Continuing on the theme of making Win8 behave more like Win7 (so that you can get the benefits of Win8 without having to make significant changes to the way you’re used to interacting with your applications), this post features two apps that give you let you find and launch your apps without having to visit the Win8 start page (the one with the rectangle and square tiles) or type <Window Key>+Q to get to Windows 8’s app search page.

What if you wanted a “partial” windows 8 user experience?

You spend most of your time in the desktop mode because that’s where your chosen  apps for work or play reside, but you would still like to slowly ease into using Win8 full screen apps, so that you’ll be familiar and comfortable with them when a really good app comes along. 

In that case, the quick launch bar will serve for the 5% of apps you use 95% of the time, and populating the quick launch bar is the topic of this earlier post.

How about the less used but occasionally accessed apps that you still want easy access to from within win8’s desktop mode? 

One solution might be to use HP Quick Launch.  This is a free utility that you can download from hp.com’s support & drivers section

HP’s own description goes thus: 

HP Quick Start provides new Windows 8 users, who are used to the traditional Start Menu, with convenient accessibility to launch apps, files, and programs from the classic desktop.

Once installed, Quickstart places an icon on your taskbar on the left most end, siting itself roughly where the Win7 start button was.  Click on this, and a menu comes up giving you the familiar “all programs” view from Win7, but note that all you get are the apps that run in desktop mode.  Win8 apps will not appear in the list.

Quickstart1

In the screen grab above, the icons in the “Favourites” pane to the right were put there by me.  One easily gets desktop apps to show up in the Favourites pane by finding them on the left pane (using the search box at the base of the pane is a good way), and then simply dragging the selected app icon to the right. 

Quickstart2

In the image above, I’ve dragged the Photoshop icon across to the right, and released it there so that Photoshop shows up as a favourite.

With this scheme, I have my top accessed desktop apps in the taskbar, my less but still occasionally accessed apps in the Quicklaunch favourites pane (just a click away), and the Start Button or <Windows Key>+Q to locate Win8 full screen apps. 

What if you wanted NOTHING to do with the Windows 8 user experience? 

Then Classic Shell is just the utility for you.  I was surprised at how completely this program, with no changing of the default settings, made my Win8 system behave like Win7.

  • With Classic Shell and using only the program defaults, my PC boots DIRECTLY into the desktop screen, bypassing the Win8 Start Page completely.
  • When I press the <Windows Key>, something like the start button menu from the Win7/vista days pops up from the bottom left of my screen, instead of bouncing me into the Win8 Start Page.
  • I can even shutdown the PC using the familiar <Start Button> click followed by selecting the “shutdown” command. 

Classic Shell is available from SourceForge.net, completely FOC, and worth a look if you’re serious about avoiding the Win8 UI.

Here are some screenshots (the classic shell icon is right where the start button would be if this was a Win 7 system):

Start1

Start2

Start3

Start3a

Notice in this last screen grab above – Classic Shell will list and launch Win 8 full screen apps for you.

I occasionally use Skydrive and Evernote which are full Win8 apps, and getting to them via this menu might be easier than surveying a start page full of animated tiles split out across several tile groups. 

Classic Shell has many settings that you can select from to make it behave just so for you.  Just look at all those option tabs!

Start4

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