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Tray Management Utilities Mini-Review

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This mini-review will cover two of the better tray management utilities available for the microsoft windows platform. The two reviewed are XDesk's SysTrayX and PS Soft Lab's PS Tray Factory.

What is a tray management utility?

These program's are designed to alleviate some space in your system tray by replacing many of your less commonly used or accessed icons with a single icon (or none at all). They give your more real estate in your taskbar and can add another very useful function that allows you to minimize any running app to the system tray.

Why use a tray manager?

As stated above, a tray manager can give you more of the much needed real estate in your system's taskbar

The two major fore-runners of this market?

XDesk's SysTrayX ( ) and PS Soft Lab's PS Tray Factory ( ).

The Reviews:


The Good

SysTrayX is a well designed application overall. The interface is very simple and easy to use and the options are many. The program has several different ways of detecting when an application is added to the system tray (On Create, On Notify, etc) and does a decent job of finding applications The minimize to tray functionality is nice and easy to use; assigned via a hotkey in the programs options menu.

The bad

SysTrayX's interface is easy to use, but it lacks some polish. The program sometimes misses certain applications being added to the tray (such as WinWall, the windows wallpaper manager). The program's development appears to have halted,

The Cost

$25.52 US

The upgrade policy

Subscription based. You must pay every year in order to get any upgrades to the product. This costs roughly $19.90 per year.

The support

Initially, this author contacted SysTrayX's support asking for help on the minimize to tray feature and recommending a new feature. The reply was received in about 2 days and solved the problem which I encountered. Subsequent emails however, went unanswered after 3 weeks of waiting. The author was very courteous during his replies about the minimize to tray problem, but didn't make a mention of the feature request. The program also seems to have died off in terms of new versions, with its latest version being released in July 2005.

PS Soft Lab's PS Tray Factory

The Good

This application has the best interface in the industry. The easy to use check boxes in the programs main options window allow the user to select which applications should be hidden from the tray under the programs replacement tray icon. The hotkey option allows you to assign different WIN + hotkey's to  perform various actions on the tray icon such as clicking, double clicking and right clicking, a very useful function indeed.

The Bad

The application requires the use of the windows key for hotkey configuration, instead of letting the user select from the CTRL + ALT combinations. Not a very major problem, but the option to use the windows logo key should be just that, optional.

The Cost

$24.95 US

The upgrade policy

Pay Once, upgrades for life of product.

The support

This author has contacted the author on numerous occasions and found a reply waiting in his inbox normally within a 24 hour period. The author was very courteous in his replies and also made me feel as if my suggestions for the program were welcome.  The development is still active with its latest release coming in January of this year.

What both are missing

Both programs have some features and functionality that this author believes should be included, such as the ability to change the tray icon that is used to replace the other icons in the tray. Another function is the ability to add an option to the right click context menu of the taskbar entry that allows you to select whether or not the application should minimize to tray every time the application's minimize control button is pushed (similar to that of AllToTray).

Summary and Author's Pick

This author, after reviewing both programs, found one major difference between the two programs. After installing and using SysTrayX, I found myself trying to figure out ways to get certain apps to stay in the tray with the appropriate settings being made in the applications options panel, and still have yet to figure out how to do this. The only things I think that needs to be addressed with SysTrayX are A. Its ability to catch ALL applications in the tray, and B. A new UI design. With PS Tray Factory, however, I installed it one morning, and purchased it that same night. The winner here, according to this author, is PS Tray Factory. With its lifetime free upgrades, no sub's here, and its great technical support, PS Tray factory is a clear winner in this category.

Great review Josh!  You are however incorrect on the PS Tray Factory upgrade policy: -

"7. If I already have a registered copy of PS Tray Factory will I be required to pay for a upgrade?
By purchasing PS Tray Factory you are entitled to receive free upgrades by download from our website for one year from the date of purchase. After that you can receive upgrades with a significant discount."

So unless the author has changed his policy and not updated the site, it has the same sort of rip off upgrade scheme as SysTrayX.  The only difference for PS Tray Factory is the upgrade cost isn't stated anywhere.  Hopefully it will be much cheaper than SysTrayX to upgrade but I doubt it as the two are in such close competition in every area.

I have emailed the author and confirmed the upgrade policy for PS Tray Factory, hence my reason for purchasing it. He stated

Hello Joshua,

All upgrades for ANY future versions are free of charge.
We  have  planned  usage  of  paid  upgrades some time ago, but at the
present  time  such upgrades are free. It is possible that this policy
will  be  changed in the future, but in any case, all upgrades will be
free for previously registered users.
--- End quote ---

Hope this helps :)

That's great news.  I've been a registered user of SysTrayX for a while but am strongly considering converting to PS Tray Factory as soon as there is a DonationCoder discount or my SystrayX upgrade expires ($19 for yearly maintenance is just ridiculous).  Frankly the upgrade policy is the one thing that would make or break my purchase of PS Tray Factory.

I'd like to add some of my insights to your review, if I may: -

1. Default Icon.  I too would like to change the default tray icon for both programs.  That being said, PS Tray Factory has a fairly attractive and up to date icon whilst SysTrayX looks like something from the Win 3.1 days.  If you have a fully skinned up version of Windows SysTrayX looks dated and out of place.  It is good to see that PS Tray Factory now allows the changing of other icons in the system tray though.

2. Default position for program icon.  By Default PS Tray Factory places itself at the far-right of any system tray icons which I would consider ideal behaviour.  SysTrayX has a habit of placing itself to the left of any new sys tray icons it encounters until you set 'Special Position' for that icon which can look messy.

3. As I remember SysTrayX has slightly better handling when it comes to settings which icons are displayed in the tray, in its menu, or both.  I could be wrong, but at present you cannot set PS Tray Factory to display an icon only in the tray (I haven't tested it in some time).

4. Registered updates.  I like the fact that PS Tray Factory can be downloaded and made registered with your existing key.  The upgrade to SystrayX is somewhat laborious with the shareware version being released several weeks before the registered version is mailed to registered users (yes, email updates only!).  Surely any software author should consider their paid customers as paramount, especially if you are expecting future revenues from upgrade maintenance.

5. I've found the SysTrayX support lacking with emails going unanswered from the author.  Never used PS Tray Factory support so cannot comment.

6. I have so many programs configured already I'd like to see some form of migration utility included in both tools to allow me to change to the competing product, should I decide to change.

I'll add to this post if I think of anything else.

also see this related thread:

Author of PS Tray Factory has decided to make a 50% discount available to all members throughout february.  now that's a bargain:


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