Stardock Releases Start11 Beta

Posted on August 11, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 43 Comments

Anyone who is unhappy about the “fresh yet familiar” Windows 11 Start menu will want to check out Stardock’s Start11, which is now available in beta. It costs just $4.99.

“This first beta is designed to regain some of the lost functionality in the current Windows 11 Start menu,” Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said. “We have a lot of exciting new features planned to make the Start menu not just more accessible, but also more useful to companies and power users.”

That should be music to many ears, based on the feedback we’ve seen for the new Start menu, which is attractive and has some interesting new features but is not particularly customizable and has lost much of the functionality of its predecessor.

To that end, Start11 lets users restore the Start menu designs from previous Windows versions, and it will be extended during the beta to add what Mr. Wardell says is “a host of new Start menu ideas such as the concept of pages, tabs, minimalism, and features for enterprise customers.”

According to Stardock, key features of the current beta include your choice of multiple Start menu layouts, compatibility with both Windows 10 and Windows 11, integration with Stardock Fences, search, and the ability to add color and texture to the Start menu and taskbar.

But things will get even more interesting over time with significantly faster search and more detailed search results thanks to a new search engine, the ability to perform simple math problems in the search box, additional style options, enhanced productivity features, and improved configurability of Windows 7 and Modern modes.

You can learn more about Start11 at the Stardock website.

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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Stardock Releases Start11 Beta”

  1. madthinus

    As always, they are right on the money quick. Always makes me wonder who is more in touch with the needs of customers...

    • navarac

      It is certainly not MSFT, that's for sure.

    • JerryH

      To be fair, Stardock is more aligned with their small, yet vocal, customer base. Remember, most people you encounter will have never heard of Stardock or its products. The IT / Tech echo chamber though certainly has nearly all heard of it. I, myself, even used it at one point back in the day and had installed a beta back then. Stardock serves a much different audience than that of the general user that Microsoft is trying to serve. Fortunately there is room for both to do well.

    • hrlngrv

      It's possible MSFT knows full well what Windows users want, but MSFT just doesn't want to give it to them.

  2. superwindows88

    can we get the second count back on the clock please?

    • hrlngrv

      In all seriousness, as long as there were a locale-specific default which users couldn't change or delete so could always be chosen, is there any GOOD reason Windows couldn't allow users to use their own date+time format string to specify exactly how the taskbar clock should appear? Even if that doesn't use strftime format strings, there would presumably be an analogous Windows system call using idiosyncratic format specifiers with which users could reformat the taskbar clock.

      In Linux terms, an analog to MATE's /org/mate/panel/objects/clock/prefs/format. Even if one had to use REGEDIT, it'd still be a useful addition.

      • fareast


        And the clock area should be expandable and the text customizable.

        I like 1stClock for those reasons, but it is pricey for shareware and I suspect that the Windows 11 upgrade won't be free even for repeat customers. That's what happened with Windows 10 and the fact that 1stClock couldn't adjust the clock/date width.

        It doesn't work at all with Windows 11 current dev release.

        But what 1stClock does is not anything close to rocket science and arguably should be part of the OS.

  3. hrlngrv

    Have you, Paul Thurrott, stopped to consider that if most of the commenters here don't like the Windows 11 Start menu, that you may be the outlier claiming it to be fresh and familiar?

    I figure a substantial majority of sophisticated Windows users rely on means other than the Start menu to launch most of the programs they use, and I figure that includes you. I also figure that a substantial portion of unsophisticated Windows users rely on desktop shortcuts to launch some programs. The more sophisticated who had more than, say, 2 dozen items pinned to their Windows 8.1 Start screen/Windows 10 Start menu, aren't going to get much help from Stardock.

    In short, the minority of Windows users who pinned A LOT of items in their Start menus will be screwed in Windows 11.

    MSFT has been removing launcher functionality since Windows 8. When will they have removed enough? When they do, I wonder how many people would then prefer the Windows 3.x Program Manager.

    • qaelith2112

      It's not like you've taken some kind of scientific poll in counting up the comments. We can expect that people who don't like the thing are going to represent most of the comments. The rest who are like me, who actually DO like Windows 11's interface, aren't going to usually bother jumping in to write a comment to say so, but I do feel obliged to do so now only to help counter that lopsided representation.

    • lezmaka

      Have you, hrnglvrv, stopped to consider that maybe since "fresh and familiar" is in quotes, he's referencing Microsoft's marketing and not necessarily his own personal opinion?

    • behindmyscreen

      Paul knows that most of the commenters here are incapable of even a slight change and are also capable of changing things back to suit their static needs.

    • JE

      You idiot. Your ignorance is astounding. Angry commenters on a tech forum cannot be extrapolated as the prevailing view of the general population.

    • Shel Dyck

      2 dozen? try 4 dozen. I do cinematic music production and used Start full screen with tiles grouped for various tasks/phases of my work flow. For me the 11 menu is a complete no-go, absolutely useless.

  4. stephencwll

    I know many don't like the new start menu in Windows 11 but I'm one of those who does like it. I like the simplicity, the lack of icons and tiles everywhere. The recommended bit could be better though.

  5. singingwolf

    1995 start menu on a 2021 version of Windows, really?

    • hrlngrv

      Without Search, agreed the ur-Classic Start menu is outdated. However, with Search and configured to display Control Panel and Recent Documents as submenus, along with mouse hover expanding submenus and jump lists for items pinned at the top (my Open Shell configuration), it ain't bad at all.

      OTOH, the Windows 11 Start menu's pinned section with NO GROUPING, no jump lists, and not resizable is an improvement ?

      Windows 11 is MSFT being MSFT, IOW, change for change's sake, and screw youse all for complaining about it.

