Free Windows 8 Start Button

key review info
  • Application: Pokki 0.250 Beta
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There are plenty of alternatives these days to the missing Start button in Windows 8. Some of them are paid products that can restore the functionality of the decades-old Windows staple, while others are free of charge. Luckily, Pokki falls into the second category.

Unlike Stardock’s Start8, Pokki does not aim at being an exact replica of the Start button and menu in previous Windows editions, but it has its own, original layout to serve this purpose. It installs as a Start button in Windows 8, but it brings to the table additional benefits as well.

Pokki’s functionality does not stop at that of an application launcher because it also offers the possibility to download and install HTML5 apps on the system. And everything is managed from the same interface.

Getting the app on the system is a simple task that does not require too much effort, but because it is a web-based installer you need an Internet connection to complete the procedure. All components have downloaded quite fast in our case.

No restart is required after installation and you will see Pokki immediately taking position in the bottom left-hand corner of the desktop; you can’t miss it, it’s an acorn-shaped button.

Our test system had an enlarged taskbar, double the regular size, and we had to bring it to default in order to see the button clearly. However, this was only a temporary adjustment because later on we were able to double up its size and everything was okay.

Pokki features all the elements of the Start menu in Windows 7 but the layout is different as the list of recently used programs, the power button and the menu items are all available in a single column. It may take some getting used to but adapting to this is not difficult.

Not all the menu items are present in Pokki, but the developer maintained the most important of them: Documents, Music, Pictures and Computer. The lack of flexibility in customizing the list might not appeal to some users but most of us won’t feel the need to add anything else in there; save for the Games link.

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Since Pokki is also a platform for developing HTML5 apps (all of them are free, but fees may apply to increase functionality), the menu also gives you access to the App Store where you can choose to download all sorts of widgets, from games to productivity and social tools (Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.).

The largest portion of the Pokki menu is reserved for your favorite applications. A 16-slot grid lets you pin the programs you use most frequently for easy access or the widgets from the Store, which includes plenty of categories to choose from.

On the downside, not all sections offer a wide range of apps, many of them having only one entry to share. Games category is not among them, as the number of apps available add to about 60 titles.

Furthermore, Pokki comes with an area reserved for displaying details from social apps or your email. Thus, you can keep updated with the activity of your friends or Facebook, check Twitter or email messages.

A notification banner alerts you of incoming information. By default it pops up in the top left-hand corner of the screen but you can change its position to any of them or disable it altogether.

The search bar allows you to look for just about any file or folder available on the system drive, but it can also be used to access online resources. As such, you can use it even to launch web addresses.

Additional functionality is available in Pokki’s configuration panel. Windows 8-related settings include booting straight into the classic desktop and skipping the modern Start Screen altogether, disabling all hot corners and picking the Win key to enable the desktop environment.

On the downside, the shutdown procedure is not as smooth as in the case of Stardock’s Start8, which triggers the action automatically.

With Pokki you have to complete the action old-school style because you are presented with the power options screen (it can also be called by pressing Alt+F4 on the desktop). This appears only in the case of the shutdown procedure, all the other actions are carried out on the spot with no further delay.

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The Good

It is a great application launcher that can also double as a start button for Windows 8 and it can boot straight to the classic desktop. Apart from giving easy access to frequently used areas on the system it can also store the shortcuts to favorite applications. Additionally, Pokki makes available HTML5 apps with specific functionality, all free of charge.

The Bad

During our tests we noticed that the application has a slow response to our input. It does not offer the possibility to customize the menu.

The Truth

Pokki is a slick way to get access to your programs without having to go through the modern UI start screen in Windows 8. It does not mimic the original Start button in Windows but it manages to offer a new way to launch applications as well as integrate web apps into the desktop.

Note: Pokki is currently in beta stage of development, hence a project in progress. As such, our rating will remain set to the default three stars until the stable version is evaluated.

user interface 3
features 3
ease of use 3
pricing / value 3

final rating 3
Editor's review