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Microsoft Windows Technology

Microsoft Killed the Start Menu Because No One Uses It 862

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft recently killed the Start Menu, and their explanation for it seems fairly straightforward: no one used it. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Microsoft explains that use of the Start menu dipped by 11 percent between Windows Vista and Windows 7, with many specialized Start functions — such as exploring pictures — declining as much as 61 percent."
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Microsoft Killed the Start Menu Because No One Uses It

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  • by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @04:56PM (#37604120)

    When you can't figure out the easy way to launch stuff, look in the Start Menu.

    This is change for change's sake.

  • by duguk ( 589689 ) <dug@frag[ ].uk ['.co' in gap]> on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @04:58PM (#37604164) Homepage Journal
    This is why I'm still on Windows XP; I like the Start Menu and being able to group my applications by purpose in a *menu*.
    I don't want them littered over the desktop or in silly toolbars.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:06PM (#37604284)

    When you can't figure out the easy way to launch stuff, look in the Start Menu.

    You can't. Because they didn't like the look of the big, floor-to-ceiling look of the old XP system, they shrunk it all down so that it only shows 5-6 items at a time and has a scrollbar.

    In short, they made it harder to use and less functional than the XP Start Menu, and to everyone's amazement, people stopped using it, and then they claimed it was some sort of UX triumph.

    Ditto with the control panel - rather than one big screen with 100+ tiny icons on it, they reworded a few things ("Display" becaome "Personalization", and there are 2-3 different UIs rather than the tabs on the old-fashioned XP display.cpl) and made them all look like web-apps. Now that it's unnavigable with words or icons, everyone uses "search" and it "feels faster". You can't write documentation that says Start-Settings-ControlPanel-Display-Screensaver, you have to say "search for 'screen saver' and clicky on whatever pops up"... *sigh*

    This is change for change's sake.

    Much like Firefox, most UX innovation is precisely that. If you don't get the results that match your pet UI design philosophy, move the feature around, and while your users are trying to find the feature you don't want, accumulate enough telemetry to claim your users aren't using it as often, then take it away. (Status bar, full URL in the URLbar, etc.)

  • Re:Indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:06PM (#37604290) Homepage

    People seem to want symbolic icons that represent the programs they want to run; they don't want to look through a long menu and read a bunch of text.

    Really? Seems to be a common theme and maybe I'm just abnormal but I cannot stand interfaces with a dozen geometric shapes with random squiggles and colors that are different from every other interface with a dozen geometric shapes with random squiggles and colors.

    Just put the damned labels in whatever language the system detects it's supposed to be in. Leave the squiggles and lines to the finger painting set.

  • Re:gg microsoft! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:06PM (#37604292)

    I see, insanity is really taking over.

    Hey maybe the microsoft developers, gnome developers and ubuntu developers were infected by a common disease ?

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:07PM (#37604316)

    If you tap the Windows key and start typing, like in previous versions it will start searching for what you typed. So that still works the same, at least.

    Yeah, I use a GUI because I love typing commands so much.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:11PM (#37604372)

    Not sure, but the justification is that most people pin their most-used applications to the task bar.

    Probably because the Windows 7 Start Menu is such a disaster that they can't find anything there anymore.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:12PM (#37604380) Homepage

    ...that still leaves the less frequently used stuff to sort out.

    One of the key strengths of a GUI is supposed to be tasks that you do so infrequently that you are prone to forget how to do them. A good GUI helps smooth over that sort of problem. A bad one just makes it so hard that you just want to reach for a bash prompt.

  • by Myopic ( 18616 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:14PM (#37604428)

    Absolutely! And that's the same reason I am still using my abacus.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:25PM (#37604596) Homepage

    No, seriously. How do you shut it down then?

    I looked at the developer preview of Win8 for several minutes the other day and could not figure out how to shut it down. I got to ye olde explore.exe desktop, but as soon as I clicked on the Start button it threw me back to Metro with no clue what to poke at or stroke or swipe. Granted, I'm old and set in my ways, but I still rank as "well above average" on the tech-savvy scale. If I can't figure it out, I sure as hell won't be the only one.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:50PM (#37604974)

    It's not a command line, it's a search box. Been that way for a while - it's actually surprisingly useful once you realize that.

    Yes, and? I have one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the mouse. I move to the menu, click on it, click on the section I want and click on the application I want. It starts. I use the mouse to interact with the application.

    Alternatively I can take my hand off the mouse, type some crap, hope Windows finds the right application and then put my hand back on the mouse again. Why would I possibly prefer that?

    I assume you have used a search box before? Some newfangled web sites have started using them. Or are you still a Yahoo! Directory fan?

