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Author Topic: Is the Windows start menu dead?  (Read 25111 times)
Darwin
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« on: June 20, 2007, 09:22:54 AM »

Tinjaw's thread about an organized start menu prompted justice to ask if organizing your start menu is really that important given that even Microsoft seems to have abandoned it. I thought it would be interesting to start a thread to get users' opinions about whether or not the start menu has a future. If you think it does, how do you see it evolving? If you think it doesn't, what alternatives do you envision for it, or do you already use an alternative?
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justice
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2007, 09:58:36 AM »

Darwin I couldn't help but smile! I cannot understand why there I am unable to find any trace of discussion on this elsewhere (after a quick google)?!?

In a way the start menu is already dead, with most users I think either clicking on the few icons on their desktop, and on the other end of the spectrum launchers like FARR. Right click on your start menu and click Explore.. With Vista's/DS livesearches and a fullscreen view of your folders, there's not really any use for the start menu.However, it's one of the major symbolic items in Windows and doing away with it would probably kick up a lot of dust.

Anyone who has over 50 applications installed will soon realise it's impossible to have them all efficiently on the screen. For those who don't want to remember names to use with FARR, and as long as the icons are not as distinguished as OsX, I think it will never be a lot better than the present situation.

The existence of hundreds of application launchers proves that the situation is far from ideal. Quicksilver and FARR show the ingenius possibilities, but I don't see a great solution for the casual user?
« Last Edit: June 20, 2007, 10:00:12 AM by justice » Logged

Curt
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2007, 10:41:43 AM »

I think I would be using the normal start meny much more, if I could alter it to meet my needs a lot more than it does for now. Instead of the most left column being "recently used apps", first, and then some "Favorite Apps", I would like it to be something like this:

1) Programs
2) Accessories
3) Photocenter
4) Entertainment
5) Communication
6) Systemtools
7) Registry & Backup tools
8] Microsoft
9) Specials

- or whatever. The point being that the present shortcut we have today: Start > Programs > Access. > Systemtools > SomeApp - is just TOO far away to navigate to. Let me customize my Start Menu as I like!
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cthorpe
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2007, 10:52:05 AM »

I use a combination of FARR and Truelaunch Bar to start most of my programs.  Occasionally I will venture into the start menu, which I have organized like this:

Games - games
Internet - browsers, email, ftp, etc
Multimedia - audio, video, graphics design
Productivity - Office, note-taking, home inventory
Security - firewall, av, anti-spyware
Startup - startup apps
System Tools - utilities and rarely used programs

Carl
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EĆ³in
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2007, 11:27:35 AM »

I possibly posted a screenshot of this before but it's nice to show it again it properly. I simply use the Quick Launch toolbar organised into folders.


It's nice because you can have it expand Drives or say the Control Panel as menus.


My only wish it to some day be able to add the Quick Launch toolbar to right-click context menus. Have seen no easy way of doing so yet.
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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2007, 11:47:53 AM »

My only wish it to some day be able to add the Quick Launch toolbar to right-click context menus. Have seen no easy way of doing so yet.
Well.. the folder with the quicklaunch is located at:
[copy or print]
C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\

Thus, placing a shortcut to that folder on your sendto menu should do it smiley
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Curt
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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2007, 01:06:07 PM »

My only wish it to some day be able to add the Quick Launch toolbar to right-click context menus. Have seen no easy way of doing so yet.

EĆ³in, I use True Launch Bar, but this works with Windows Quick Launch toolbar as well:
Send To Toys (Forum)

Send To Toys is part of the context menu Send To .... Just right click any folder or program and send it to the Quick Launch Bar.

The program's folder:
 

The right-click menu Send To ... :

« Last Edit: June 20, 2007, 03:55:08 PM by Curt » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2007, 02:26:57 PM »

I happen to like the combination of the "classic" Windows 98/2000 start menu and a the quick launch bar dragged out of the task bar and running along the entire right side of my screen (used to be on the left side before, don't remember why I moved to the right).

The start menu gives me a complete overview of all the programs I have installed, while the quick launch bar gives me one-click (no subfolders) access to all the folders, programs, utilities and most important documents I use every day (in total, about 40 small icons, lined up in some useful groups). I rarely use the start menu, but once in a while I want to see the whole inventory I've got there. I tried FARR, but remembering the keyboard strokes (or names) was too tiresome for me. I do, however, use a very small handful of AutoHotkey keyboard shortcuts for some programs.

