I am someone who regularly arranges the start menu entry into folder and subfolders. In this way, in spite of having a large number of applications instaled, whenever I want to launch a program I know exactly where to look. But in Windows Vista, Microsoft got rid of the old cascading style start menu. Now, the programs list shows up within the start menu itself (instead of popping out). This is convenient if you dont have a large number of start menu entries. However, if you have a large number of entries organised into folder and subfolders , you would need to click several times to just launch the program. The other option is to use the search feature, but its not very convinient to keep switching from mouse to keyboard everytime I need to launch some application.
Vista Start Menu solved my problems and did more.
The Pros: Installing and configuring Vista Start Menu (hereafter referred to as VSM) is a breeze. VSM supports Windows Vista, Windows XP as well as older versions of Windows like Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003. It integrated itself and replaced the system start menu without any hassle. If you want you can also use it via the system tray (without replacing the system start menu), VSM’s colour style is similar to Aero Style used in vista, and looks pretty in comparison to the default start menu in Windows Xp and other older Windows OSs. However, it lacks the polished look offered by Windows Vista. VSM is freely resizable and allows flexible zoom so it’s comfortable to use at any resolution. In VSM even if you have a large number of Start Menu entries, the menu would never go out of the screen boundaries (unlike in older versions of Windows).
VSM is much more complex than the default start menu. It allows you to add any folder and to display it as a menu or an object. It doesnï¿½t show the most frequently used applications, but you can manually add them to the menu . Each menu can be further split into tabs .
If you delve deeper into VSM you will discover many not-so-apparent yet extremely useful features. One such feature is one-click launch. Often a program creates a folder with multiple shortcuts (e.g. Winamp creates a folder with three entries – Uninstall Winamp, Whatï¿½s New, and Winamp). VSM automatically recognises the main application in the folder and allows you to launch the application without entering the sub-menu (Screenshot). Another extremely useful feature is Quick-Uninstall. Some programs do not add the shortcut to their Uninstaller to the Start Menu. VSM allows you to uninstall those programs via the right click context menu (without going to Add or Remove Programs). VSM also allows you to directly launch programs via the search box (a feature already present in Windows Vista). The same space can be used to search your pc or the web (via Google). VSM also has a very interesting and intuitive keyboard support. I am not the type who likes using the keyboard too much. But, if you ever need to depend on the keyboard this would come in handy. Another unique feature is the ability to remember position of the start menu entries. Even if you install or uninstall new programs the position of old entries do not get changed.
In spite of offering such a plethora of features VSM requires very little system resource, and is responsive.
VSM though has a few shortcomings. VSM looks pretty in older Windows OSs, but compared to Windows Vista’s default start menu it looks ugly. VSM isnt skinnable either.
Search-as-you-type, which is one of the few good additions to the default Vista Start Menu, is also missing. One option is to use system start menu when you need the search feature. You can have access to the system start menu even if you have replaced it with VSM. In order to access the System start menu click on the immediate left or right of the Windows Flag (view image).
VSM also underwhelms with its Tabbed workspace feature. The fact that you can only add a folder as a tab greatly restricts its utility. I would like to see the ability to add individual files to tabs. Another minor annoyance is I couldnï¿½t find a way to set “One-click launch” to launch the main folder itself.
All of these are minor annoyances and doesnt prevent VSM from being an extremely usefull software.
Platforms Tested on: Windows XP and Windows Vista
Version: Vista Start Menu 2.1 PRO
Cost: $19.99 (A freeware version is available)
My Rating: 8/10