Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8
by Chris Taylor

 

Windows 8 has a split personality. There’s the old familiar desktop, and the new Metro interface – now officially known as the Modern UI. Whether you like it or not, you will use both.

Two distinct personalities

The desktop is where all non-Metro apps run. This means pretty much all the apps I use, such as Corel PaintShop Pro, Total Commander, Google Earth, FotoSketcher, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Foxit Reader, Irfanview, etc. And it includes millions of other Windows applications.

Metro-style apps run full screen in the Metro interface. You can’t run them in arbitrarily-sized windows. You can’t overlap windows – a “feature” last seen in Windows 1.0. In a nod (I guess) to the fact that for over 27 years people have worked with multiple Windows applications visible at once, Microsoft allows two applications to be visible at once, but only side-by-side in a strict - division, even if you are on a desktop computer with a 26” screen. I’ve seen Microsoft demos where they monitor an app such as email, weather, or stock quotes in the screen while working on a document in the window. They showed how easy it is to quickly switch the monitored window to full screen or size so you can more easily interact with it. Want to see three apps at once? Sorry, you are out of luck in Metro.

I think the Metro interface on a desktop computer is just dumb and inefficient. Same goes for any computer with a keyboard, mouse, and a screen over 10”. For the foreseeable future, I see almost all my time being spent with desktop applications, which by definition only run on the Windows desktop, not the Metro interface.

Microsoft taketh away

Which would be fine … if Microsoft hadn’t neutered the desktop. I would have much preferred if Windows 8 allowed full Windows functions from both Metro and the desktop. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have designed both Metro’s PC Settings, and the desktop’s Control Panel to have complete and identical functionality. There is no reason why they couldn’t have left a Start button on the desktop. A button that could have optionally synchronized with the contents of the Metro Start screen.

But Microsoft didn’t.

Quick Link menu

Microsoft did implement a very nice feature in both the Metro and desktop environments – the Quick Link menu, which gives easy access to many admin tools. From the Metro interface or the desktop, press the Windows logo key+X and the Quick Link menu will pop up. With a mouse – in either interface – point to the bottom-left corner. When the little Start square appears, right click and the Quick Link menu will appear. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear possible to use a touch gesture to access the Quick Link menu in either Metro or desktop mode.


Quick Link menu in Metro (left) and on the desktop (right)

It’s clear from the list of items on the Quick Link menu that it’s intended as a power user’s tool. I think power user tools are great! They bypass clutter and round-about ways of doing things and let you cut to the chase.

I like some of the choices Microsoft put on the Quick Link menu, but not all. I can get a run dialog box by pressing Win+R. I can get File Explorer by pressing Win+E. I can start a search by typing at the Start screen. Of course, being a power user tool, the Quick Link menu is highly customizable so I can remove entries I don’t want and add my own.

Right?

Unfortunately, no. Oddly, it is completely un-customizable!

But a company called WinAero figured out how to do it. Enter Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8 (what a mouthful!). This great little free app allows you to customize the Quick Link menu.

Win+X Menu Editor is very simple to use. Some presets for Windows tools that power users often use are available with a couple of clicks. It’s easy to add any other executable you would like on the menu. Up and down arrows let you re-order items. One click will delete entries you don’t want.

Beware – there is no undo option and there is no save option (saving is immediate and automatic). There is an option to reset to the default menu. You have to restart Explorer in order to see changes you have made to the Quick Link menu. Win+X provides a handy button to do this.

There are a few enhancements I would like to see: the ability to save a particular configuration; drag & drop of a shortcut or program to have Win+X create a menu entry; and the ability to re-order menu groups.

But all these are minor quibbles. For me, Win+X Menu Editor is a great way to make up for the missing Start button on the Windows 8 desktop and makes Windows 8 more useable. Kudos to WinAero for making this great utility available for free!

My modified Quick Link menu


Bottom Line:

Program: Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8
Cost: free
Publisher: WinAero http://winaero.com/comment.php?comment.news.30


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
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