Don't-Miss OS & system enhancement software Stories
Stardock's latest customization tool for Windows 8 doesn't fight the Start screen. It customizes it.
The OS upgrade fixes a lot of things, but the classic pop-up Start menu isn’t one of them. These utilities—four of them, free—can fill the gap. Whether you prefer a plain Start menu, a customizable one, or loads of extras, one of these programs can give you the Windows 8.1 you wanted in the first place.
Classic Shell adds the features back into Windows 8.0 and 8.1 that Microsoft took out. It also adds many useful enhancements to the Windows Explorer.
This free start menu for Windows 8 melds the old functionality with the new look. If you want to ease into Windows 8, Start Menu Reviver is a good helper.
Windows 8 Start tiles aren't always the prettiest. Free progam OblyTile generates better-looking tiles and automatically installs them on your Start page.
Our Linux pros check out the decked-out XPS 13 'Developer Edition' laptop, preloaded with Ubuntu and other tools.
Too many open windows, and suddenly your desktop's a disaster. We review five programs that can organize your windows in a snap.
With literally thousands of features, Actual Window Manager can fulfill all your window-management wishes. You just have to be willing to spend some time and $50 to get there. Divided into 9 different tabs, Actual Window Manager offers everything from specific window settings, a customized set of title bar buttons, and a configurable desktop grid for dragging and snapping windows, to dozens of keyboard shortcuts, window mirrors, virtual desktops, and to top it all off, a flexible Start-menu replacement. Unlike most Start-menu replacements out there, Actual Window Manager has the option to add just a Start button, and have the new Windows 8 Starts screen pop out of it, full size or half size. The program supports multiple monitors ably, giving you full control of multiple taskbars and their content, and even going as far as wallpaper setting, resolution controls, and other options you would normally control through Windows's native settings. Actual Window Manager includes more options than I could use in a year, and the confusing interface doesn't make these easier to discover, but you can rest assured: It's all there. All you need is the will to spend $50, the need for such an abundance of features, and the patience to figure them all out. The 60-day free trial could help you there.
Chameleon Window Manager is not the only way to achieve exact control over your windows, however. Instead of focusing on a window's behavior when it's opened, WindowSpace grants you the ability to intricately control windows with dozens of customizable keyboard shortcuts. These range from your regular window-snapping and moving windows between monitors, to fine-tuning a window's position on the screen, resizing, rolling up, transparency toggles, and almost anything else you can dream of. Aside from keyboard shortcuts, WindowSpace can enhance each window's title bar with additional context menu items and mouse actions. These, too, are pretty flexible, letting you decide which menu items you want to add, and even how you want them to appear in the context menu. In addition, you can set title-bar buttons such as the close, minimize and maximize to perform new actions when right-clicked or middle-clicked. Unlike most other window managers, WindowSpace takes the focus off simple window-snapping, providing only elementary features in that arena, and instead sets its sights on giving you the best control possible over your windows. In WindowSpace, the Snapping tab is all about your windows' behavior when they're moved next to each other. Will they automatically snap to each other, or will they overlap, making it harder to place them side by side? In other words, WindowSpace makes it easy for you to arrange your windows however you want, but doesn't necessarily do it for you. The program's lack of real interface could be confusing at first, as is the amount of settings you need to read and go through before you can even start setting things up, but if fine-tuned control is what you're looking for, WindowSpace is a solid option. It costs $25 after a 30-day free trial.
Chameleon Window Manager is powerful, but it's also confusing, cluttered, and inconsistent.
Mosaico is an innovative desktop tool that simplifies window managing where others fail to do so. Its only weak point is its current lack of Windows 8 support.
The start screen "grid" has been touted as a big feature of Windows 8. However, with the portable Start Screen Animations Tweaker, you can improve it even more.
Windows 8 has some nice apps inhabiting the modern UI, but having them accessible from the classic desktop in a window makes them even better.