The Windows 11 Start Menu has spotted a lot of people for its clunky layout and lack of customization skills. Instead of enhancing and improving previous menu designs from Windows 7 and 10, Microsoft has opted for a redesign that has left many of us wondering: “What were they thinking?” Well, if you hate the new Start menu in Windows 11 as much as I do and want something more usable and customizable, your best bet is to replace the Start Menu.
Many third-party applications can change the Windows 11 Start menu with a more familiar look and layout and different ways to customize it. The program I use on my Windows 11 machines is Start11. However, there are other utilities worth checking out, including the StartAllBack and the Open-Shell menu. Here’s how to get the Windows 11 Start menu you deserve.
Getting Started 11
Price $ 5.99 for a single license, The start of Stardock 11 Allows you to choose from four different start menu layouts. Windows 7 and Modern styles provide a traditional two-column display with all the apps or favorite apps on the left, and shortcuts to various Windows features and locations on the right. The Windows 10 style uses a familiar menu and tiled screen combination. There is also Windows 11 style, but it offers more features and flexibility than the built-in menu. I always like a two-column display, so I use a modern style menu (Figure 1)
You can tweak any menu you choose, its look, texture and texture. You can choose a regular menu that uses a full width or a more compact layout that shrinks certain items. In addition, you will be able to configure the list of all applications, add and remove shortcuts, adjust the color and appearance, and determine when and how the Start 11 menu is triggered (Figure 2)
Start 11 provides much-needed support for the Windows 11 taskbar, which has been criticized for its limitations and lack of flexibility. You can tweak the color and transparency of the taskbar, adjust its size, choose where it should appear on the primary and secondary monitor, and decide when and how to integrate the taskbar buttons (Figure 3)
Another bonus is that you can rename, move, and delete folders and shortcuts directly from the Start menu, as Windows long ago allowed you. Whether you’re using Start 11 or dive into its many customizations, you’ll find this a friendly and effective alternative to the regular Windows 11 start menu (Figure 4)
Costing $ 4.99 for a license, StartAllBack is a more basic but still quite capable start menu replacement. Right off the bat, the program asks you what theme you want to use for the menu, offering three options: Proper 11, Kinda 10, and Remastered 7. Despite their names, all three kick in with the program’s shortcuts in a traditional two-column layout. Left and Windows features on the right. Instead, the differences between them are more aesthetic and depend on whether you want rounded or square corners, for example (Figure 5)
Once you have selected your preferred theme, go to the Start menu section in the program to tweak the style, look and function of the menu. You can control the size of the menu icons, choose to display modern applications in their own folder, choose to highlight newly installed programs, and set the shortcuts to menus or links on the right (Figure 6)
Like Start 11, StartAllBack has the power to increase the taskbar. You can select a custom image for the Start button, select the visual style for the taskbar, and decide how to integrate the taskbar buttons. Best of all, you can place the taskbar at the top, bottom, left, or right, which Microsoft offers in Windows 10 but kills in Windows 11 (Figure 7)
StartAllBack taps into File Explorer, allowing you to choose between a ribbon interface or a command bar, turn on the classic search box and restore classic context menus from Windows 10. If you want a simple but skilled start menu replacement, StartAllBack is good. Option (Figure 8)
Although not specifically designed for Windows 11, the Open Shell menu is a free start menu replacement that works with a little coaxing on the new OS. After downloading and installing the program from its GitHub page, you will need to enable the new Start button to access the menu. To do this, click the Normal Windows 11 Start button, go to All Apps, select the folder for Open-Shell, and click the Shortcut for Open-shell menu settings.
In the Settings screen, select the Start menu layout you prefer – Classic Style with One Column, Classic with Two Columns, or Windows 7 Style with Two Columns. Then check the box for the Replace Start button and select one of the built-in images (Figure 9)
While you’re at the settings screen, you can tweak many other options. You can decide how to trigger the open-shell start menu, show the latest or most frequently used programs, select the behavior of the shut down button, and choose to display the search box. Next, you can tweak the skin options to adjust the size of fonts and icons. A section of the taskbar allows you to set the size, color, and opacity of the taskbar. And then you can choose what features you want to see in the Start menu and whether they appear as links or menus (Figure 10)
To check the program more deeply, check the box to show all the settings and check the additional options. If not, click the Start button to see the results. While it may not be as polished as Start 11 or StartAllback, the open-shell menu is definitely worth considering, especially if you’re looking for a free start menu replacement (Figure 11)