Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Vista' New Start Menu

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The Windows Vista love-in on my UI Design blog continues unabated! I was browsing through a surprisingly active thread on the Shell Revealed site about the design of the new Vista Start Menu. Not surprisingly, some people love the new Start menu, some hate it, and some are demanding that Microsoft change it back the way it was.

First off, for everyone out there who hates the new design, and wants to change it back:

  1. Right-click on the Windows orb
  2. Choose ‘Properties’ (shouldn’t that really be ‘Properties…’ ?)
  3. Choose ‘Classic Start menu’
  4. Hit OK

Voila, all is right with the world! Although, I do think you’re missing out on a big way if you don’t use the new design.

Second, for everyone who’s decided that new is good: Did you know that you can hit the Windows orb and start searching away? Keyboard focus automatically goes into the Search field. Furthermore, did you know that this will allow you to search for anything on your system (including Outlook emails)? Or, did you know that you can launch applications by typing their name and hitting enter? (just like the Run dialog).

Third, if anyone from Windows Shell ends up reading this: When I am typing, the focus of my attention rests on the Search box. Once results start popping up, I shift my focus up to the top of the Start menu to see if the results are what I expect. If I need to keep filtering (by typing more stuff), I need to shift my attention back down to the Search box, or risk mistyping (I’m not that good a touch-typer).

A better alternative (although decidedly non-standard) might be to treat the list as a Stack. The first results would be at the very bottom, right next to the Search field. New entries are pushed onto the stack and end up moving towards the top. Yes, it would definitely take a while to get used to, but it would mean I could stop doing these awful, time-stealing attention shifts while I use your awesome search feature :-) Whaddya say?

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