When Microsoft released Windows 10 last summer, one of the biggest headlines was the return of the Start Menu. It was designed to meld the most-loved features of Windows 7’s Start Menu with the new live tiles of Windows 8.
On the whole, it has been well-received, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. Microsoft has included some native tools that let you customize the menus and layout, but if you want a major overhaul, you’ll need to turn to the modding community.
Their tools will let you tweak everything from the overall appearance to the tile iconography. Here are some of the best to get you started.
New features include live badges for modern Windows apps, larger taskbar icons, lower CPU usage, blur, drop shadow, and immersive context menus.
Note that this is a paid app! After the 30-day free trial, you need to shell out $3.
2. TileCreatorOne of the biggest criticisms that’s leveled at the Windows 10 Start Menu is the inability to customize the tiles. Apps that you “Pin to Start” are merely the program’s .exe image overlaid on a blue background; this applies to both Windows native apps and anything you’ve installed from elsewhere.
TileCreator lets you modify these tiles to an image of your choosing. The installation process is a bit finicky as a result of some Windows restrictions, but once you have it set up, you can use tiles of various size, images, and background colors. The developer has stated he wants to add support for circular tiles in the near future.
If you’re looking for modern UI images for a huge number of common programs, check out modernuiicons.com and dAKirby309’s DeviantArt page.
3. Start10Start10 is developed by Stardock, the same company which produced the highly-popular skinning software of the 1990s. In more modern times, they developed a well-received app for Windows 8, which restored a more traditional function and feel to the ill-fated Start screen, as well as allowing modern apps to be windowed.
Their latest release – Start 10 – is similar in style to the previously mentioned StartIsBack++. It uses Windows 7 as it’s starting point, restoring search to the Start Menu, removing the “All Apps” menu item, and reintroducing quick links. Newer services such as Cortana and modern apps continue to function.
Its option menu allows you to tweak the color scheme, menu background, and specific menu items.
Like StartIsBack++, it also has a cost – $5 for a lifetime license. A 30-day trial is available.
These layouts can be further customized with various skins. For example, the XP Luna skin makes it extremely close to the original Windows XP color scheme, using Blue, Olive, and Silver. As you’d expect, you can also choose which buttons appear on the main menu and how the file trees work.
The developer also makes “Classic Explorer” and “Classic IE”. While they may not be necessary for people who only want to reenergize their Start Menu, they are great additions if you’re going for a computer-wide retro look.
The left-hand column gives you one-click access to your most common destinations (such as Search, Run, Recent Documents, etc.), while the right-hand column allows you to pin apps, folders, websites, documents, music files, video files, and just about anything else you want.
It’s also touchscreen-friendly – a big plus for people who have touch-enabled laptops or frequently use one of Microsoft’s Surface tablets.
6. Radial MenuWe finish the list with a Start Menu alternative.
Sometimes you might find that you spend too long scrolling up and down to find the apps you need. If you pin lots of apps the problem can be somewhat alleviated, but another solution is to forget about the Start Menu altogether and instead use a launcher. It might take a bit of getting used to, but over time you’ll probably find yourself becoming more productive.
One option is Radial Menu. It’ll let you create unlimited groups, subgroups, and items that can launch applications, documents, websites, or any other files. It’s easy to set up, thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality, and has lots color and layout customizations options to get it looking exactly how you want it.