The most frustrating thing about Windows 8 is its dueling interfaces, which force you to run new-style Windows apps in the Modern UI while launching desktop apps in their own windows. ModernMix, a new utility now in beta from Stardock, helps integrate these split personalities by running modern-style apps in resizable windows on the desktop and allowing you to ditch the Modern UI for good.
We downloaded a free trial version of ModernMix and were pleased to see that it performed exactly as advertised, giving us the ability to open Windows 8 apps in windows and switch them back and forth between windowed and Modern modes on the fly. You can even pin Modern apps to the taskbar.
After installing ModernMix, the app presented us with a simple options screen that allowed us to choose how Modern apps appear when first launched. We set the program to launch Modern apps in Fullscreen Modern mode when opened from the Start screen but launch in windowed mode when opened from the desktop. However, we could've had the utility launch Modern apps in windowed mode from both places.
The utility itself is completely unobtrusive, not even putting so much as an icon in the system tray. However, every Modern-style app has a tiny square icon in its upper left corner that lets you switch between desktop and Modern modes for that app. When we clicked the icon in the upper left corner of the Bing app, we were able to toggle back and forth between modes without as much as a screen refresh.
Hitting F10 on the keyboard also initiated the toggle. Note that we were unable to switch Modern apps that had been docked to the right or left side of the screen to desktop mode without first undocking them.
With the Bing app running in a window on the desktop, we were able to resize it by dragging its lower right corner as we would with any window. Accordingly, the contents of the app stretched or contracted to fit the available space. However, apps that are designed to only scroll horizontally, such as the Windows 8 People app, only get horizontal scrollbars in their windows. In order to see the What's New button that appears in the lower left corner of the People app, we had to make sure the window was big enough to include it.
When the Bing app was running in a window, it had a corresponding icon on the taskbar. When we right-clicked on the taskbar icon, we were able to pin a permanent shortcut there so we could launch it directly from desktop mode in the future. However, we didn't see a way to place a shortcut icon for the app directly on the desktop.
As under normal conditions, clicking a link in the Bing search app launched the site in the Modern version of IE, not the desktop version of IE. However, with ModernMix, we were able to make the Modern version of IE run in a window. Interestingly, we were able to run both desktop IE and Modern IE in windows right next to each other.
We've never understood why Microsoft wouldn't allow its new Modern style apps to run on the desktop, and ModernMix proves that there's no technical reason they can't. Of course, in order to really ditch the Start screen, you'll need to get a Start menu replacement such as Stardock's own Start8 utility. ModernMix is currently available as a free 30-day beta trial from Stardock.com, but costs $4.99 for a non-trial version that will eventually be upgraded to the final build.