How to Launch Apps from The Desktop in Windows 8

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Windows 7 Start Menu vs Windows 8 Start Screen

Because Microsoft really wants you to use its new “Modern” UI, the company removed the Start button from the desktop, forcing users to go back to the tile-based Start screen to launch desktop apps. So, if you’re working in Excel and then need to launch PowerPoint, you need to leave the desktop, go to the Start screen and then click the PowerPoint tile, which will drop you back on the desktop again. And if the PowerPoint tile isn't pinned to the Start screen, you have to either perform a search for it or click another two times to get to the All Apps menu. 

Not only does switching screens take more time than simply launching a menu, it takes you out of context by pushing your work in the first application off-screen, making it easy to lose track of what you were doing. 

Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid going through the Start screen every time you want to launch a new desktop application.

Install a Start Menu Alternative

A number of developers have built their own desktop menu programs which look and feel a lot like Microsoft's old Windows 7. Our favorite of these is Classic Shell, which provides a ton of options and even lets you bypass the Start Screen on boot up, reassign the Windows key to launch it and disable hot corners so you don't accidentally go back to the tiled menu when you hover over the lower left section of the screen.

Classic ShellPin Applications To the Taskbar

As with Windows 7, you can right click on any shortcut or tile for a desktop app and select Pin to Taskbar. Pin to Taskbar

Create Keyboard Shortcuts 

Every time you roll your mouse pointer anywhere, you're wasting precious seconds of your life. The fastest way to launch any program is to assign it to a Ctrl + Alt + Key combination. To assign a keyboard shortcut, you must right click on a shortcut, select properties and then fill in the Shortcut key field under the Shortcut tab.Create a Shortcut Key in Windows 8If a desktop app doesn't have a shortcut visible on the desktop, you must find it on the Start screen or in search, right click and select Open File Location. You will then see a shortcut icon for it appear in Explorer.

Open File Location

More Windows 8 Tips

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment

    Please give all DVD apps windows 7

  • Gary D Carlson Says:

    Do got Kelsey Carlson Willaims and ex he the one has colrol Dywillen (sp) is not spelling there one my progmam an andizon is all I use

  • Carol Ann Says:

    I have an hP touch screen desk top. It came with the apps but now they are all gone! No solitaire, nothing.

    Where are they? If I try to reinstall them, it says it can not be done.

    Please help me. It is a problem.

    Thank you.

  • Pradipta Majumdar Says:

    I have a laptop installed with windows 8 operating system, whenever i try to donload any games or apps from store, it gets pinned on the start menu, when i open it doesnt work or run the game dowloaded. please help me..

  • Kevin Says:

    Great article. I really wish Microsoft engineers would get their heads out of their brasses. It's like "Hide Extensions". It helps spread viruses. They won't fix that but yet they feel the need to break other things in Windows. I call Windows 8, Windows 8OL.

  • eddie mello Says:

    lol... I have never used Windows as I have been using Apple products since 1984. I bought a new Asus laptop and did the upgrade to 8.1. Ya know... it is all weird for me but it works and that is all I need. :)

  • Muzammil Says:

    I want all to all window 8 command keys know

  • Vadim Negrescu Says:

    I am not happy with Windows 8 at all. I bought new laptop for my little daughter on her birthday, she cannot use it because this idiots from microsoft changed view of windows. So now I have peace of sh@t for 1200 bucks and unhappy child. F-U microsoft. I am going to buy Mac.

  • Robert Says:

    I HATE WINDOWS 8. The Start button/menu is gone. It takes you to the new start screen. I never use it at all. I found a solution, Classic Shell its free and brings back everything I want. Gone is the blasted start screen with the metro ui.

  • Robert Says:

    I have moved all of my machines to Windows 8. I like it a lot, and yes it has it's problems.

    The easiest, and cheapest (free) solution to the Start Menu is built into Windows 8!!

    I copied my Start Menus from ProgramData and AppData into a single folder I created, called Start Menu under 'My Toolbars' folder. I organized the shortcuts how I like them to be displayed.

    Then I simply added a new Toolbar to my Taskbar, hid the text and title, and I have my Start Menu! No fuss. I even added another Toolbar for some of my Internet Shortcuts.

    I also use the Jump Lists for Pinned Apps on the Taskbar to open specific files, locations, with the parent program.

