If you upgraded to Windows 11 and were surprised at how different the Start menu looked, you’re not alone. Since its release in October 2021, the latest version of the taskbar, usually present at the bottom of the desktop screen of every version of Windows since Windows 95, has divided its users.
The latest iteration of the taskbar has some confusing design features and updates, including changes to icon pinning. Microsoft acknowledged — and continues to acknowledge — the feedback, responding with update releases that in the past restored some functionality. Still, users expect faster progress.
It’s here that Stardock comes with Start11, its app to improve the start menu. Start11 integrates additional features into the menu, including visual changes such as reverting to a Windows 7 start menu appearance, rearranging the layout, and more.
Understanding what a boon Start11 can be for Windows users, TechRadar spoke with Brad SamVice President and General Manager of Stardock, on the creation of Start11 and what the company has in store for the program’s future.
It’s just getting started for Start11
We first asked Sams what his preferred Start11 setup on his PC was. “My favorite setup is with the Start button on the far left next to the weather widget, icons centered and ungrouped, in a dark color,” Sams reveals. “I’ve attached an image that shows my layout (see above) so you can see it for yourself!”
Why did Stardock decide to create Start11, especially so soon after the launch of Windows 11? “The StartX line of apps (as we call them) started with Windows 8 as a way to bring the Start menu back to that specific version of Windows after Microsoft removed it,” Sams says. “With Start10, the app allowed Windows 10 users to re-enable a classic Start menu experience with a bit of customization as well.”
“With Windows 11, we wanted to bring back a Windows 7-style Start menu and a modern-style menu that matched the ethos of the operating system, but was designed for left-aligned placement,” Sams continues. “As we worked on Start11, we focused less on re-enabling classic Windows functionality, and more on allowing our customers to completely customize their Windows 11 Start experience.
Sams told us that because Windows 11 came out with an all-new Start menu design, the company wanted to add value to it and was able to do so by allowing the user to change the layout.
“With Start11, you can remove the ‘recent documents’ section, add folders, change icon sizes, and more,” says Sams. “Our latest app update brings unbundling back to the taskbar, which will ultimately achieve our primary goal: to make Windows 11 more personal and productive for our users.”
Windows 11’s Start menu received a mixed reception when it was first released. We’re now approaching a year since Windows 11 was first announced in June 2021, and that reception hasn’t changed. We wondered what Sams first thought of the revised Start menu. “I will always commend Microsoft for trying new designs with Windows; it’s not easy to design software that works for over a billion people.”
“Clearly the company wanted something new and familiar, so the included Start menu is centered but also very much like an app launcher from a mobile OS,” continues Sams. “I don’t think the design is inherently bad, but what it lacks is flexibility.
Windows 11 is rigid in its layout and does not allow the user to create an experience that matches their workflow,” says Sams. “Instead, it forces you to fit into its mold. For example, although you can left-align your Start menu, it doesn’t look out of place because it’s designed for a centered experience. The beauty of Start11 is that if you don’t like certain features (like the search bar at the top), you can change that.”
There was a recent blog post from Stardock about almost breaking a component in Windows 11 trying to bring a new feature. We wanted to know if Sams and the team had encountered any difficulties while developing Start11. “When we were building the unlink experience we ship with Start 11 v1.2, we had two options: re-enable the Windows 10 taskbar experience in Windows 11 or rebuild a new taskbar internally,” explains Sams.
“The quick and easy way is to just flip a few registry keys, apply a little memory fix, and re-enable the native Windows 10 taskbar in Windows 11. The problem is, if Microsoft decides to remove one of these operating system assets, the experience will break, and that’s not a scenario we can support.”
“Many of our enterprise customers use our StartX apps because it allows them to maintain a static experience on every device despite what Microsoft releases with every OS update,” Sams continues. “To ensure that we stay true to this principle, we had to create a new taskbar internally to be able to support our features for the life of the operating system.”
With Start11 constantly updated, Sams was tight-lipped about what users could expect to see in future updates. “That’s where the fun begins. Now that we have an internal taskbar, the door to adding new functionality to it is wide open,” Sams reveals. “We are evaluating ideas that make sense to our power users, but have nothing to announce at this time.”
Finally, some of us on the team remember using ObjectDock, the Stardock application that would bring the Dock from macOS to Windows. As Start11 enables start menus from previous versions of Windows, we wondered if ObjectDock might appear on the app in the future. “ObjectDock is a Stardock classic and was the first app I ever used from the company. In fact, that’s how I was connected to Stardock CEO Brad Wardell many years ago. years. This connection eventually led me to join the company to lead the software team.”
Sams continues, “We’ve discussed updating the app internally, but currently our goals are focused on updating many of our apps for Windows 11. Unlike previous versions of Windows where Microsoft provided a long track from announcement to release, Windows 11 was announced in June and shipped in October – given the breadth of Object Desktop’s portfolio, we still have a lot of work to do.”