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You probably interact with the Windows Start Menu dozens of times a day. It’s the hub for all the apps, settings, and utilities on your computer. Shouldn’t you love working with it?

While we’re glad that the proper menu is back after an absence in Windows 8, you can always make default Windows features better 7 Best Apps to Enhance Default Windows Features 7 Best Apps to Enhance Default Windows Features Windows has plenty of great default features, but some of them could be better. Here are seven awesome utilities to enhance anything in Windows. Read More . If you’re looking for something new, here are the best apps you can download to replace or circumvent your Start Menu.

Start Menu Alternatives

These apps let you perform much of the same functionality of the Start Menu. If you want to keep the Start Menu around but use it less often, give them a try. While they don’t affect the Start Menu and therefore aren’t the focus of this post, replacing your Taskbar with a dock 3 Multifunctional Docks To Replace Your Windows Taskbar 3 Multifunctional Docks To Replace Your Windows Taskbar Docks take what the taskbar does and make it better: beautiful, effective, and fun to use. Once introduced for the Mac, docks have long been available on Windows. Let me show you the best ones. Read More is another option for launching programs.

1. Launchy

Launchy has been around for a while, and it still does its job as well as ever — letting you launch programs with a few keystrokes. Once installed, just press Alt + Space to bring up the program window. It indexes everything in your Start Menu, so typing fir will auto-populate the window with Firefox and a quick tap of Enter opens it right up. Of course, you can do the same by pressing the Windows key and typing a program’s name, but Launchy beats this in two ways.

First, Launchy will pick up the name of apps no matter how you type them. Typing fox will confuse the Start Menu, but Launchy will match the text as best it can. Second, you can expand Launchy to do much more than just launch programs. Using the Catalog tab inside its settings, you can choose additional directories for Launchy to index. Add your most-used folders Creative Ways to Launch Software & Open Folders in Windows Creative Ways to Launch Software & Open Folders in Windows Tired of searching for shortcuts on your desktop? In Windows, you can quickly access anything you want, you just have to take the time to set it up. We have compiled your options. Read More , music, or browser bookmarks, and you can search for them like programs.

If that’s not enough, Launchy also has a collection of plugins that add extra functionality like a calculator, task switcher, and quick power options. Give it a try and everything on your computer will never be more than a few key taps away.

DownloadLaunchy (Free)

2. MaxLauncher

Like the idea of Launchy but hate typing out program names? MaxLauncher is for you. Instead of indexing all the programs on your PC, this tool lets you create your own quick menu full of the programs you use most often. After installing it, you can drag and drop your favorite apps, folders, and files to the various buttons.

maxlauncher windows

The default keyboard shortcut Ctrl + ` (the tilde key on the far left of the number row) pops open the launcher. You can keep several tabs in each MaxLauncher window, allowing you to separate programs and files by type. Pressing a number key switches to a particular tab, then you can press the corresponding letter or symbol key to open that program. With a bit of muscle memory, this is a speedy way to open anything on your computer.

DownloadMaxLauncher (Free)

3. Everything Search

The Start Menu can search much of your computer in a short time. But it’s not great for specific searches, or finding all files that match a certain query. For those, you should utilize Everything. Once you open it, it indexes your entire file system and produces instant results whenever you enter some text. You don’t have to worry about incomplete results from the Start Menu or Bing suggestions getting in the way.

everything search windows 10

If Everything doesn’t suit your needs, check out other awesome free search tools 10 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 10 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 Do you find yourself constantly searching for files and folders? Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use. You may be better off with one of these awesome third-party search tool. Read More .

DownloadEverything (Free)

4. Don’t Forget Keyboard Shortcuts!

While we’re focusing on downloads to replace the Start Menu, it’s worth mentioning that many keyboard shortcuts work in combination with the above tools to make the Start Menu unnecessary if that’s your goal. Windows holds hundreds of keyboard shortcuts. Windows Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide Windows Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Keyboard Shortcut Guide With so many shortcuts built into Windows and its software, it might seem impossible to learn them all. Here's the ultimate guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts. Read More

And a few pertain to functionality of the Start Menu:

  • Press the Windows key to open the Start Menu.
  • Windows key + S opens Cortana, ready for keyboard input.
  • Use Windows key + I to instantly open the Settings window.
  • Windows key + X opens the Quick Access menu (aka Power User menu), containing shortcuts to many Windows utilities.
  • The Run menu opens with a quick tap of Windows key + R.

If these don’t do what you need, it’s easy to make your own keyboard shortcuts 12+ Custom Windows Keyboard Shortcuts for the Geek in You 12+ Custom Windows Keyboard Shortcuts for the Geek in You Windows includes hundreds of keyboard shortcuts, but you can create your own shortcuts to nearly anything you'd like. Here's how to customize your Windows shortcuts. Read More .

Complete Start Menu Replacements

If you aren’t happy with the Start Menu as a whole, these apps serve as total replacements. An honorable mention goes to StartIsBack, which is similar to the below tools.

5. Classic Shell

Classic Shell made a name for itself when Windows 8 left users in the cold with its full-page Start Screen. These days, it’s still the app of choice for anyone looking for a Start Menu that’s closer to that seen in Windows 7 or even Windows XP.

