The open source project Classic Shell was originally started to provide the classic Start Menu for Windows Vista and 7 users, but now that the Start Menu has totally disappeared from Windows 8, it has been updated to give the Start Menu for Windows 8 users too. It can provide you all flavors of Start Menu – classic Windows 2000 style, Windows XP style, Windows Vista style or Windows 7 style. There are many many settings to choose from. You can even choose various skins for the Start Menu.
Classic Shell project is an open source program. You can download it from its sourceforge page. The download is nearly nine megabytes in size and is in form of a setup installer. Classic Shell is designed for many different versions of Windows (from Windows 2000 to Windows 8), so during the installation you are preseneted with options like making changes to the Windows Explorer and installing Classic IE9 to customize the title bar of Internet Explorer 9. These options do not apply for Windows 8 and so should be de-selected.
After the installation, you would see a Start Menu button in its usual place (the bottom-left corner of your screen). As you click on the Start Menu button for the first time, it would show you the settings to choose from. You can also right-click on the Start Menu button and select Settings to open the Classic Shell settings. In the settings, you can select which style of Start Menu you want – Classic Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista/7 style.
There are further more settings to choose from under the Basic Settings tab. There are various settings that you would have found for your Start Menu in Windows 7 like what happens when you left-click on the Start Menu button, what happens when you press the Windows logo key on your keyboard etc. You can choose which items are to be displayed in the Start Menu like the Control Panel, Recent Documents, Favorites, Computer and so on. The most important setting is the Skip Metro Screen which is enabled by default and which makes you boot straight into Windows desktop bypassing the Windows Metro start screen.
In addition to these basic settings, you can also choose various skins for the Start Menu like Classic Skin, Full Glass, Metro, Smoked Glass, Windows Aero, Windows Basic, Windows XP Luna etc. There are many options for skins like whether to display two columns, display user picture, display user name in the Start Menu and more. If you want to customize more, then you can select the All settings option at the bottom-left corner and it would show a huge number of settings that you can adjust for Classic Shell. You can choose the Start Menu button style through the All settings option.
There are many Start Menu replacements for Windows 8. Some of them offer only Windows 7 style Start Menu while others are commercial and you have to pay to use them. The Classic Shell projects brings the Start Menu back into Windows 8 for free and with a huge variety of options to choose from. It has multiple skins, various Start Menu styles, many Start Menu button styles and more.
You can download the Classic Shell software from http://sourceforge.net/projects/classicshell/.