  • TOM Says:

    I would like to have my old windows XP startup system I spend an awufull lot of time trying to get started with this 8 monster would like to know how to install the Classic Shell program, this is my first lap Top.

  • Mike Says:

    I am a blind user and so far I am less than impressed with 8. I need keystrokes ability, because I can not touch the screen. If anyone ahs any suggestions, please email me at:

  • Ginny Cheaney Says:

    I hate windows 8 and just want windows 7 back. Went to Best Buy, they said its no longer sold. I am old and can't adjust to this windows 8. I hate it so much. Any where I can get windows 7 put into it? Wish now I had kept my other computer.


  • Greg Says:

    Is it possible to have a song playing in YouTube while reading the news in Google? I know how to do in in Windows 7.

  • mary Says:

    I hate windows 8.

  • Brandon Says:

    I was really concerned with Win8, especially having a good performance with Win7 for so long. I always feel iffy when transcending towards a new product line from Microsoft, but of course, they are consistent as long as one doesn't go too far in computer usage.

    This definitely might make me consider investing into Win8, but I feel it's been a short span since Win7. Thanks for the instructions, really helped!

  • Mark Says:

    Win8 is a dealbreaker for me. I admit I love the Aero look of Win7, and I'm amenable to the argument of saving resources by having a less-pretty OS. But getting rid of the ability to multi-task; forcing me to pop to the tile screen everytime I want to switch between applications....that's kind of it.

    XP stayed in the Corp areana b/c Vista was a complete failure, and by failure I mean there was no reason whatsoever to justify the expense & time involved with upgrading from XP. Win7 was the opposite; its such a good OS that there's no pain, just gain by putting it in the corp area.

    Win8 will never be adopted by corporate users. It's too awful & counter-productive. Even MS has to know this. Either Win9 will bring back the start bar & return multi-tasking to the computer (along with a lot of articles on how MS "listened" to its customers) or they'll double down & have more Win8 nonsense. If they choose the former...MS has a future in the corporate sphere. If they choose the latter...for the first time the Corporate world will start looking at Linux.

    MS has to realize this as well; despite the abortion that is Win8, they're not stupid at MS. But, if they don't roll this awful OS into the trash heap (or into the tablet world where it belongs) then MS will be getting out of the corporate business space whether they intended to or not.

  • Brendon Says:

    I have tries and tried to embrace and adopt the new styles and usability of Windows 8. I feel though that as a usable desktop operating system it is best intentions failed. The removal of some of the best usability features from windows 7 is unforgivable and as a result I am downgrading. I use multiple operating systems on a variety of devices and am usually all up for singing praise to new and innovative ideas. This one fails... I look forward to a major fix from Microsoft so I can have another go at it.

  • Elizabeht Says:

    ok have a problem and not sure what happen, everytime I click on an app in windows 8 screen it switches to desktop to open the page....... how do I stop this and have my apps open like usual

  • Axim Says:

    @Joe East: Sure, because everyone needs a GUI that eats more performance than Vista.

  • Rick B Says:

    I like many of the new features in Windows 8, but have had my share of frustration with trying to get simple things done. Outlook Express I particularly miss, Windows Live Mail is ok, has a crisp look with the interface, though the overview in Outlook Express containing all emails from all accounts is gone. Microsoft found gold and then didn't take time to optimize it further. I wouldn't have even gotten Win 8 if I hadn't needed a new computer, but I'll take the time to adapt. Like someone commented earlier, I initially resented the ribbon on the office bar and still have to occasionally look up something, but after adapting to it, I was able to create custom toolbars that streamlined the process. I suspect (and hope) the same applies with Win 8. Kudos to the much improved Internet Explorer, though I'm still trying to figure out how to bookmark (though I did find it once before...)

  • Greg Says:

    honestly, the new tiles.... I would have to have a screen 6 foot wide to hold all my tiles... I'm sorry, but I deal with people that griped for 6 months after getting the 'ribbon' on office 2007.. if I even think of introducing 'no start menu', they will riot! I do NOT have touch screens.. tiles are made for touch. At least in the developer preview, I could disable metro and enable classic.. change for the sake of change.... not needed. Classic start menu should NEVER be disabled for all the people that are trained for the start menu. - That is -- unless Microsoft is willing to send out training staff to train my staff for the new os, and re-imburse for the lost productivity. Thats my 2 cents.

