One of the ‘new features’ included with Windows Vista was the completely overhauled Start Menu. The old version, as seen in XP, is occasionally temperamental and certainly looks messy after you’ve installed a few dozen apps. It can be pretty hard to spot a favourite program you installed a while back and a wrong move with the mouse results in the whole thing disappearing again.
The new Start Menu is, unfortunately, also no paragon of usability. While the idea of using mouse-overs to display or hide the entire menu is not perfect, it is arguably superior than the new method of clicking a very small spot at the bottom of the menu to display your applications in a small, cramped menu. The fact that what is then displayed needs to be scrolled through, and that the program group icons each need to be clicked on actually make this a ‘browsing’ experience, rather than a traditional menu navigation experience.
And I’ve not even mentioned the useless icon at the top of the right-side panel which changes appearance depending on which element your pointer is hovering over. Instinctively, your eye will follow the pointer, meaning that you probably didn’t even notice this feature.
OK, I admit it: I’m not a fan of the Vista Start Menu. But I’ll give it one thing: that ‘quick search we invented that looks nothing like Spotlight on Macs’ is pretty darned useful. So if you want to add that feature to your XP start menu (the only possible answer to my questioning title), here are two options for you: ViStart and Vista Start Menu. They’re fairly similar but ViStart probably has the edge on VSM because it’s completely free (without a ‘Pro’ version). Alternatively, go the whole hog and convert your XP to look like Vista completely. You won’t be missing out on much and you’ll save $400.