Microsoft's Windows 8.1 user interface was a departure from the familiar Windows 7 UI, which made it unpopular with many users early on. Presumably, it was the result of an effort by the Windows team to compete with slick iOS and Android interfaces.
Had it been an apples-to-apples competition between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 -- i.e., mobile only -- things would have been fine. Instead, Microsoft forced the UI on longtime desktop users, including those without a touch interface, and so Windows 8.1 will go down in history as one of the worst operating systems ever.
The reality is that it's not that bad. In fact, I have been a fan of the OS since it came out, but only because I changed its user interface back to the more tolerable Windows 7 style. How? A nifty program called Start8 by Stardock. It's the best $4.99 I've ever spent.
Almost everything else about Windows 8 is great. It's faster. It's more secure. It's more stable. It supports UEFI and boots up super quick. There are some free alternatives to Start8, such as IObit Start Menu 8 and Classic Shell, but I believe Stardock was first out of the gate with a solution to the Windows 8.1 user interface "problem."
It's funny -- Microsoft made a lame attempt to bring back the Start button in Windows 8.1 -- I'm guessing in an effort to keep directing users back to the Modern UI, which has been renamed the Metro UI but won't die. But what people also wanted was the Start Menu so they can access their computers and applications without being forced onto the new interface.
Rumor has it that Windows 9 is going to provide options for both the traditional Windows 7 UI and the Modern UI. I don't know where this will leave Start8 and the competition, but that's the great thing about innovation. Someone out there will always find a way to make Windows better.
The Windows 8.1 user interface refines OS features
Metro apps, designed for the Windows 8 UI, won't run on older versions
Learn more about how Group Policy will alter the Windows 8 user interface, configuration
Will Windows 8 Metro really benefit users?
Will the Windows 8 touch interface change the way we work?
Get the basics on Microsoft's Windows 8 touch interface
Dig Deeper on Windows 8 and 8.1
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