  • Edward Richardson Says:

    First, let me say that I have NOT yet UPGRADED(?) to W-8, but, from all the reviews I have read, I do have some concerns:
    1: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Why remove classic windows layout as an option?
    2: Why does Microsoft keep moving things? I know where to go in Windows 7 (reverted to as close to classic mode as I could get it) to do just about anything I need to do with the OS. Why move things and thus make them harder to find?
    3. The emphasis for years has been; "How can I get my computer to work as FAST as possible?" So, Why add a Graphic User Interface that requires MORE time to display the SAME data?
    4: My pet peeve with Microsoft; WHY DO THEY KEEP DROPPING FEATURES THAT ALOMOST EVERYBODY USES? Windows Media Player IS NOT AVAILABLE in the "Basic" or "Home" version.
    5: Pet peeve #2; Why separate out and charge different prices for different versions of the SAME OS? Can't they just release ONE VERSION that will do WHATEVER ANY user needs to do. It would simplify the process of users switching from a work computer to their work/home laptop to their home PC. It would also simplify their ENTIRE SUPPORT operation as they would not have to train support personnel on incompatablilities between versions and save time when users call in by allowing their calls to no have to be pre-screened as to which version they are using and the support techs could just get straight to solving the users problem.
    6: If I do not have a touch screen computer, why do I need to have screen tiles and an interface set up for a touch screen computer? The "tiles" interface needs to be able to be turned off.
    7: Finally; Are you telling me that with all their high paid programers that they could not figure out how to list ALL "Control Panel" icons on one screen? I cannot even stand the W-7 version of the control panel because they try to CATEGORIZE the icons into several sub-menus/screens requiring me to first, know whick category they have moved what I am looking for to, and, second, it inserts and entirely unnecessary extra step into the process. I reverted my control pane to "Classic" and VIOLA I found what I was looking for without having to learn the new CUNFUSING layout and structure.
    OK, RANT OVER...I will be reading a LOT more reviews before I take the risk of switching to what appears to be shapping up to be an UNNECESSARILY CONFUSING and UN-BACKWARD-COMPATIBLE BOONDOGLE.
    ***(Copy sent to Microsoft)***

  • Joe East Says:

    Here is an Idea, install Ubuntu or Debian open a terminal and type " sudo apt-get install KDE-full ". Problem solved

  • ruu721 Says:

    have had my Surface for months and haven't put it down...completely awesome! You just have the ability to make it your own, like another commenter said... Once I made the tiles I wanted and arranged how I wanted ... it's a breeze! I find more and more every day. You just can't jump right into it

  • Zach Says:

    You all are making a big deal about nothing. Sure, the new UI takes some getting used to, but when you work out the kinks and get it set up properly, it runs very smoothly. The start menu is easy to organize as well, so no more dealing with tree menus. Just grow up and realize that computers and software are going to keep changing, even if you aren't.

  • Shel Says:

    humm time for MacBook Pro

  • Richard Rost Says:

    So far, I really like Windows 8, but I HATE the fact that Microsoft removed something as integral as the Start button. Love the Classic Shell app, though. Thanks for the tip.

  • JT Says:

    Installed Win 8 two days ago over Win 7 premium and have had nothing but trouble. I've been working with windows since the beginning (way back in the 80s), and this upgrade has been as frustrating as ever. I never went to Vista and never missed anything there. I've had great luck with Win 7 since moving from XP to it. I can't open any apps with Win 8 unless I get a Microsoft live account and every time I do that my email ceases to work. I've updated all the appropriate network drivers and still no luck. Also my Lotus Notes does not work. After doing a system restore at least I'm able to get back to using my laptop from the desktop, but now the start button and classic 7 menu is gone so I've gained nothing but extra work by installing Win 8. Maybe if the laptop is purchased with Win 8 it would be OK, but I'd never recommend upgrading from Win 7 to Win 8 which in my opinion is junk.

  • buggrit Says:

    Upgraded dell laptop yesterday to win 8 pro. yes it's different, yes i'm flitting around looking for how to do stuff, and not to do stuff, yes i'm confused at times. it's okay. as for the start program - you can of course make a new toolbar that points to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs and there are all your start menu progs.
    There are always problems with 'new', suck it up or don't switch. too easy.

