There's no doubt that Microsoft upped its game with Windows 8. The tile-based Metro layout is stylish, yet it puts function before form. But some early adopters miss the familiar Start menu, which made its debut way back in Windows 95. Many longtime users simply don't want to make the change. Some probably can't. It could be a productivity issue. But not to worry: the good old Start menu is easy to restore with ViStart 8.1. This free app not only restores the classic Windows Start menu in Windows 8 but also lets you customize your Start menu's theme, and not just in Windows 8 but in Windows 7, Vista, and XP, too.
ViStart offers three start menu styles that we could set at startup or change at any time by clicking Options on the program's system tray menu. We began by restoring the Windows 7-style Start menu in Windows 8. The aero-style menu blends well with the new look, and it's easy to turn on and off. We could access PC controls like standby and shutdown from ViStart's menu. Opening the program's Control Panel gave us access to the Style options, including not just the three primary themes but also Start Orb choices such as Apple, Firefox, and Ubuntu. The Configure tab let us set the items we wanted the Start menu to show. It works like the Windows feature, only easier to use. The Desktop tab changes what the Start button and Windows keys show. More skins are available by following a link on the About tab; the night-look XeBlack 2.0 theme may be our favorite.
We also ran ViStart in Windows 7, which definitely improved the standard Start menu's appearance. As with Windows 8, we could customize the Start menu, too. We couldn't drag ViStart's Control Panel out from under the taskbar when we had it pinned to the right instead of the bottom of the desktop, but that was the only glitch. For anyone looking to improve older and new versions of Windows' Start menu, ViStart offers a user-friendly solution.