Di, don't be scared! Barb gave you some great tips, one of which I am going to use for DH's laptop. He doesn't care much for Windows 8, so he'll be happy to use that Start Menu 8 which Barb showed. I installed that on my computer to try it out and it is amazing. I did go into the Control Panel right away after I installed it and removed the "extras" which came with it...... everything but the Start Menu 8 itself. (There were 3 extra programs installed along with it.) I even changed the Start icon to the old Windows 7 icon. Pretty amazing little program! I am going to go back to Windows 8, though. I have to say that I really like it a lot!! It doesn't take long to learn and if you will choose that little "charm" called Getting Started with Windows 8 you will find a lot of very helpful advice there. Once I added "desktop" to my Windows 8 Start Screen, I was able to set up my IE, Outlook etc. just they way I had it on my old computer. I added all my favorites to the Start Screen and it is a quick and easy way to access....... well, anything! I think you can have the best of both worlds now, Windows 7 and Windows 8!
In the words of Mikey, try it. You'll like it!
Ask away here, too. Lots of smart people to help you!
BTW, thanks so much, Barb! And thanks for starting the thread, Di!