With Windows 10 bridging the gap between the Modern shock of Windows 8 and the classic old school look and feel of Windows 7, there are some specific new features which work in new ways. One of these is the long anticipated Start Menu. In Windows 7 the Start Menu was a simple app launcher with minimal customization and links to user folders and the control panel. Windows 8 threw the ‘Menu’ out the window and introduced the Start Screen, which had a grid of Live Tiles to launch apps and show updates.
While many reading this may be Windows 10 experts many are not; this how-to is aimed at new users to Windows 10 who will be upgrading for the first time when Windows 10 launches this week. However, if you are an expert keep reading and leave tips you think I've missed in the comments because I want this article to be helpful to as many people as possible.
To make everyone happy and span both groups of users, Microsoft has built one Start with two experiences, one for desktop and one for tablet mode. In normal desktop mode, Start feels like half of Windows 7 plus half of Windows 8. On the left Windows 7 users should feel right at home because there is a list of the most used apps and below are links to user folders and settings, and finally the power button and access to an alphabetic list of all apps on the computer. On the right, Windows 8 users should notice the live tiles which can be moved around and changed until it is exactly how users want. Any changes made in desktop mode will translate to the full screen Start of tablet mode and vice versa.
One major theme of Windows 10 is giving users choice to make their computers work how they want. The Start menu is a perfect example of how users can customize until they are totally happy. Classic customization would occur via the control panel, but Windows 10 has moved new settings to the separate Settings app. Under ‘Personalize’ then selecting ‘Start’ users can change the way their start menu operates and looks. Turning off the ‘most used’ section or highlighting recently installed apps all happen in the settings app. By selecting ‘Choose which folders appear on Start’, users can pick only the folders they want from a list of ten options.
In previous versions of Windows users could ‘pin’ programs to the Start Menu which would keep them in a separate section at the top of the menu. Now, instead, the entire right (live tile) section is reserved for pinning content such as apps, web pages, and settings. Pin items to Start by right clicking and selecting 'Pin to Start' or drag items from the 'most used' or 'all apps' section to their desired location.
All tiles can be moved around by clicking and dragging, or dragging after a long press has faded the other tiles. Tiles can be resized by right clicking or a long press when using touch. Most modern apps’ tiles are live which means they update and surface information to users without opening the app. If the idea of live information bothers or worries you, then do not worry because all live tiles can be disabled via the right click menu. However, traditional desktop programs like Office 2013, Photoshop, or Steam have tiles which are basically shortcuts with two different sizes, small and medium, unlike their modern counterparts which also have wide and large options.
In addition to changing sizes, all the tiles on the Start Menu can be rearranged by dragging them around. All tiles drop into groups simply by hovering them near other tiles while dragging. To create a new group hover between, above, or below groups until a subtle rectangle indicates a new group appears. Groups of tiles can be named and are easy to rearrange by grabbing the double horizontal lines to the right of the group name. It is worth noting that while these groups are similar to the ones found on Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile they cannot be collapsed, and the contents of the groups always remains visible.
The size of the Start Menu can also be changed easily by dragging the borders. Grabbing the top and dragging will smoothly resize up or down, but grabbing the right edge will only move in set sizes. The different sizes are related to the sizes of the columns which the live tiles are bound to. Microsoft has even allowed the modern section to be hidden by unpinning all tiles and dragging the edge toward the left until the section disappears. When this happens only the ‘most used’ section, the folder links, power, and user profile remain. Not to worry, pinning any content to Start will bring the tile section back right away. It is worth noting unpinning apps does not uninstall them; to do that select uninstall from the right click (or long press) dropdown menu.
Personalizing the color and transparency of the Start Menu happens under the color section in the personalize settings. Windows 10 lets users pick a color or have Windows automatically choose a color based upon the desktop background. This color will be used in the Taskbar, Action Center, and Start Menu if users choose that option, otherwise they will all be black and gray.
The color doesn’t just show up in the background of these UI elements but also as the background in the tiles which don’t dictate a specific color. Some apps like Mail, Calendar, People, Store, etc. will base their tile color on the accent color chosen in the color settings. Desktop apps will display their icon with a background also based upon the system accent color, but apps like Xbox or OneNote to name a few will always be the specific color chosen by the developer.
Appealing to user customization, the Windows 10 Start menu can be tweaked and modified with a near infinite number of different possible configurations. There are surely some odd areas which could use some attention after Windows 10 launches but so far the Start experience is great.
Try it out yourself, rearrange the tiles and put them in groups. Change the color or transparency options until you love what you see. Make the Start Menu work for you and when you get bored or sick the layout, change it up. Share a screenshot of your Start Menu in the comments below and let us know how you want Microsoft to make Start better in the next wave of updates.