  • watching paint dry Says:

    They've sacrificed the value of a laptop to add tablet features that I NOT only DON'T
    want, but devour my work time as I'm forced to click and circle to screen after screen
    until I've lost what work I was using the computer for to begin with.
    I'm not one of those who can't handle "change." My warranted scream is that they are
    now STEALING our lifetime.

    A 7-figure marketer gave a presentation where he showed how to eliminate one click
    in our computer use and tallied how much lifetime we'd save. Maybe you love wasting
    yours trapped to Windows 8 screens, but I deeply abhor it. Windows has fallen to a
    new low.

    I bought a laptop to have the features of a LAPTOP, not have them eliminated so I'd have
    a clone of a product I DON'T WANT. Here's a thought: improve the features of a laptop
    that DISTINGUISH it from a tablet but then I'm not getting big bucks working for a big

    Instead, they brutally blow off my need to REDUCE TIME on a computer and exponentially
    expand wasted time there with boring, inane circuitous screens.

    I used to be able to open two external hard drives simultaneously. Now when I "tap" on
    the second, it shuts the first. Can't WAIT to discover what ELSE I've lost.

    They don't even score 0. They're in the minus zone.

  • TurboDiesel Says:

    STOP COMPLAINING !!! If you use WINDOW + X you have a powerful hotkey that does nearly everything you would want from a START MENU. Or just click the WINDOW button and VOILA, desktop. Once on the desktop, 8 is entirely familiar to anyone using WIN 7 (which I love by the way)
    Win 8 looks great from the get go. If you don't rely on METRO and get rid of half the junk, the "apps" can be lined up as you want, hence IT IS YOURS. Also a nice feature is, switch to metro and start typing and you have instant search.

    I just salvaged my little ASUS netbook WIN XP (that I was holding on to with my nails) and she runs WIN 8 EASY !!
    Most tweaks from WIN 7 apply to WIN 8.
    Embrace it !! Resistance is futile. MSFT may be the wiser - they made something that works on both tablets and PC's !!!

  • BIGPOPPA Says:

    @Jenna At least Apple LEAVES the Finder desktop experience users are familiar with instead of a complete replacement. This Metro interface is horrible for desktops.

  • Mike Says:

    Lol, click on the desktop -> Push Alt + F4 and click OK / or push enter.
    Exactly the same as windows 7 and takes 2 seconds....

  • Rick Says:

    @Mark: If you want your photo (or whatever file) to open in another program by default then you just need to select that other program to be the default, just like you would do in Windows 7.

    Also, you should consider updating you Office software to Office 2013. There are many improvements in Office 2013.

  • Jenna Says:

    better sticking with windows 7

    @Al Winston: I got news for you, Apple is slowly turning the mac OS into a IOS clone, switching to it would be no better than switching to windows 8

    for everyone else, try to keep in mind that MS has a habit of dropping the bomb with every other version of windows they plan to give to the home user, I suspect the next viable version of windows will be windows 9 and somehow I suspect MS will put back the start menu after they get the outcry of the home users, MS also has a bad habit of not listening to its user base, they didn't with Windows Me, they didn't with Windows Vista, and it seems they also didn't with Windows 8, their flashy phone ui is great for phones, but for a desktop/tablet OS? no thanks MS you are taking steps backward

  • Mark Says:

    Playing with Windows 8 today and it is complete junk.
    I received a voice mail in an email message and when I loaded it I was taken to a full screen metro media player.
    Why would anyone want this functionality, or lack there of.

    I clicked on a photo in a folder and it loaded a metro photo viewer.
    I could not even click forward or back to other photos. JUNK.

    Loaded Office 2012 preview and it is nothing more than a metro skinned Office 2010. No new features or advancements.
    More lame microsoft crap.

    Microsoft has lost its way. Better give its head a shake and do a corporate reorg and get back to making software people want or they are toast.

  • Al Winston Says:

    I've got an idea. Why not switch to a Mac? Apple hasn't done this kind of ridiculous UI "upgrade" for decades. No massive retraining, and everyone gets to work with an interface they know and love.

  • Glenn Geary, Jr. Says:

    Install a Start Menu Alternative:

    Stardock Start8 0.87:

  • Byron Joseph A. Hallar Says:

    By golly, this is sheer madness. I'd rather stick with Windows 7, thank you.

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