I have to admit that ever since upgrading to Windows 7, I love everything about the operating system. It’s cleaner, faster and more intuitive. However, since I’ve upgraded there’s always one thing that’s been nagging at me, and after reading comments from other Windows enthusiasts about Windows 7, it appears that I’m not alone.
The default start menu that comes with Windows 7 leaves a bit to be desired. Icons and programs are not exactly well-organized, and the ability to access the control panel and other features that were pretty standard in older versions of Windows, seem to require one too many clicks to access in Windows 7, in my humble opinion.
Through the years, we’ve offered a few alternatives for whatever start menu you’ve suffered through. In 2008, Shankar offered four cool alternatives to the Vista start menu. Kyle also offered an app called SMOz that helped to organize your start menu. One of the best was actually a start menu alternative Kaly described in 2006 called Tidy Start Menu. Well, in the subsequent four years, Ukrainian programmer Denys Nazarenko enhanced the app into a new version renamed Start Menu 7
A New Start Menu For Windows 7
I’m not usually one to install Windows add-ons or enhancements. I find that most of them add an additional layer of complexity and memory consumption to an already memory and processor-hungry OS. However, Start Menu 7 really caught my eye because the screenshots on the website showed a menu that’s clean, well organized, and apparently low-profile with system resources. Intrigued, I dove in.
The first thing you’ll notice when you install and run Start Menu 7 is that you don’t only get a new Start Menu, you get an entirely new way to navigate your computer. Gone are the days where every time you want to find a file on your computer, you have to open up Windows Explorer to drill through your directory system. Start Menu 7 puts everything immediately at your fingertips. The above screenshot may look a little bit overwhelming, but follow along and you’ll see just how impressive this little Start Menu is.
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is customize the Start Menu for the folders, applications and system tools you use most often. You do this by clicking the “Add Items” icon at the top.
In the menu that drops down, you can add commands, folders, a line to format sections of your start menu, or you can click to choose (browse) to find the application you want to add. The coolest thing about this app is that you basically will never need to separately open Windows Explorer again. You can access every folder and file on your PC through the easy navigation system that opens up to the right of the Start Menu. Just click the right-arrow next to the folder to drill down into sufolders, and click to open any file. The scroll bar at the bottom lets you view all files and folders no matter how many you have.
There are more features available if you click on the “Programs” folder, you’ll see three tabs. All Programs is self explanatory, Quick Start lets you add shortcuts to programs or folders that you frequently use and want quick access to, and Autorun gives you access to your Startup folder to see what apps are launching when your PC boots.
If you glance at the bottom of the Start Menu, you’ll find a few other useful features. On the left there’s the command/search field. Type “calc” or “notepad” to open up those apps, or start typing a file name and Start Menu 7 will instantly perform the search. To the right you’ll find a golden lock button that lets other users log into a new session while preserving your own session, and then there’s the easy Power button. Unlike the Windows 7 default shutdown dialog, this one is straightforward and shows all your options on one window.
See those interesting clock icons? Click one of those and you can actually schedule the event. I love this feature because I can set the shutdown for an hour after school when I want to automate how long my kids will spend on the computer.
You can use this feature for just about anything – you can even set an exact date and time! Start Menu 7 also adds some additional functionality in the “Options” section when you click on the “Wizard“.
In the Customize Wizard, you’ll find a few things you can tweak, but my favorite is the shortcut customizer which lets you assign keyboard keys to system actions like restart, hibernate, opening the “Run” dialog box and more.
By the way, if you prefer using your keyboard, just hit the Windows button on your keyboard to launch the Start Menu, and you’ll see keyboard codes show up next to each icon and folder. In the navigation area, just click the section letter and it’ll break down the shortcuts into numbers to access individual items in that box.
Once you get used to it, this is one of the fastest ways I’ve ever seen to navigate Windows with just a keyboard in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any version of Windows that I’ve used. Give Start Menu 7 a shot and let us know if you think Denys did as good a job with this as I feel he has.
Do you have any other new start menu alternatives for Windows 7 you feel are better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.