Up until now, the Start Screen replacement apps we reviewed for Windows 8 – including the ever popular Start8 from Startdock, or the more feature-laden Classic Shell – simply restore the Start Menu in Desktop mode. RetroUI Pro (previously RetroUI) is a similar application that does not merely reinstate the Start Menu, but it also keeps it persistent even in Start Screen mode. After its latest update, it now allows you to run Modern UI (Windows Store) apps in windowed mode, i.e., within the desktop environment. RetroUI packs in a plethora of features that we haven’t seen in other Start Menu alternatives. For instance, it features a TabletView window that provides quick access to some of the frequently used apps and allows you to pin your own apps and webapps of choice there too. Since it’s a paid app, we’d put it up against Stardock’s variant i.e. Start8. Read on to find out if it successfully knocks out the competition.
Upon installation, RetroUI automatically places the Start Orb at the lower left corner of the screen. Right next to it, you will see another newly created icon. Clicking this button launches the TabletView window that was mentioned earlier in the post (though you can also enter TabletView from the Start Menu). RetroUI looks fairly different from other similar utilities. For example, all the clickable buttons appear in a tile grid rather than in Windows 7’s Start Menu pattern, which adds a more Windows 8 look-and-feel to it.
The ‘Programs’ menu houses directory shortcuts to all the installed applications. Each icon or folder can be easily pinned to TabletView.
Apparently, there is no limitation regarding how many shortcuts you can pin; there’s plenty of area even for power users. There are different modes on how the tiled apps appear within the TabletView, which can be configured from Preferences console. The default mode displays small icons. As mentioned before, you can even pin your favorite webapps here for quick direct access.
Another major feature in RetroUI’s arsenal is how it handles Modern UI apps. Instead of executing in full screen, apps are launched in window mode. You can easily resize the window and the apps scale accordingly with the new window size. During testing however, some apps simply failed to open and to be honest, I’d rather use Modern apps the way they’re supposed to be used. Nevertheless, there may be cases when you would want windowed access to a modern UI app while in Desktop mode, and RetroUI provides a great solution for that.
RetroUI keeps the taskbar visible even within the Start Screen. Though, hitting anything on the Taskbar pulls you back to the desktop. Some may see it as an annoyance, especially tablet users. Traditionalists however, are bound to love it. A rather gimmicky feature perhaps? Naysayers would rejoice, nonetheless.
RetroUI Configuration window allows tinkering with a number of settings. For instance, you can toggle the “Bypass Start Screen after Login” option and certain Advance Settings under RetroUI pane. TabletView lets you adjust the size of the TabletView window and the app icons displayed in it. You can also make a few cosmetic changes under Taskbar and Color panes, such changing Start Button icon and skin color.
Some of the other notable features include RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) support, extended multi-language support including Asian and Arabic languages, and dual-monitor support.
RetroUI Pro is a paid application and cost $4.95 for single user license. I’d recommend giving the 7 day trial version a shot before deciding on your purchase. Testing of the app was carried out on Windows 8 Pro 64-bit.
Download RetroUI Pro