Windows 8.1 is just around the corner and, as we all know by now, it's supposed to fix one of the biggest issues of the modern Windows 8: the lack of a Start button.
Even though Windows 8 adopters are slowly getting used to the new Start screen and the Modern UI, the Start button saga continues at Microsoft, with some high-profile executives admitting that the new operating system could cause trouble to beginners.
Since this seems to be a never-ending story, we decided to chat with the developer of one of the most popular Start Menu apps on the market right now in order to find out more details about the way people see Windows 8.1 and Start buttons these days.
We chatted with Dennis Nazarenko, the developer behind the uber cool Start Menu X app, which right now offers support for both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. So have fun reading the interview and don't forget to share your thoughts in the comment box after the jump.
Softpedia: Introduce yourself to our readers and give us some details about your role in the development process of the app.
DN: Hi, my name is Dennis and I am the developer of Start Menu X. I own a one-man company – that is, I do everything on my own: develop the program and the website, write press-releases and respond to users’ emails. I work from my apartment in a small town near Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
Please note that I have been developing programs for the start menu since 2005 and therefore am the oldest vendor on this market. My programs are Tidy Start Menu, Vista Start Menu, Start Menu 7, Classic Start Menu.
Softpedia: How do you see Microsoft’s decision to remove the Start button, which proved to be a surprisingly popular feature, from Windows 8?
DN: I believe that at the time they made this decision, they wanted to give users something new. But it was extremely challenging, since Apple had already had the best stuff. Imagine yourself in the developer’s place, when your boss comes up to you at the end of a workday and says “We are putting together a team, you are in, and you will have 3 months to develop a really cool-looking interface that must not clone Apple’s interfaces, since everybody’s making fun of us anyway.”
By the way, if you had been monitoring blogs for the two years preceding the release of iPhone, you could have noticed that Apple had hired the most talented UI developers.
Microsoft simply had no chance to create something really convenient and useful. But the situation required something new, so they did what they could… But it’s just my assumption.
Softpedia: The Start button will never return in Windows as a built-in feature, so third-party apps are very likely to remain users’ only option when it comes to making their OS look more familiar. How do you plan to keep on improving your Start Menu app? Are you working on new features?
DN: I have been working on this market for over 7 years, and the Windows menu has never been perfect, it begged for improvement. Over this time, I have done a tremendous amount of work and can now say that Start Menu X already offers many features that its competitors simply don’t have, such as virtual groups, one-click start, power-off timers and so on.
All our “competitors” that appeared on the market in the last year or two follow the same path of cloning the interface of Windows 7. An exact opposite, Start Menu X is totally different, based on other principles and ideas that were created long before Windows 8 and had been polished by years – that’s why it is so appreciated by professionals.
They know that Windows 7 menu is plain inconvenient and there is no use bringing it back. I will start working on version 5.x shortly and will add nice new features in it.
"I will only recommend Start Menu X to people who are professional PC users and have over 20-30 programs."
Softpedia: How many users downloaded your app since the Windows 8 launch? Do you expect the number of downloads to increase or decrease after the launch of Windows 8.1?
DN: My freeware version of Start Menu X has a bit less downloads than Classic Shell and much more than Start8.
Softpedia: Windows 8.1 indeed brings back a Start button, but many users are actually disappointed because it doesn’t launch a Start Menu. What’s your opinion on the new Start button?
DN: In fact, they did a great job improving the interface, and Windows 8.1 became a lot more convenient. I can only imagine how difficult it was to make decisions and how much time was spent by developers and the marketing department arguing with one each other. I think the guys did all they could.
My situation is easier in this regard – I can do what I want. For instance, Start Menu X is not intended for blind people (this is really hard to do technically, if at all possible). But the guys from Microsoft must do all that and implement features that can be used by people with all kinds of disabilities. That is why standard system controls will never be a good choice for professional users – they have Start Menu X
Softpedia: Are you afraid that Microsoft might at some point block Start Menu apps in Windows? Microsoft expects consumers to actually get used to the Start screen, so Start Menu apps might become obsolete at some point.
DN: A true samurai must think about death every day…
Softpedia: Tell us two reasons why users should choose your Start Menu app and not another one, as the market is quite full of similar programs at this point.
DN: Actually, I won’t recommend using my program. People looking for a program that resembles the Windows 7 menu should check out Classic Shell, a great product by Ivo Beltchev, a cool guy who helped me a lot to overcome certain technical issues.
I will only recommend Start Menu X to people who are professional PC users and have over 20-30 programs – that’s when they can truly appreciate the comfort and speed of Start Menu X.
Softpedia: What do you think about Microsoft’s new Modern user interface and the live tiles? Are they good enough to be used on desktop computers and laptops, or should Microsoft offer them on the tablet version of Windows 8 exclusively?
DN: According to my information and support request stats, I know that no one uses them on desktop PCs and laptops. The reason is quite simple.
There are currently a lot of touch screen laptops on the market, but do you know any with a GPS module and an accelerometer? If you don’t have them, why do you need a touch screen? Has anybody tried holding a modern ultra book and surfing the web? It’s just heavy. And that brings up another question – who the heck needs that?