Windows 8 Start menu mockup
Don't get too excited, this isn't one of those highly artistic super-cool Metro desktop mockups, just a thought I had while I was using Consumer Preview earlier today.
I know a lot of people have complained about using the full-screen Start menu on a desktop because the transition is jarring, so I was thinking about what kind of alternative options could be offered without completely giving up and offering a switch that reverts back to the old Start menu. For the record, I personally like the new full-screen version because it uses the whole screen space to display a lot of stuff while I'm looking for a program to launch, but some people clearly don't dig it so I wouldn't mind seeing a gesture or a setting somewhere to minimize it.
I've noticed that some features in Windows 8 (like connecting to a WiFi network) have a Metro style task pane that appears on the right hand side of the screen. The task pane appears, lets you click some settings, then goes away when you click away from it. Overall, not so different an experience as the old Start menu from Windows 7, so I thought we could reuse this idea and make a task pane on the left for the non-fullscreen Start that would slide in when you click the hot corner or the Start charm.
It's a simple idea, really. We take the tiles from the regular Start screen and pile them up vertically instead of wrapping them to scroll horizontally. You don't see as many tiles at a time this way (obviously) but it lets you see about the same amount of your desktop as the old Start menu did and higher resolution monitors would obviously allow more tiles on the screen at a time.
This addresses some of the concerns I've seen by keeping some visual context on the screen while you launch another application so your concentration isn't interrupted by a jarring full-screen transition. As a bonus, this approach will be able to work exactly the same way whether you're using a full-screen Metro app or the traditional desktop.