native world?


Now as a person interested in Windows 8 but not much in WinRT and Metro, I immediately found it annoying having to go through the Metro desktop to run a new application and I really started missing the good old Start button. I realized there were many operations requiring me 3 or four actions rather than one or two. So I almost immediately installed one of the many "start button replacers" and I currently cannot live without it. The one I picked (and I know there are several others but I haven't tryed comparing) is called Start8 and is located at It originally had a Windows 7 start button graphical replacer, now they have changed the button's graphic but the program retains the exact capabilities of the Windows Start button, with pinned applications, groups, search, documents, control panel, and even a simple way of shutting down the OS.


It not only shows on the desktop, but it also captures the Windows button of the keyboard, and it let's you boot directly in the Win32 desktop, rather than on the Metro desktop.

Conclusion: Windows 8 without WinRT

In other words, I can spend a full day in Windows 8 without ever seeing the Metro desktop or any Metro application... and given I like Windows 8 desktop more than Windows 7, I'm very happy with my current settings. I know this makes little sense, given I'm "skipping" the most relevant features of Windows 8, but if I don't need it I prefer the freedom not to have to use it anyway. I guess these "start button" utilities will become very popular. But if this will be the case, then the Windows 8 project for desktop PCs will be a partial failure.



Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

Wow, Stardock did that?  I thought they were a games
Comment by Mason Wheeler [] on October 9, 21:44

Quite the same opinion... 

I am having the same experience and opinion about
Windows 8, except that I am appreciating much more the
new "modern style" Start: I know it's huge and its
bouncing over everything in full screen can be too
much if compared to the previous and more discrete
Start button menu, but I can put and arrange more
links on it, every tile is "nicely clickable" and the
search features are fast and precise.

Talking about the WinRT side, I currently have only
the "stock" apps installed, plus a TV guide. :)
Comment by Marco Breveglieri [] on October 9, 21:46

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

Do you have a touch Screen ?

The WinRT/Metro only take senses with a touch screen.

From what I have tested, it's very nice if you use it 
like a "giant tablet" or a "big surface"

Problem is that most of existing touch screen have a 
bezel witch is an handicap for using in windows8

ps :I'm trying to get hands on the "planar helium" 
touchscreen, the only one at the moment "windows 8 
Comment by Eric Walker on October 9, 23:12

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

What I read is: there is no compelling reason to 
install win8 and that if you do, you have to pay a 
third party to make it livable.

I'll stick with Win7.  Maybe win9 will abandon the 
WinRT nonsense.
Comment by C Johnson on October 9, 23:25

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

I tried an earlier version of Start8 and didn't like
it at all.  I switched to Classic Shell
(, which has the
benefit of being free with source available.

I was hoping Start8 would see some improvements, so I
just went and watched their current video.  It appears
there are many improvements and I would probably
prefer Start8 today.  It may not be free, but it does
have a nice low price.

But once the Customer Preview quits working in a
couple of months, I seriously doubt I'll want to
install the RTM of Win8 anywhere.  :(  So I won't need
a Start menu replacement after all.  ;)
Comment by JonR on October 10, 03:43

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

As I tweeted in response of Tim Anderson comments:

@timanderson Also, I can keep a running Skype 
conversation or video on screen while starting another 
program! #windows8

@timanderson Examples: open Control Panel, reopen a 
recent file in a given application, browse through All 
Programs... #windows8 

But more than that, I've realized the switching 
context (desktop -> metro -> desktop) is very 
distracting, and I loose the focus on what I was 
doing. I'm sorry, Microsoft, I use more than one 
application at a time, and it is not uncommon I start 
a program to finish doing something I've open in 
another window and want to keep my focus on.

Comment by Marco Cantu [] on October 10, 04:27

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

Replying to some of the comments, no I don't have a 
touch screen and I'm talking of a regular PC (well, a 
high-end Dell laptop, to be more precise). I know the 
touch experience is difference and understand having a 
"mobile" experience on the coming Windows tablet will 
make more sense. But saying, as Paul Thurrot does, that 
Windows is becoming a mobile OS is foolish to say the 
least. For professional users who need more than one 
application at a time (both in terms of screen and CPU 
usage) going to WinRT is going BACKWARDS. Why should 7 
of my 8 CPU cores sit idle most time? 
Comment by Marco Cantu [] on October 10, 04:30

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

Windows 8 GA (General Availablity) comes at the end of 
October, so if Dell releases the patch before that, it 
is still early enough. Whoever installs Windows 8 right 
now is unfortunately post-beta testers. 
Comment by Lex Li [] on October 10, 06:25

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

In Win7, if you open a subdirectory in the explorer,
the folder (entire tree) jumps to the bottom of the
pane, meaning you always have to scroll up to see
inside the folder you just opened. (happens when you
are several levels deep)

Also, the Win7 search is useless for anything but the
most simple needs. And even then, it doesn't always work. 