  6. fareast

    Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the Windows 11 start menu. The one thing it forced me to do that I hadn't been doing previously is search for the app I wanted to open. From there, if it's something I use frequently I could pin the app to the Start Menu or I could just execute and search again the next time it was needed. That also set up a sort of survival-of-the-fittest in terms of which apps were pinned and where they were positioned.

    So, I could probably live with that without being too fussed.

    But I definitely prefer the Start 11 approach, where I can still set up app folders for the stuff that is not pinned or regularly appearing in the Recently Used scroll.

    The biggest raspberry I have for the Windows 11 interface is that the task manager pop-up option on the taskbar has been eliminated. So, I ended up pinning that to the taskbar, which is less than ideal but works OK.

    Since Stardock is wading into other aspects of Task Bar optimization, maybe restoring that would be a nice option to add.

    • beakin

      You can still get task manager by right clicking the start button - the power user menu in Win 11 includes it.

      I rather like this compromise - better to keep the task bar menu as clean as possible for the things day to day users will need to find, but keep things a power user needs in the power user menu where we can find it quickly.

    • fishnet37222

      The easiest way for me to launch Task Manager is <CTRL>+<SHIFT>+<ESC>. That method works even if the Explorer process is locked up.

  7. jlariviere

    That Stardock would come out with an update / version for Win 11 is not a surprise. And pleasantly so. If I'm forced to use it a long time from now, I'll be able to use it Win 11 with Start 11. I'll probably buy Start 11 now just to give Stardock support. Even if I'm eventually forcefully upgraded to Win 11 over my future cold dead old computer circuits' protests, I'll buy Start 11 again as a gift. By that point, I'll probably running as much as possible in Linux and only dual booting to Windows when forced to, but finding ways to use the UI the way I want to.

  8. splinterdog

    I use Start 10 and although I actually like the Windows 11 start menu, I'll probably get Start 11 with the upgrade discount purely for the flexibility and options available.

  9. vernonlvincent

    As someone who likes what I see of the Windows 11 interface, I am not likely to use this. However, for the machines I have that are not eligible (as of yet) for Windows 11 - I may give this a shot if it works on Win10

  10. remc86007

    My experience with Stardock and things like it is that they haven't made the transition to "Windows as a service" all that gracefully (not that it's entirely their fault....). Whenever a new version of Windows would come out, a couple things would break or not work exactly right until Stardock, et al., fixed their software to correct things. It has been enough to keep me away from this stuff. At least with stock Windows 99% of stuff works 99% of the time which is what I want when I'm trying to get stuff done.

  11. zakand

    This is nice, but the rest of Win11 is so terrible that fixing the start menu doesn't change anything.

    • hrlngrv

      Be fair. The new tile layouts which appear when hovering over the maximize button could be useful to some, just as Taskview was a useful addition for some relative to Windows 8.1. It's just the desktop UI which MSFT is dumbing down and making less productive, not just the Start menu but also (especially!) the taskbar.

  12. navarac

    Let's hope that MSFT doesn't do some jiggery-pokery to deny the use of it in the final release. I'd be interested to know the %age of W11 users who use this to defeat the crap that MSFT is going to ship.

    • hrlngrv

      The VAST MAJORITY of Windows 11 users aren't going to add anything like this. They'll put up with whatever MSFT flings at them, just as they've done for decades.

      We commenters here (and one some other sites) are the tiny minority of Windows users (probably under 2%) who do use 3rd party tools like this. At best MSFT considers our existence a cost of doing buisness, and it really wouldn't upset MSFT at all if we all became macOS or Linux users full time.

  13. obarthelemy

    What I really care about: can it move the taskbar to vertical on the side ?

  14. lezmaka

    There's a search box on this one too. I wonder if Paul is going to call that "unacceptable" as well.

  15. covarr

    It's a small thing, but I really appreciate that this matches the Windows 11 aesthetic. It would've been easy to slap together a Start10 update without the acrylic blur or rounded corners and call it a day, but matching Windows 11's visual language really makes it feel more polished than it otherwise would.

  16. codymesh

    unlike the Windows 10 start menu and its live tiles, I think people will actually embrace and like using Windows 11's start menu, simply because it's like a phone launcher

    • navarac

      "like a phone launcher"

      That's the problem! A phone launcher on a phone or tablet is OK. It is not OK on a PC, at least not for me.

      • jimchamplin

        It’s a launcher. A place to store some less-run icons.

      • codymesh

        I mean, phone launcher is just one comparison. Linux nerds have been comparing it to KDE. But of course it "doesn't belong on desktop" only when Microsoft does it...

  17. polloloco51

    Just knowing how restrictive Windows 11 is so far, disallowing an ocean of relatively new high end processors.

    I can imagine Microsoft arbitrarily nixing third party theme apps at RTM.

    "It's for security reasons"

    "Making your PC safer"


  18. scoop

    Classic/Open Shell is free and works well on all Windows versions from 8 to 11. On Win 11, move the taskbar icons to the left rather than center, install Classic Shell, customize to your heart's delight. Those who obsess about matching aesthetics might not approve, but the function is fine.

    • stever

      I have been using Classic/OpenShell for years. I install it on every PC I can. The functionality of it is much better for any desktop user than Windows 8-11 menu. I can shutdown in 2 clicks. I can open Control Panel in 2 clicks. etc. Recent open files in Office apps right there. Click on All Programs and I can see 40+ names I can easily click on and don't have to scroll forever.

    • denise1949

      Fully agree. It's FREE.

      Been using it for years with the Start configured as Win 7.

    • hrlngrv

      In fact Classic Shell also worked under Windows 7 in which it could display a Windows 2000-like Start menu. For me, its Open Shell successor is must-have, while Stardock's alternatives are usually just a bit too close to MSFT's own Start menus.

  19. brettscoast

    This is good news have always been a fan of stardock.