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I would appreciate any suggestions for a classic start menu, but one that is usable on an eight inch tablet. I fear the classic shell I am currently using would be a little too fiddly on a touch screen.
Yes, it's called the default built-in Start menu.
Seriously...not to defend it (I despise it as much as anyone else), but that was the whole point of the "new" start menu. The older one wasn't well suited for a small-screen, touch device, so this is what they've introduced it for.
Unless you're going to be using your tablet all the time, why not stick with what's built in, so that way, you can test it in an environment that's more likely to match the one your users are going to be using?