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Readers Chime In: Bring Back the Start Button for Windows 8!

Last week's post questioning whether Microsoft should have kept the traditional Start button in Windows 8 really hit a nerve. I can't recall a topic of late that has generated such a flood of comments and e-mails.

An overwhelming majority of respondents said Microsoft should bring it back -- some went as far to say the company never should have ditched it in the first place. The pushback comes as PC sales are on pace to decline for the second year in a row and analysts are predicting Windows 8 tablets will only have a single-digit share in 2017. That's not the only bad news. As I noted Friday, now it appears Microsoft has only sold 1.5 million of its Surface devices, according to a report by Bloomberg.

While it's a stretch to blame all that on the absence of the Start button, the visceral reaction is a clear example of how resistant people are to change. "Microsoft should bring back the Start button, I think that it would definitely aid the transition of all Windows users into Windows 8, increasing sales as the result," wrote Kirk Lewis, a tech support expert in Northridge, Calif. "The start button has been the intuitive glue that all desktop versions of Windows have shared since Windows 95."

An IT pro in Montana who supports PCs running everything from Windows 98 to Windows 8 described the removal of the Start button as "probably the worst thing Microsoft could have done."

One consultant said: "This is honestly the first version of Windows I can't recommend to my business customers," while an IT pro expressed his annoyance with Microsoft. "The fact that Microsoft has once again decided that they are smarter than the thousands of administrators who use it every day once again has turned me off," he noted. "Why replace it for the simply sake of replacing it?! Bad call. This looks to me to be the next ME or Vista."

For business and enterprise environments, many IT pros are concerned users will struggle to find and easily launch their programs when running Windows 8 in the classic Desktop mode.

"I have used Win8 enough to understand Microsoft's thinking, but I believe they made a mistake by not including a fully functional Win7 style desktop so people could ease into it," argued another IT pro. "Use of Windows 8 on non-touch screen devices is awkward at best, and without the complete Win7 style interface, it requires a pretty steep initial learning curve. This is because you can't just click past the tile start screen and go to work on the desktop. You have to figure out how to use it, and how to mimic gestures with a mouse, to get anything done. I dread trying to support users through that transition. And this is from someone who has supported users thru the green screen to GUI transition, the Win 3.x to Win 95 transition, Win95 to XP, etc."

Also, third-party Start programs may not be an option for many shops, he added. "Many corporate environments will not allow it," he noted.

Despite all the complaints, a vocal minority believes all this fuss is about nothing and people need the need to change their habits. "It has been since 1995 since Microsoft made a real change in then desktop GUI," says Allen McEuin, MCSE from Louisville, Ky. "Leave it be and get used to it. It ain't 1995 anymore." And said another from Brazil: "Bringing back Start menu would be a major step backwards to this technology."

Then there are some who are actually glad to see it go. "I do not like the Start button and happy that they removed it. It is cleaner and easier to use the 'search' function or the Start screen. I have Win8 on all my computers and it really is not different than Windows 7 except [minus the] Start menu. I understand the annoyance it causes to learn new ways to do it but it is also more efficient and cleaner this way."

Noel from Kentucky agreed: "It took very little time to get to know the interface. The desktop is a click away. You can have all the apps listed with a click or have shortcuts galore. You can still have multiple Windows open. I think some of these respondents may be pushing against Windows 8 for other reasons. Bottom line is that it is a very fast and secure OS."

Microsoft had no comment on the reaction to last week's post on the topic. Though the company has surprised me plenty of times before, I wouldn't bet on Redmond bringing the Start button back.

So how am I dealing with this? I've created shortcuts on the desktop to applications I use most frequently. Using Search is another easy alternative. There are some keyboard shortcuts as well. But it appears many are less forgiving of Microsoft on this one.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/18/2013 at 1:15 PM


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