Run Windows 8 apps on the desktop with RetroUI Pro

November 22, 2012 – 07:43 by in Tips Print Share No Comment

At first glance, RetroUI Pro may seem much like many of the other Windows 8 tweakers that have appeared recently. Sure, so it lets you boot to the desktop, and brings back the Start menu: that’s great, but plenty of others do the same thing, and without the $4.95 (minimum) price tag.

Take a closer look, though, and it’s quickly obvious that RetroUI Pro isn’t just another “me too” tool, all about bringing back the Windows 7 desktop. It’s adding some genuinely new functionality.

The program’s Start menu, for instance, gives you easy access to your programs, key Windows applets and options (like a shutdown menu). But then it goes further, with options to call up the Alt+Tab task switcher, the Charms bar, the Search screen and more.

RetroUI Pro also does its best to make the Start screen and desktop work as one environment. There are entries for your apps in the Start menu, for example. And if you switch to the Start screen then your taskbar will remain visible, so all your pinned applications and shortcuts are still accessible.

RetroUI Pro's Start menu is much more capable than the Windows 7 version

There’s plenty of other additional features and functionality scattered throughout the package. TabletView provides a grid-like interface to help organise your key apps, applications and documents, for instance. The program supports multiple hotkeys to carry out various common tasks (F3 for Search, F4 to close a Metro app, and so on). And it’s all very configurable. If you’re tired of accidentally launching the Charms bar, say, you can disable the new “hot corners” system in seconds.

Perhaps the most surprising addition, though, is the ability to run a Windows 8 app in a resizable window on your desktop. Essentially you just run the app as normal, resize it if you like, and the desktop becomes visible underneath.

When we tried this particular feature out, though, it wasn’t quite so impressive. You can only run one app in a window at a time, for example. If you click away from it – on the taskbar, in Explorer or whatever – then the app disappears entirely. And if you bring it back with Alt+Tab then it’s full-screen again (sorry, “immersive”). So while this may look great on RetroUI Pro’s feature list, it’s not really that useful. At all.

And there was some app-related flakiness elsewhere. Yes, the Start menu detected and displayed entries for all our installed apps, for example – but it wouldn’t launch them. We pointed and clicked, repeatedly, but nothing happened at all.

For all this, we still liked RetroUI Pro. Its Start menu worked well, and having the taskbar available beneath our Start screen was a welcome addition, all on its own. The program isn’t as good at manipulating Windows 8 apps, but it could still be worth its asking price ($4.95 for home users), and if any of these features appeal to you then we’d definitely recommend you take the 7-day trial version for a spin.

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