The Definitive Windows 8 Review And User Guide

Tom's Tips To Mitigate Windows 8 UI

Yikes! If a screen like that doesn't exactly get you super-enthused about upgrading, we have some essential tips and tricks to get you back to the Windows experience you already know. The first three tips deconstruct the more radical elements of Windows 8, while the next three get us closer to a Windows 7-like environment. 

Buy Local

This one is simple, and it actually cuts out a lot of what might bother enthusiasts about the Windows 8 UI. Using a local account instead of a Windows account means that you cannot use the Windows Store or any Windows UI 8 app not already pre-installed.

Exorcise the Demons

From there, the pursuit of cleanliness compels us to simply uninstall the Windows 8 UI apps that do make their way onto your hard drive by default. With the exception of the Windows Store (which can be un-pinned), all of the pre-installed apps can be uninstalled quite easily. Simply right-click on each tile and choose Uninstall from the App bar. By the time you're done removing everything, your Start screen goes from this... this.

Get Out Of My Way!

If the Swticher gets in your way every time you jam the mouse into the top-left corner of the screen to hit Internet Explorer's back button or open an application's File menu, then get rid of it. Toggle "Allow switching between recent apps" to Off in the General page of the Windows 8 PC settings. This completely disables the Switcher. Now, only the Start tile appears from the lower-left corner.

Roll Your Own Start Screen

The Windows 8 Start screen doesn't have to drive you crazy. Once you're done eradicating every trace of Microsoft's Windows 8 UI apps, populate your Start screen with the desktop apps you're used to.

If you grew accustomed to hitting the Windows key to open the Start menu, and then conducting a search, you're in luck. This is still possible in Windows 8. Just hit the Windows key and begin typing, the Search Charm automatically kicks in.

Keyboard mavens accustomed to using the Windows key to navigate down a list of pinned applications in Windows 7 can do something similar here as well. Just hit the Windows key and use the arrows to select the tile you're after, then press Enter.

Even better, move the Desktop tile to the top of the first row of tiles. While the Desktop tile is most likely placed on the bottom of the first row by default in order to make it closer to the old Start button, moving it to the top has advantages. By occupying the top spot, pressing the Windows key and hitting Enter takes you right to the Desktop. You basically create a new keyboard shortcut simply by shuffling tiles around. The way tiles are laid out is entirely up to you, much like the pinned section of the old Start menu, so it should be easy to organize them for maximum convenience. This trick works for any app, but if you can't stand the Windows 8 UI, the Desktop app is a particularly appropriate choice for the top spot.

The Start screen is basically a giant board of pinned favorites. If you can get over a little bit of extra cursor distance, you may even find the Start screen to be an upgrade from the Start menu.

Treat The Taskbar Like a Dock

Pin all of your most-used apps to the taskbar. While Windows 95 through Vista separated app launchers from open windows in the taskbar, Windows 7 gave us a combined launcher/window dynamic, much like the Dock in OS X or Ubuntu's Unity Launcher. Those operating systems pre-load their docks chock full of application launchers, giving you the impression that that's how the dock is supposed to be used. In contrast, Windows 7 had a measly three applications in the taskbar by default.

If you truly want to avoid the Windows 8 UI at all costs, loading up the taskbar is probably your best bet.

Bring Back Desktop Icons

But don't stop there. Create some desktop shortcuts as well. Right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize. Then choose "Change desktop icons". Restore the old desktop icons for Computer, your user folder, Network, and Control Panel, since you lost handy access to them via the Start menu.

Now let's try jazzing up the aesthetic aspect a bit. Get rid of that purple theme and default background in the Windows 8 UI, replacing it with something a little cleaner. Black and red with gears; sure, that'll do. Now, change your Desktop personalization settings to a custom wallpaper and window color. Voila. There's something easier to stomach.

This is much closer to the Windows 7 that we knew. Plus we get the better File Explorer, Task Manager, File History, triple-Snap, and improved multi-monitor support through the Charms bar. After our sequence of simple tweaks, anyone who loathes the new tile-based user interface has to look at Windows 8 in a different light.