Before Win 98/2000, I used the (buggy) Office quick launch bar. With W2000, I sometimes had the problem of the (Windows, not Office) quick launch bar "stuck" inside the task bar (moveable, but not to be dragged out). The only thing that annoys me now is that it's not possible to "lock" the quick launch bar in the position at the edge of the screen (only works inside the task bar).

All the "improvements" since Win XP seem pointless to me. It would be sad to see the full start menu die. Everything that constantly changes the contents by "recently used"/"others (click here)" or the like does not really enhance usability IMHO.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2007, 05:10:22 PM by alxwz » Logged
mouser
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2007, 02:40:53 PM »

Shameless plug for my own LaunchBar Commander:

http://www.donationcoder....chBarCommander/index.html



Personally, even though i use FARR, i like to have a visual display alwasys docked on my screen of my most used programs, organized into virtual sections and folders.  I also use it to show virtual folders in menus and other stuff.  (It's very similar to free launch bar / true launchbar).  I also dont like using the start menu, but i wouldnt dare be without a "launch bar" of some type.
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Grorgy
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2007, 03:48:53 PM »

Quote
My only wish it to some day be able to add the Quick Launch toolbar to right-click context menus. Have seen no easy way of doing so yet.

Eoin, right Click from stardock will let you do the that, user defined right click, if you need the standard right click menu, ctrl right click brings it up. ( www.stardock.com )
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EĆ³in
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2007, 04:55:52 PM »

Wow guys lots of great suggestions. I'll play around with them in a VM and report back on which one works best. Thanks.
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Grorgy
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2007, 05:18:57 PM »

I like the start menu (windows xp) and use it a lot, I'm very much a mouse junkie so it fits with the way I work and I can always get to it, just lurks down there in the left corner waiting.  I use right click quite a bit to, but you do need some clear space to click to bring it up, this is ok on my 1280 1024 monitor, but not so good on the little laptop, i need as much screen space as i can get on it.  So with combination of the start menu, right click and true launch bar usually have a number of ways to get to a program i want. 

I also hate having a desktop full of shortcuts so i've only got a few on there, xplorer2 my documents recycle bin so i have to keep the start menu usable at least and that tidy start menu program Darwin mentioned is a wonderful beast for doing that, well it works for me.

Cheers
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2007, 07:32:49 PM »

To answer the original question, I would have to suggest that it is not dead in the least.  As we have already seen, some people prefer it, and with the coding already done, I don't see Microsoft dropping it.  Rather I see it slowly fading away (from start to Windows Icon button, to whatever...maybe just a "Classic Vista" look - who knows) if it goes away at all.  I see the search bar (like FARR) becoming the next big method for finding applications, but even that has shortcomings, especially for end users who don't know what to call the software.

A typical example at work is people request invoice imaging software.  No one knows it is called "Content Manager" (an imaging program from IBM).  If you were to type imaging into FARR or anything like it, it would not show up.  If you typed Content Manager, it would, but if you just run the application from a calling app (as it is used in the workplace), then it doesn't matter.  Well that is until you want to use the application independently.  Issues such as this would make the menu work much better than an inline search.

Who knows, if I am wrong and it does go away; I think you will see a resurgence of demand for programs such as the office start bar, LaunchBar Commander, et. al.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2007, 03:03:31 AM »

I think I would be using the normal start meny much more, if I could alter it to meet my needs a lot more than it does for now. Instead of the most left column being "recently used apps", first, and then some "Favorite Apps", I would like it to be something like this:

1) Programs
2) Accessories
3) Photocenter
4) Entertainment
5) Communication
6) Systemtools
7) Registry & Backup tools
8] Microsoft
9) Specials

- or whatever. The point being that the present shortcut we have today: Start > Programs > Access. > Systemtools > SomeApp - is just TOO far away to navigate to. Let me customize my Start Menu as I like!

You can pretty much do that already Curt.

Go back to the traditional start menu and organise to your heart's content.

