One of the most startling changes in Windows 8 is the lack of a Start menu. Fortunately, a number of companies have developed replacements. Power8's version offers a wide variety of customization options, but is it the best?
Installation of Power8's 578KB file took less than 10 seconds. However, while user configuration possibilities are robust, it does require some geeky programming chops to master them. A visit to code.google.com/p/power8/ brings up pages of its open-source, user-available coding, revealing its customizable heaven and its user hell.
Although Power 8's Start menu appears similar to the one in Windows 7, it strays a bit with the applications it lists. By default anything pinned to the Taskbar shows up in the menu, as does an arbitrary grab bag of other programs. Duplicate listings abound and only one Windows 8 native app makes an appearance (Windows Store). When pressed, push pins next to each app merely send a given program to the top of the menu.
Right-clicking on the Start button gains entry to Settings, where you can configure a custom list of apps. Only what you select will then show up on the Start menu. One nice feature not otherwise accessible in Windows 8 is the separate entries for Shutdown, Sleep, Hibernate, Log off, Start screen saver, and Lock PC. The only drawback is that these options are stretched out individually, making them a bit of a real estate hog.
Power 8 also watches removable drives and will list some of their contents on its Start menu. For some users this is a worthwhile feature. But because Power 8 does not show from which drive each listing originates, the result can be confusion. You can turn this drive watch feature off in Power 8's settings.
At the top of the Power 8 submenu is the Start Menu, which more or less duplicates Programs already listed on the main menu. A folder of documents we created on the Desktop also appeared on the Start Menu but its contents were inaccessible from here.
Power 8 is a weakling when it comes dragging and dropping items to its menu. Instead, you'll need to right-click icons and select Pin to Start. Alas, these items get pinned to the Win 8 Start screen, not to Power 8's. The Windows key does not toggle between Win 8 Start and the Desktop but if you hover to the extreme bottom left corner of the Power 8 Start button, the Windows 8 Start will pop up.
Want to search? Power 8's latest version (188.8.131.525) returned an error message with any attempted search. At least for now you're better off using the search facility on the Charms drop-down menu.
Despite having a similar look and feel to the classic Windows start menu, Power 8 doesn't impress as much as competing apps. The buggy search functionality and lack of drag-and-drop support are big turnoffs. Overall, we recommend the free Classic Shell over Power 8, or you can step up to the more customizable and intuitive Start8 for $5.