Start10 adds dark mode support to bring back the classic Start menu

Published on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

Stardock will be releasing Start10 v1.75 today which, amongst other things, adds dark mode support.  Start10 is designed to bring the Windows 10 start menu the full power it traditionally had.

I won't pretend to understand the UX team at Microsoft.  It will come as no surprise to those who have been following Microsoft and Stardock for the past twenty years that we've been pursuing often parallel visions of where the Windows desktop should go. When our visions diverge they tend to diverge in a big way and probably the most famous example was the evolution of the Start menu.

Stardock's Start8 was the first, and for awhile, only, program that returned the classic-style start menu.  We're not sure what Microsoft was thinking with Windows 8 but luckily, by Windows 10, they had returned to their senses...mostly.

This past Spring Microsoft introduced "Dark Mode" to Windows 10 which is a visual treat for most of us who spend many hours in front of the computer.  Nevertheless, the Windows 10 Start menu is still...not ideal.

If you have Windows 10 you already know this but let's recap.  Windows 10 with dark mode looks like this:

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Image from Walter Glenn's terrific article on customizing Windows 10's Start menu

Walter's article is one of the best out there for trying to make the Windows 10 Start menu usable.  The problem isn't just that it's a bad UX, it is also not well implemented.  It's basically divorced from the rest of the Windows shell experience. 

Where Start10 shines

First, as you can see here, it is important that users quickly and easily be able to choose which presentation of the Start menu they want. That includes Microsoft's Windows 10 style.  We want our users to always be able to check out things on Windows 10 easily to make sure that Start10 remains a better solution for them.

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Start10: Choose between classic, modern and Windows 10

Personally, I prefer the modern style.   When I use Start10, it's not because I'm "afraid of change" in my UX.  I just want the most usable, modern experience, period.  The classic style (Windows 7) isn't a retrograde either.  You can still mix and match UWP programs and such.  It just gives you a bit quicker access to elements of Windows that have become hard to directly access.

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Start10: Modern Style

vs.

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Start10: Classic style

Windows 10 at full power

With Start10, you can customize both your taskbar and your Start menu however you'd like both in terms of color and texture.  But cosmetics aside here are some of my favorite features from Start10 that I just can't live without:

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Jump Lists

One of the best features of Windows was jump-lists.  They're still there.  The OS still has them.  But the default Windows 10 Start men hides them.  They allow you to quickly get to a particular document.

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Start10: All apps

Whether you organize your Start menu or not, one of the most useful features the start menu was nested folders.  I could organize things like Apps->Graphics->Adobe and quickly go through the Adobe apps.   These days, I tend to use search for anything I remotely use often so I don't organize to that level of detail anymore.  However, it is still very handy to be able to organize utilities and development apps because I often absolutely forget the name of many of my favorite tools (such as Balsamiq Mockups!).  

To be fair, Windows 10 is slowly returning some of these features but with relatively little control over how they're displayed:

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Windows 10's Start menu for comparison.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of features of Start10.  Version 1.75 adds Dark mode support to the app.  If you don't already have it, definitely go download it at www.start10.com.

More screenshots

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