Alternative start menu implementations
Before I decided to develop my own start menu I tried to look for
alternatives. I couldn’t find something that is free, supports
reordering of programs, shows the recent documents, etc. Here is a list
of what I found with some
(hopefully objective) pros and cons:
Classic Windows Start Menu
is free and though previous versions only had basic
functionality, the latest versions are far better. There is drag and
drop, many customizations, and as of version 4 - a search box. There are still
quite a few glitches overall though. Still, this project shows great
promise and is one to keep an eye on.
Classic Start Menu, while not free (20 bucks), has a
variety of advanced features. You can use drag/drop to rearrange your
menus (I found it to be a bit buggy), it has 2 skins to choose from
(Aero and Classic). On the negative side, there is almost no keyboard
navigation because there is a search box that steals all typed
characters. There is some sort of shortcut system using the numeric
keys but I couldn’t get it to work reliably. There is no proper "recent
documents" menu. Also the localization is a bit off and right-to-left
support is a bit lacking.
CSMenu is free and provides the basic functionality –
open the Programs menu, click on a program to run. It is lacking
advanced functions like keyboard navigation, drag/drop, recent
documents, customizability, etc. Also the localization is not quite
right – for example Help and Support, Calculator, etc. are not
localized, no support for right-to-left languages.
Update: Looks like development
has stopped on this project and it has been abandoned by the authors
like the original CSMenu program is not available for download anymore. The website
is taken over by the developer of the Classic
Start Menu program from the previous section, and now offers his software.
Vista Start Menu is another version done by the same developer as Classic Start Menu above. It tries to be much fancier but the UI
was way too busy for my taste. I gave it a quick look and found the
keyboard shortcut system to work a bit more reliably. There is free
version and PRO version (20 bucks) that adds some more customization
features. I would rate this one the highest
of the bunch because of its features, if you are into this sort of UI.
Seven Classic Start is probably the worst of the
bunch. It is the most expensive (25 bucks!) and only offers basic
functionality. Even though it is advertised as “Complete with
everything that makes the original Start menu beloved by so many users”
there is no drag and drop, expanding Control Panel, recent documents,
localization, or right-to-left support.
P.S. When you try to uninstall the trial you get an
offer to use it for free if you agree to try some other software as
Update: The latest version has some drag and drop (but is a bit buggy) and some basic Aero accents
Taskbar Classic Start Menu is a
start menu that doesn't attach to the start button, but to the tray
notification area. It may take some getting used to, but some people
may prefer it on the right side of the screen. The latest version I
tried (version 3) is still a bit rough. There is no drag and drop,
Control Panel or much customizability (although the customizable banner
bitmap is a nice touch). There are also a few glitches that hopefully
will be fixed in the future.
Alternatives to other Classic Shell features
Classic Shell has a long list of features, but not everybody needs all
of them. In case you need only a single feature, here's a list of
simpler utilities that you might find useful:
Mavis Up Button adds Up button
in the title bar of Explorer. It costs $4.95. Besides not being free,
it has a few downsides compared to the Classic Shell implementation. It
doesn't get disabled when you reach the top folder. It breaks the
resizing of the search box in Windows 7 Explorer. And it doesn't scale
up for higher-resolution displays. On the plus side, it is a pleasant
shade of green and has a nice shadow around the button.
Win7 Shared Folder Icon is a
small shell extension that adds an overlay to show shared folders in
Windows 7. While not free ($19.90), it offers a good selection of icons
to choose from.
BreadCrumbKiller is a small
free utility that disables the breadcrumbs in Explorer in Windows 7 and
Vista. Currently it has a problem that it shows 2 dropdown arrows in
the address bar. The author is aware of the issue and is looking for a
Update: The problem with the two arrows is now fixed.
AveNoBreadcrumbs is the original breadcrumb killer. Unfortunately it doesn't work on Windows 7, just on Vista.
Explorer7Fixes is a small utility that adds the sort header for Explorer in Windows 7.