My approach is to leave the srtart menu alone and when  I install programs I always opt for a desktop shortcut. I then drag this shortcut to a desktop folder which is set up pretty much how you describe and then use right click on the Task Bar Toolbars > New Toolbar .... and point to the folder. I then get a cascading menu like you want on the taksbar.

For example - the folder "Desktop Shortcuts" is on my desktop and I used it to make a new Toolbar.

Here is my task bar ...



and the cascading menu produced:



The advanatages of doing it this way (rather than altering the start menu) are:

  • Installers work correctly with the start menu (ie. they uninstall apps properly if you need to and clean up properly)
  • The shortcuts menu only has the things you want - and it is up to you how you organise them

The only disadvantage I have found is that if you uninstall something the shortcut remains until you delete it manually.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 03:06:58 AM by Carol Haynes » Logged

justice
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2007, 04:08:16 AM »

Great approach! I'm sure there's some small utility that can remove invalid shortcuts from a folder. I know crap cleaner can do it for the start menu.
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EĆ³in
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2007, 06:20:02 AM »

As a followup, right click from stardock could do exactly what I wanted. But unfortunately the program was too pervasive for my tastes.

So good software, but just not for me smiley
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« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2007, 08:43:35 AM »

I don't use the start menu anymore, now that I went through and organized all the shortcuts in the start menu and on the desktop into folders on the desktop. now all I have to do is click on the desktop tool bar that I have on the task bar and navigate to the program I want to run.
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Curt
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« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2007, 09:19:27 AM »

Here is my task bar ...

I thank you, Carol, for these thorough directions, but I will have to say that your task bar just might be the very/scary reason I will seek another solution...  tongue

Please forgive me!   Kiss

Anyway; I have True Launch Bar with most of my shortcuts within a single click's reach:

« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 09:23:34 AM by Curt » Logged
app103
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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2007, 07:19:18 AM »

Two of the very first applications I ever created were for organizing shortcuts and cleaning up your desktop.

They could be useful for avoiding the start menu as well.

The first is ClutterBuster. It holds 100 application shortcuts.

screenshot:


The second, Programmers Toolbox, is basically the same but a bit more specialized. It only holds 50 shortcuts and is aimed at programmers and web designers.

screenshot:


Both of these will only create application shortcuts (.exe) and the application must have an icon in the .exe file or the button will be blank. the buttons will show a tooltop on hover for the file associated with it.

All you have to do is right click a blank button, find the .exe file you want to associate with it and select it. Once you have it set up the way you like, close it and it will save your button preferences to an .ini file.

You can manually edit that .ini file in notepad if you would like to remove a button association and have a blank button, rather than change it to point to another application.

This can also be used on a thumbdrive, as it will accept a relative path to an .exe file. (you will have to manually edit the .ini file to do this though)
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« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2007, 07:34:01 AM »

I don't think the start menu is dead, per se. I would describe it more as the start menu taking a less prominent role. I think it still serves a good purpose as a way to see everything you have on a particular system. Especially if the computer is one you are not familiar with, like say a friend's computer you are using or a computer assigned to you at work.
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« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2007, 04:53:52 PM »

Very good point, tinjaw!
That's something i hadn't thought of. I do use the start menu, just not my own cheesy
When on my university's computers, i always use the start menu, and it's much handier than searching for the apps, because they scatter everything all over the c: disk. (they do have good reasons to do that, tough Wink )
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« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2007, 05:01:51 PM »

We need something like PaneKiller that is still in development. Not sure what happened to this guy but if you look at the last update of the program he was obviously WAY ahead of his time. I'm guessing he got scooped up by Microsoft or something.

Can anyone tell me if this works in Vista?
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Darwin
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« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2007, 12:26:01 PM »

I haven't really weighed in here so will do so now: I like the start menu and don't think it's going anywhere, but I REALLY wish that Microsoft would innovate more with it. I think that Vista Start Menu is where they SHOULD have taken it with XP.
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« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2007, 01:40:35 PM »

I think that Vista Start Menu is where they SHOULD have taken it with XP.

Or there's ViStart for free, if you want something a bit different.
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Curt
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« Reply #24 on: July 04, 2007, 12:53:36 AM »

Or there's ViStart for free, if you want something a bit different.

- or the same but with installer: http://www.lee-soft.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=93
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