Make The Windows 8 Start Screen Work For You

Christian Cawley 04-04-2013

windows 8 start screenSo much has been written about the Windows 8 Start screen over the past few months that sometimes it seems as though we’ve heard every viewpoint and seen every tweak. However, it seems that there is a bit more to the controversial Start menu replacement that Microsoft introduced across every version of Windows 8, regardless of the target device.


I’m of the opinion that the tile-based Metro/Modern UI is absolutely fine if you’re using a tablet computer as I am, but less than ideal for desktop use. As I split my time between both productivity paradigms, I’ve invested in a 22″ HD display to use for work, gaming and multimedia when my Acer Iconia W700 Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Slimline, sleek, sexy and silver - but you can’t have everything. The Acer Iconia W7 is a Windows 8 tablet priced between $799 and $999 (depending on the chosen model) that looks as though it... Read More is docked.

On paper, this should mean that I can interact with Metro/Modern apps at the same time as working on a document or application on the desktop. However, when Microsoft introduced the Start screen, they omitted to make it particularly useful for dual monitors.

The Problem With Dual Monitors On Windows 8

Although the experience of using two monitors on a Windows 8 computer can be good, and could even be awesome, Microsoft have let users down somewhat.

The problem is this – if I have the desktop open on my external display, I can’t view the Windows 8 Start screen on my tablet’s display. As soon as I click on the desktop or an open window, the tablet display will show the extended desktop.

Open Metro/Modern apps aren’t as bad as they will remain open on the Start screen-assigned display, but this reduces the productivity options considerably. What many users would like to see is the ability to have the Start screen open on a second display and stay up to date with email and social alerts, perhaps news updates, etc.


Managing Windows 8 Across Dual Monitors

What you can do with Windows 8 on a dual monitor setup, however, is easily switch displays.

windows 8 start screen

There are a couple of ways to do this. If you don’t have a touchscreen setup, I would recommend the first, which is to use the WIN+Page Up or WIN+Page Down keyboard combination to switch the displays around. If you’re using a smaller and larger display as I am, you’ll need to wait a brief moment while the Start screen tiles rearrange themselves for the change in resolution.

This procedure is useful, but not perfect, although useful for quickly switching to desktop view when Windows 8 starts. My own preference, however, is to force the Start screen onto my tablet display by launching a Metro/Modern app, heading straight to the desktop view and then dragging the newly-launched app in from the left-side of the tablet, as per the multitasking gestures for Windows 8.


There Is No Way To Force The Start Screen To Open

Unfortunately there is no way in Windows 8 to force the Start screen to stay open once you click the desktop. Considering that Microsoft seems to desperately want us to use the Start screen, there is clearly some weakness in dual monitor setups.

One way of getting around this is to rethink things. If you can’t have the Start screen open at the same time as the desktop, why not move the Start screen onto the desktop?

customize windows 8 start screen

ImmersiveTaille v2 (which you can download from Sourceforge) is the way to do this. Using this handy utility you can display the Start menu on your desktop either by bringing it in from the sides or display it as a window. Run the small 1.2 MB download and the settings box will appear – click the flag to select your language and then use the Basic or Advanced menus to position what is essentially a Start screen window anywhere on your desktop!


It isn’t an ideal solution by any means, but it does allow you to get the information you need.

windows 8 start screen

Don’t forget, however, that there are other ways to meld the Windows 8 Start screen to do your bidding. Various tweaks can help to keep the Start screen more efficient Rearrange The Windows 8 Start Screen With Registry Tweaks & Utilities As befits a new operating system, over the past few weeks we’ve featured many articles about how to use and tweak Windows 8. With the focus largely on tweaking. After all, when so many developers... Read More and if you’re simply interested in changing the way it looks, you can select a new background Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks Does your Windows 8 system look too bland with the default settings? You can customize it in a variety of ways, changing a variety of backgrounds and colors -- whether on the Start screen, lock... Read More .

Waiting For Microsoft To Perfect The Windows 8 Start Screen

Windows 8 has been available in pre-release and full operating system form for nearly two years now. Somehow, Microsoft has contrived to make the Start screen a big deal without really being aware of how people want to use their computers.


In the race to “tabletise” windows, Microsoft have introduced what could be a very good user interface. Unfortunately, its stability issues and the fact that it cannot appear on a dual monitor setup alongside the Windows desktop view is a sad indictment.

Related topics: Multiple Monitors, Windows 8.

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  1. MakeUseOf TechGuy
    April 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I'll my secret to making the Windows 8 start screen work for me: I setup a logon event that bypasses it and immediately launches the desktop. Totally works for me! ;)

    • Reinis Vesers
      April 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      But you still don't have the usability of a good start feature. Because we all know that the windows 8 start screen is worse for devices that don't have touch screens than the classical windows start menu.
      My solution -- pay five bucks to the nice people over at Stardock for Start8. It brings back the classic start menu and allows to turn off all of the unintuitive charm corners and what not.

  2. Jems Tang
    April 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Reading this makes me want to get Windows 8 but still unsure of how good it would turn out to be.

  3. i0ni
    April 4, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Who thought that the start screen in Windows 8 was a good idea?
    I tried it for like 2 months and then I just installed classic shell since it has no good apps for PCs and no use.

  4. Nevzat A
    April 4, 2013 at 6:13 am

    I have many issues with Windows 8 (computer management not working properly, usb disks not being mounted automatically, sd card reader not working, my gamepad is not working...). MS better be quick and release either SP1 or Windows Blue (8.1).

  5. Chris Hoffman
    April 4, 2013 at 4:37 am

    "without really being aware of how people want to use their computers."

    This describes so much about Windows 8.

  6. Shane
    April 4, 2013 at 4:15 am

    If you want to open the start menu on a different monitor, open it using the charms bar on the other monitor. Going forward it should open when you push the Win key on that monitor.

    • Drew Butler
      April 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      yep yep

  7. scottb
    April 4, 2013 at 2:33 am

    great point