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Tweak Win8.1 UI, or Switch to Start Replacement?

I am a big fan of Ed Bott’s ZDNet blog posts, which often deal with Windows topics, under the general heading of The Ed Bott Report. Earlier this week (July 23) he posted a little gem entitled “The Metro hater’s guide to the Windows 8.1 Preview,” wherein he steps readers through a series of six UI tweaking steps needed to make the Windows 8.1 Preview get as far away as possible from the Modern UI Start menu and all of its appurtenances. I’ll spare you the details (please read the original for nice step-by-step instructions), and simply summarize those steps by name here:

1. Uninstall unwanted apps (he’s referring to non-desktop tile-based apps).
2. Adjust the look of the Start screen.
3. Tweak the Start screen settings to suit your preferences.
4. Arrange the Apps screen.
5. Pin your favorite desktop programs to the taskbar.
6. Set your default apps (to avoid invoking non-desktop tile-based apps, which Win8.1 — like its predecessor — still does by default).

Good stuff, and eminently helpful for those who want to stick to the built-in Windows 8.1 capabilities. But alas, taking this approach still means that some access to the Windows 8.1 Start screen is both inevitable and necessary.

Let’s consider some alternatives, shall we? As I indicated in my previous blog post (“Now I Know Where There’s a Start8 1.17 Beta: For Win8.1“) I’m still sold on the notion of using a so-called Start Menu replacement program instead, even with Win8.1. The Start8 1.17 beta (still my personal favorite, recent comments from blog readers about other alternatives — much appreciated, BTW — notwithstanding) is one good choice for this role, and the SourceForge project Classic Shell is another. And in that connection, I just learned this morning that there’s a new Classic Shell 3.9.0 beta available, which has been further tweaked to make itself more at home in the Windows 8.1 environment; see this Softpedia article for more info and a download link). If you want to see a reasonably complete list of ALL the Windows 8 Start menu replacements out there — 19 in total — check Wikipedia’s “List of Start Menu Replacements for Windows 8.” There is certainly no shortage of options, which tells me there’s a strong need for them, too! Things are indeed better with Windows 8.1 than its predecessor, but this need has by no means disappeared — at least not IMO.

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Do you have a lot of experience with desktop replacements on windows? I hesitate to try them for fear of picking a buggy version. I don't want to cause even more problems on my system, windows 8 has plenty on its own...