    Yes, I understand, you're so totally l33t because you prefer inefficient UIs.

  • by Lussarn ( 105276 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @05:56PM (#37605066)

    There is really nothing wrong with a start menu. Microsoft however never enforced a good practice with their start menu, the signal to noise ratio is VERY low. It's cluttered with company names, uninstallers and readme files. Why should I have to know the name of the company if I want to use a program, looks very much like advertisement to me. Instead of enforcing a good practice they have extended the start menu with "most used programs" which really doesn't cure the underlying problem, and to me it's even more cluttered. They should get rid of everything but the program starters in correct folders, Games in games folder and so on, one program has one menu entry, this was probably how it was meant to be by the original designer but never enforced. Look at Gnome, very simple, and very effective. And now MS have come to the conclusion that nobody uses their cluttered mess of a start menu, and are killing it. I say it could be fixed, but MS doesn't seem to know what's wrong with it...

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:01PM (#37605136) Homepage

    The start menu was a nice one-click or one-key access to all your programs. But a combination of Microsoft watering it down + installers misusing the start menu have damaged its usefulness:

    1. Don't use the start menu for branding. Example:
    Start\Symantec Applications\Norton Antivirus\Norton Antivirus.lnk
    should be
    Start\Norton Antivirus.lnk
    (*) This is usually committed with Sin #2 below

    2. Don't make a group for one icon.
    Start\Super Editor\Super Editor.lnk
    should be
    Start\Super Editor.lnk

    3. Don't place icons in 3 places
    - Quick launch
    - Desktop
    - Start menu

    Put them in the start menu, and let the user decide what applications are important enough to put on their desktop.

    4. Don't put multiple icons where 1 will do
    Start\VideoLan\VLC Media Player.lnk
    Start\VideoLan\VLC Media Player Skinned.lnk
    Start\VideoLan\Configure VLC Media Player.lnk

    Documentation is part of the application. Skinned/non-skinned is an option within the application. Configuration is part of the application.

    5. Don't put control panel icons on the start menu.
    Ex: Start\ATI Catalyst Control Center.lnk
    should be
    Start\Control Panel\ATI Catalyst Control Center.lnk

    6. Don't modify the start menu when I run your app or update it. Ex: I move Quicktime under "Junk" but it reappears whenever it updates. Another one is FinePrint which re-adds itself when the driver starts.

    7. Microsoft: Don't limit the size of the menu menu then add a scroll bar. Windows Vista and 7 limit it to 1/2 the screen then add a scroll bar, even if everything would have fit just fine had it resized.

    8. Microsoft: The icons need to be clickable size. A 16x16 icon at 1600x1200 is inappropriate when the app provided a 128x128 icon.

    9. Don't forget keyboard support! This has gone down hill since Windows '9x.

    10. Don't place icons under Start - Programs. Everything is a program. Just place them under "Start"

    11. Don't place applications in the registry startup - place them in the start menu's startup group so that the user can remove it easily if necessary.

  • Re:...the dock. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:47PM (#37605696) Journal

    Sadly as someone who builds and sells PCs I can tell you why nobody uses the start menu, its because THEY PUT EVERY DAMNED THING ON THE DESKTOP! That's why. I'll get these machines and literally you can't even tell what wallpaper they have for all the damned icons all over the thing.

    As long as they have contextual search and Action Center i'll be happy. I can't even remember the last time I fired up start>all programs, its all Action Center and search. But personally i think Win 8 is gonna bomb as its TOO radical. While Win 7 was an easy sell showing the screencaps of Win 8 to over 100 customers so far NOT A SINGLE ONE has had a single nice thing to say about the Win 8 UI, nor has anyone said they'd be willing to run it. the closest I got was this exchange "That is a nice looking cell phone screen. is that Android? I've heard of that, its supposed to be nice....what do you mean windows? Windows what? Well that's just stupid! Why would I want to run a cell phone on my desktop?".

    I think little Rita's reaction says it all. Not a single person i showed Win 8 to liked it, wanted it, or was even interested in trying it. it is just too radical and reminds too many of a cell phone. And I hate to break the news to MSFT, most folks hate their cell phones. Oh sure they won't let the thing go, but they can all name a dozen things, from bad reception to UI quirks that really piss them off. so having your new OS look like a cell phone? Not the way to get folks to love it.

    Final prediction: Windows 7 becomes the "new XP" aka the OS that just won't die, Win 8 becomes Vista part II, and I get to spend a year and a half stripping windows 8 off and putting windows 7 on because nobody wants to run it, just as I had to do with Vista and XP. Oh fun, oh joy, thanks MSFT you clueless bunch of PHBs.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.