An open source project that was designed to replace the Windows 7 Start menu with the XP-style Start menu, Classic Shell has since been updated to provide a Windows 7 Start experience for Windows 8 users. Apps can be pinned to the menu area via drag and drop. A pair of fly-out menus (Programs and Apps) provides access to classic desktop programs and Modern UI apps, respectively. The program also supports starting the user session directly in the desktop and disabling Windows 8 hot corners. Type-to-search results from the Start menu also appear via a fly-out.
Classic Shell adds changes to Explorer, too: an icon ribbon populated with commonly used file commands (cut, copy, paste, and so on), revised file and folder conflict dialogs, and the ability to shut off the "breadcrumb" trail in the address bar and replace it with the full folder path.
Author: Ivo Beltchev
Cost: Free (open source)
The makers of Object Desktop and WindowBlinds have created a Start menu replacement that behaves so much like the original Start menu it's a little uncanny. The accordion-style opening of folders, the subcategorized type-to-search results -- they're all here in Start8, plus a good deal of other configurability.
Apps can be pinned to the Start8 menu via a right-click context menu option in Explorer. Even the system shortcuts (Control Panel, Computer, Administrative Tools, and all the rest) can be toggled as needed. Better yet, the bottom-left hot corner can be used to take you straight to the Start8 menu, even from within a Modern UI app. Hotkeys can be assigned to bring up Windows 8's own Start screen, Windows 8 hot corners can be selectively disabled, and Modern UI apps can be hidden from the Start8 menu if you don't want to bother with them there.
Author: Stardock Software
Cost: Free 30-day trial; $4.99 for a single-user license
Launch StartMenu8 and you're greeted with the familiar Windows 7 Start menu orb, along with a fairly spot-on reconstruction of the rest of the classic Start menu. The only obvious sign this isn't Windows 7: the Send Feedback link under your user icon. The StartMenu8 interface isn't as customizable as that of some of the other programs here. There's no way to toggle things like the links to the games folder or the Control Panel, and most of the program's behaviors appear to be hard-wired. But it does cover the major territory for a Start menu app. It lets users log in directly to the desktop, and it can deactivate the Windows 8 hot corners and the Modern UI sidebar.