Have these been fixed in Win8?
Comment by johnnerse on October 10, 07:04

For me it does make sense 

Well, for me the new start menu is much better than the one of Windows 7. I 
can for example see live information (which I arranged on top of the other 
tiles), for example I can see if I have new mail before clicking and opening 
the mail software.
(And at the moment we are integrating this functionality in one of our 
business applications.)

Yes, I know the menu is huge, but this is good (for me). And compared to 
Windows 7 not much of my workflow has changed:
I press the Windows key, write a few letters of what I want to start and press 
enter. This is way faster than using the mouse to click on a pinned entry.

Many complain about having the metro menu open first when starting the 
If you have more than one monitor, you only have it on one, on the others the 
desktop starts.
And please tell me what else you do when you start your computer than starting 
a program? Exactly this you can do with the metro menu. And so why is it bad 
that this is already open after starting the computer? 

This way I can just click on the software I want to start and I see at once 
whether I have new mail, ...

Regarding switching between applications:
It is a new way, yes, but there are good features behind. I needed a few hours 
to learn about the new features and how I can use them, but now I really like 
it. Of course one has to spend a bit time on this... not just try to work like 

This is exactly a problem of new software installations:
The users do not tell us what they want, but they tell us how they want it. 
Because they are used to it from their old system. And many many do not like 
to learn a new way even though it is much better in many cases.
So they request us to implement a much more complicated way, just to have the 
old behavior.

And this is exactly my impression when I read comments about Windows 8. Yes, 
it is new, and yes, it is different. But new or different is not always bad...

Regarding Customer Preview:
The final version has many improvements. For example for more than one monitor 
(I hoped so when trying the customer preview...). Now the charms bar opens on 
both monitors and the start menu as well, so I don't have to find exactly the 
point between two monitors.

So for me Windows 8 runs very well in standard configuration.

And to all who want to turn Windows 8 back into Windows 7, just to have the 
behavior you are used to:
Think about the past versions of Windows. Every time you have this discussion. 
And every time the same people complain about the same things when they change 
again in the next version... *eyes rolling*
Comment by Sebastian J. [] on October 10, 08:54

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

 i would agree with the comment of C. Johnson. Windows 
8, the Metro UI, the "Apps" make no sense for me, there 
is nothing i need in it, and why upgrade to something 
where the first thing which is necessary to make it 
useable is to buy a third party component...

and for a tablet i prefer Android, so no need for an 
expensive Win 8 tablet

Personally i will skip Win 8 

Michael Bickel
Comment by Michael [] on October 10, 09:09

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

 Few precision and reactions :

Has I said I have a touch screen, more exactly :

- One touch screen, used as primary monitor (Acer 
T230H), this is where the Windows8 startup page 
appears. But most of the time I have "utils" on it 
(ex. taskManager, log windows...)

- One normal screen (secondary monitor) used as my 
main work space (Delphi, db utils...)

- I agree with Sebastian, every time we have a new 
window version their is an adaptation period.

I've also tried Start8 and Classic shell, and finally 
gave up, I'm now using the "windows-F" shortcut

Just one curious "behavior" on Windows 8, 

I had to put my touch screen as primary monitor, 
otherwise when I used it as a secondary monitor , 
touching the screen would "react" on the "non-touch 
Comment by Eric Walker on October 10, 15:18

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

The most wonderful thing in Win8 desktop is HyperV.    
It's fabulous. It's as easy to use as a desktop 
virtualization product, but as powerful as the 
enterprise virtualization systems (like ESX).

It's really a great virtualization subsystem, with much 
higher performance, and much greater power than what you 
might be used to seeing in VMWare Workstation or 
VirtualBox or anything like that.

Comment by Warren Postma [] on October 11, 02:44

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

I am stunned - are you saying XE2 debugger works for 
you in Windows 8? I cannot debug any 64 bit 
Good thing my Windows 8 specific bug was in the 
assembler code, so I could insert "int 3" and use 
VS2010 to step through the code.
Comment by Dmitry Streblechenko [] on October 11, 17:35

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 

 After using Windows 8 for 2 months as professional I 
don't really miss the start button. "WinKey" + Q does 
the trick and I find it faster than the Win7 start 
Comment by Pierre Greborio on November 4, 22:11

Me and Windows 8 and Start8 - follow up to my previous comment. 

 Ok, I previously stated that I would prefer to stay 
with WIn7.

Sadly, I have to do app compatibility testing for 
Win8, so I had to upgrade at least 1 machine.

The previews were... ugly, in a vm it was horrid.

The released version is smooth and actually quite 
pleasant.   I find I like the start screen, and for 
everything I lost off the start menu, once I found 
windows key-X, I never looked back.

Holy crap, to my utter astonishment, I am a windows 8 

Still not sure about the UI on a server, but at least 
I am willing to consider it now.
Comment by C Johnson on November 8, 21:42

oh ya... 

 and I did try start8, went back to the start screen.

I still miss a few of my sidebar gadgets, but you can 
get those back if your really want them (and I assume 
they will likely be ported in time)
Comment by C Johnson on November 8, 21:43

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