WinMetro is a free software, from IObit, that brings the Windows 8 Start screen and Charms bar to users of Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. Unlike some existing emulation tools and skin packs, WinMetro doesn’t replace any system file nor does it require elevated permission to run. It comes as an installer program and runs in the background bringing you goodness of Windows 8. To remove it, simply uninstall it like any other program.
After installing, to see the new Start screen, click on the left corner of the start button (if you click anywhere else on the Start button the regular start menu is opened). Instantly you will see the familiar Start screen of Windows 8 as seen below:
Here you will find live tiles apps such as weather, calendar, news, stocks, and your frequently used programs, turning your desktop into an informative and productive work station.
To switch back to desktop, move your mouse cursor to lower-left corner of screen and you will see a preview of your desktop, click on it. If you prefer a keyboard shortcut, use Win + X to quickly switch between desktop and Start screen.
Now to bring up the Charms bar, move your mouse cursor to lower-right corner of the screen. Here too you have a hotkey: Win + C.
From the Charms bar you can search for files, bring up the Start screen, and access other computer settings like network connection and volume.
From the program’s settings, you can configure it to automatically start with Windows and to run in the background after closing. If you’d like to see the Start screen as soon as you logon in Windows, just like on Windows 8, enable option “Open Start desktop automatically” in the Settings.
The program is currently in beta phase, so it could have occasional issues, though I didn’t come across any while testing.
As for wishlist, one feature I would have liked to see was the possibility to adding custom program shortcuts to the Start screen. Obviously, it won’t be possible to install apps from Windows Store, but installed program from Windows would have been certainly handy. Hope the developers add this by the time the program comes out of beta.
All-in-all, WinMetro is an extremely easy to use tool, and fun way to experience Windows 8 functionality. If you aren’t yet ready to upgrade to the next generation of Windows, this is a safe and easy solution to try and enjoy the tile based Metro UI on your current OS.