I know I was. After attending a couple of Microsoft seminars, two things became abundantly clear – those people don’t think as I do, nor do they use their computers in the same way; and  they also cannot produce anyone who was a part of the ‘usability tests’ which we tend to hear about all the time, but have yet to have anyone who took part in them identified. This is most likely because there are none, outside the halls of Redmond.

This is what lead to the strange removal of a hierarchical drill-down menu in Windows 7. Not a Microsoft highlight. Possibly one of the worst decisions ever made. The fact that everyone is not as upset about it as I am shows that you can fool most of the people, most of the time. (While I was standing in line, waiting for my badge to be handed out, at the aforementioned seminar, a conversation with a couple of others yielded a quick result that others felt that same way I do, but also felt it was futile to speak of the disappointment. Why this is bad is something adults should understand, but in case you need a long explanation, ask, and I’ll elaborate in the comments.)

I also spoke of the program, brought out during the beta period, called CSMenu. It is said to work, but for some reason, I cannot get it to work on the Windows 7 Enterprise trial I have. What does work, is also free, and, has a paid version that promises even more, is a program called VistaStartMenu. It works to give Windows 2000 and XP a Vista-like start menu (duh!), and makes the Vista stock menu better.  That is not news. What is news is that the latest version also works with Windows 7, and brings the goodness of the return to a drill down start menu, that can be arranged by the user, to Windows 7.

If I was English I would say this is ‘brilliant’, since I am French (mostly), I’ll just say “Cest magnifique!” Almost all of my frustration with Windows 7 is ameliorated with this, and when I get the full version, I won’t have to look at the nasty reminder to get the Pro version (bad form!).

While we speak of making Windows 7 look, and work, better, if you work your way over to ntwind.com, you can get VistaSwitcher, a free alternative to the Microsoft CoolSwitch routine. It supports the Aero interface, looks nicer, and can be popped up to stay, like sticky keyed, so that you can look through your open apps with mouse movements. Yes, I know that Windows 7 brings the taskbar peek, but this is another way of doing it, and after a long time of using it (since Windows 95) it’s second nature. Besides, it’s easy on RAM, and looks better.

As for the VistaStartMenu application, it doesn’t look hokey or added on, and will really look a part of the design with the Pro version. It truly has made something I was dreading the use of – in order to work on other’s computers – into something I am looking forward to. That is no small change for me.

If you aren’t fully comfortable with the new menu-less way of Windows, give this a try. I’m betting you’ll like it enough to at least use the free version (it permits a great deal of customization, which is always nice).


Hey, can you take the wheel for a second, I have to scratch my self in two places at once.

Homer Simpson

Perhaps a new programming method…

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