Is there a way I can have the old Windows XP shutdown process back? I.e. if you have open apps it shuts down anyway?
You can auto end tasks on shutdown with registry hack.
I can't find its Group Policy location but here is the registry key
Double click and change this from 0 to 1
if it is not there you can create it (Reg_SZ - String type) and name it AutoEndTasks after that you can give the value
Actually, Windows XP would also wait for applications that were not responding (or were waiting for feedback from the user) and not shut down without the user saying to do so if they didn't quit gracefully, it's just that the Windows 7 screen telling you so is more in-your-face.
You can force shutdown with the following:
...but that's not really advisable for a variety of reasons. It does solve your problem though, create a shortcut on the desktop to it and it will do it just fine.
Even if you have apps open, as long as they close gracefully Windows should shut down fine. If they aren't closing gracefully you should look into that instead of killing them immediately on shutdown.
For me, when I see that screen and do nothing, it just shuts down. The programs must not ask for exiting confirmation, I think.