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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Utilize the Windows 8 Start Menu screen to its Fullest Potential

In the comment section of the Ars Technica article I referenced yesterday and elsewhere on the internet, I notice a lot of complaining about Microsoft's decision to get rid of the start menu button and to turn it into the Start Menu screen found in Windows 8. However, through my using of Windows 8, I've found that the new Start Menu screen is, indeed, an improvement over the traditional start menu found in Windows 7 (and older), even for traditional laptops and desktops. For those of you mourning the start menu button's death, you can simply go back to the Start Menu by pressing the Win key, or by pressing the Start Menu button on the charms bar (brought up by either moving the mouse to either the bottom-right or top-right corner or by swiping from the right if you have a touchscreen).

The first item is the usage of live tiles. Under Windows 7, you could pin programs you use the most to the start menu, but it was limited by the size of the start menu "frame". In Windows 8, you have the whole screen to work with. The idea here is that you can pin the tiles of the programs you use most often to the start menu, and it's the first thing you see when the start menu is opened. Believe it or not, you can remove a pinned live tile from the start menu, but still have the program installed. If you unpin a tile, you can still find an entry for that program in the list of All Programs (found on the bottom of the screen by either right-clicking on the start menu somewhere, but not on a tile, or swiping up from the bottom of the screen, if you have a touchscreen). This way, you can keep your start menu clear of tiles of programs you don't use often, which can create clutter. You can also move the order of tiles around and group tiles however you like. Have the tiles for your most important programs on the left of the screen and going right in order of diminishing importance. Every program that is installed pins a live tile to the Start Menu screen by default, so you can always change the tile's position or remove the tile from the Start Menu screen.

Some people say they just (in Windows 7) open the start menu and type the first few letters of the program they want to open in the search textbox and results appear. Well, this is also possible with Windows 8. All you have to do is be on the start screen, and just start typing. The results of the search will pop up just as they did under Windows 7. Granted, on a tablet, you can't just start typing unless you have a hardware keyboard (if you don't have one, just open up the Charms bar and choose "Find"), but it's still possible. This is also where the grouped live tiles can help. If you know you have a program in a certain group and know where that group is on the Start Menu screen, it's faster than trying to find it via search.

Contrary to popular myth, Win32 programs, as well as Metro-UI programs, can be pinned to the Start Menu screen. The only difference is that the tiles for Win32 programs aren't exactly "live". The new start menu also lets you uninstall programs faster than on Windows 7. In Windows 7, you had to go into the Add/Remove Programs section of the Control Panel, choose your program, and uninstall it. This is still possible in Windows 8 (for Win32 programs), but there is a faster way. If you bring up the right-click menu for a tile on the start menu (or if you don't have a pinned tile for the given program, the right-click menu for its entry in the All Programs list), there is an option to uninstall it right then and there.

Since the Start Menu is fullscreen, this means that Microsoft had to move the taskbar (it's to the right side of the screen). While this move is debatable, this means that you have more room for (live) tiles.

I hope that, along with my article on keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8, this helps you to be more productive with the latest version of Windows, Windows 8.  If you have any thoughts on the new Start Menu or anything else in Windows 8, please share them in the comment box below.

While you're learning about how to best use the new start menu in Windows 8, why not drink some delicious Mystic Monk Coffee? Mystic Monk Coffee (use this link or click on the picture below to access the store and purchase) is what you really need when it comes to coffee. Trust me, it's good coffee (in most instances, much better than Starbucks coffee) and you won't regret buying some (just keep it away from your computer keyboard or laptop/tablet). If you like tea more than coffee, they also offer tea. Using the link (or picture below) to buy the coffee (or tea) helps the monks out and helps me with college expenses as well. The coffee (or tea) also makes for great gifts for friends and family as well.

For my existing Windows Phone apps, the update for the free version of Mobile Media Manger is out. However, I found an embarrassing bug in that update (the button to move items up in the playlist manager is not working, but the one to move items down in the playlist manager is working and everything else works). I will be submitting a fix for this in the next day or two, along with an update for the paid version of Mobile Media Manger. The update for BSA Eagle Tracker will soon follow. If you want to get my apps now while waiting for the update, use the following links:

BSA Eagle Tracker download:
Mobile Media Manager (paid version) download:
Mobile Media Manager (free version) download:

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