You can choose between three styles of Start Menu with this tool. Classic style is like the ancient Windows 98 menu and only has one column. Unless you’re really feeling nostalgic, we can’t imagine this being useful to anyone in the modern age. The Classic with two columns adds Windows XP-styled links to My Documents, the Control Panel, and the like. Finally, the Windows 7 style menu will be most familiar if you’ve used that version of Windows.

No matter which one you pick, Classic Shell supports lots of customization options. You can replace the Start icon on your Taskbar with a custom image, change the quick links, and more. If you don’t care about Modern apps or don’t prefer the new Programs list, this is the best way to get the old Start Menu back.

DownloadClassic Shell (Free)

6. Start10

Similar to Classic Shell, Start10 aims to bring back the familiar Start Menu with additional functionality. It can mimic the Windows 7 Start Menu, but also offers its own Modern Style Start Menu that fits with Windows 10’s aesthetic. If you really like the default Windows 10 Start Menu, you can keep that skin and still benefit from Start10’s enhancements.

Start10 has other perks to make it worth a try, though. Since it comes from the same developer as Fences (which lets you clean up your desktop How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and for All How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and for All Clutter is more detrimental than you realize. A tidy Windows desktop makes things easier to find, is more pleasing to look at, and reduces stress. We show you how to get your desktop in order. Read More ), it includes similar organization tools for the programs in your Start Menu. You can filter searches to find what you’re looking for more easily, and view all installed Modern apps in one place.

Whether you want a simpler Start Menu that still blends in with Windows 10 or have your eye on the advanced features, Start10 offers a compelling package. It’s only available for Windows 10, so check out Start8 if you’re still running Windows 8.1.

DownloadStart10 (Free trial for 30 days, $5 to purchase)

7. Start Menu Reviver

Both of the above tools exist because people want to use the classic Start Menu. But Start Menu Reviver is different. It creates a Start Menu not like anything you’ve seen before. It combines traditional Windows menus and app lists with the tile-based format of Windows 8 and 10.

You can pin tiles to anything you like — drop your top apps, websites, or files onto the menu for quick access. Click one of the category tabs on the left to jump to the appropriate menu or pop out a list of items. Of course, you can also use it to search your PC. Start Menu Reviver also stands out as it’s the only tool on this list that’s optimized for touch use — perfect for hybrid laptops.

If you don’t like the Modern tile interface, this one isn’t for you. But for those who don’t have an attachment to prior Windows Start Menus and want to try something different, you should really enjoy Start Menu Reviver.

DownloadStart Menu Reviver (Free)

How Do You Use the Start Menu?

If you don’t like the default Windows Start Menu, you don’t have to deal with it! We’ve shown you alternatives that let you perform the same functionality without touching the Start Menu itself. Full replacements let you customize the Start Menu so it’s just right for you. Try a few out and see which boosts your workflow best!

Want to get more out of the vanilla Start Menu without downloading anything? Check out the best customizations and hacks 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu The Windows 10 Start Menu combines classic elements with modern tiles. Tiles can add a lot of creative freedom. We'll give you tips and reveal tricks for customizing the entire Start Menu to your preferences. Read More and how to create custom menu tiles How to Create Custom Start Menu Tiles in Windows 10 How to Create Custom Start Menu Tiles in Windows 10 Windows 10 is jam packed with customization options, but some features are neglected. Like the Start Menu. We will help you turn your plain Windows 10 Start Menu into a crisp and beautiful command console! Read More .

If you’re using a Start Menu alternative or replacement, tell us about it! Share your alternatives, replacements, and shortcuts with us in the comments below.

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  1. MP
    April 23, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Listary should be definitely added to the list. Once you try it you are hooked. It's available at listary.com.

  2. DrMoisheP
    April 19, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Classic Shell is my choice for remedying the flaw with Windows updates: continually changing the GUI. Despite upgrades from XP to Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, I've been able to keep my customized desktop and start menu, increasing productivity as well as improving appearance.

  3. vferg
    April 19, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Since Windows 8 went this route they basically trained you to finally use the taskbar the way they intended for it to be used which is basically pinning everything you need to it for easy access. After doing that and adding the address bar I found everything was always right there and very convenient. I got so used to not using the start menu by the time they brought it back in Windows 10 I really don't use it at all. Microsoft was right the first time, we really don't need that at all as long as you do things there way. Of course everyone is different so here we are. I took a look at some of these applications listed here just to see what's out there and honestly I would rather just use the regular stock start menu over any of these. I still wonder why everyone got so upset over the changes they made to it, its not that bad in its current form at all.

  4. Skyfox
    April 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Have to hand it over to Classic Shell, the best app for Windows 10.

  5. Learjet
    April 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I have made it a long-time practice to have no shortcuts or icons on my desktop, so to remedy that, I am a big taskbar pinner. All my frequently used programs are pinned to the taskbar.

    Also, instead of populating my desktop with shortcuts and newly downloaded files, I created a single folder to keep all the stuff most people keep on their desktop. I assigned it a simple black drive icon and keep it on the upper-right corner of my desktop to keep things clean and tidy looking.

    I use the Start 10 program for my start menu, but rarely use it since I keep everything on my taskbar and on the folder I created for my desktop. Tried Launchy, but got tired of typing. I'd rather click.