Best Alternatives to Windows Start Menu

Shankar Ganesh 16-02-2008

We have already covered how to make XP look like Vista or any other popular Operating System 5 Packs to Transform Windows to Other OS Read More . This time, we want to focus only on Windows Start Menu and present a number of better Start Menu alternatives.


(1) Vista Start Menu

Vista Start Menu

The name might sound strange, but this one works in most versions of Windows, not just Vista. Vista Start Menu might take you aback when you use it for the first time, but it’s worth it once you get used to it. It simply replaces your current start menu (even on Vista) with a more functional, feature rich and customizable menu.

You can organize your programs in tabs, use commands from the menu itself, and even zoom into the menu for better viewing. But beware, the program is known to consume a considerable amount of system memory, so go for it only if you have memory to spare.

(2) JetStart


JetStart Menu

JetStart is more of a suite, and can be considered an all-in-one replacement to your default Windows XP Start Menu. JetStart categorizes applications based on their use and purpose. It also has a search as you type feature that can locate the program you need in just seconds. Plus, there’s a JetStart toolbar to house your most used applications for quick launching.

(3) Vista Start Menu Emulator

Vista Start Menu Emulator

Vista Start Menu Emulator replaces the default XP Start Menu with that of a Vista. Besides putting the Vista-like Start Menu on XP, this tool also gives a live search feature similar to the one on Vista.

(4) Launchy

If you’re bored of icons and menus for launching programs, give Launchy a try. Launchy indexes your drive for applications and visited webpages and lets you launch an application or some web address by simply typing couple of first letters. Saves you a lot of time, and can fully replace the Windows Start Menu.

Launchy - Super Fast Program Launcher

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  1. Robert Campbell
    November 5, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I would like try use the Vista Start Menu Emulator, but I cannot read the language on the website so I don't know how to download it. Any help? A link to the download perhaps?

  2. Jakob Schmid
    June 23, 2008 at 3:08 am

    I have written a lightweight Start Menu replacement that I use myself. You can find it here. Note that it requires .NET Framework 3.5.

  3. Chad
    February 21, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    I use RocketDock, nice little utility

  4. nadir
    February 21, 2008 at 9:00 am

    JetStart is the best for usability.
    when you have a lot of installed proggies, WIN+S allows you to jump to the right icon by typing the beginning of its name. Unbeatable.

  5. Techdudes.blogspot
    February 19, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Executor, ya its very good and less resource taking.
    i am using Executor at present.
    its site:

    thank for this.

  6. ItSuportNotes
    February 19, 2008 at 8:47 am

    A while back I tried to change the look of my Windows Desktop but the software I used kinda make my systems (AMD 2.0 ghz) slower. I recently installed ubuntu linux and was very pleased in part because it was easier on the eye. Here is a list of more about that, [Broken URL Removed]

    In the long run though I think MS has plans to really scale back their OS to make it more portable so that basically the same software can run on a PDA, Cell Phone, In a car and on a PC. I'd rellylike to see how that effects the front end look and feel.

  7. Dan
    February 18, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I preffer the classic menu.

  8. Tony
    February 18, 2008 at 11:47 am

    launchy is the shiz!

  9. skrutor
    February 18, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I used to have a blast playing with Litestep. It's a windows shell replacement that's totally customizable. The litestep group had organizational issues a few years ago, but seems to be back up and running.

  10. Ranjit
    February 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

    What kind of lame list is this...


    better than what it once imitated, by far the best alternative for that pesky start button.

    Its soo good i have the entire windows task bar hidden. Start becomes useless !!

  11. Abhiroop
    February 18, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Personal favourite: slickrun.

    Just like launchy but you can program you're own commands. At first it takes a while to do, but in about an hour I had all my programs with memorable shortcuts (e.g. word: for openoffice writer, calc for calculator, fx for firefox) and I had ALT+Z (they're VERY close together) bound to it. AND it had auto complete. So to start say skype ("skype"), I would have to type in ALT+Z, S, ENTER, and thats it...hardly a couple of seconds.

  12. Shankar Ganesh
    February 18, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Indeed it is :)

    There are a few others that you can try -

  13. Dave
    February 17, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Ugh. Isn't this really just putting a new coat of paint on the outhouse?

    February 17, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Please send an invite to Hulu... Thx

  15. Frank
    February 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Or, you can customize your start menu/task bar yourself. like I have on all my XP's. My start menu/all programs has only 7 main folders (Accessories, AVP, Misc,Online,Safety,Startup, & Utilities), with programs categorized and moved into the forementioned folders. I also clear all desktop icons into the unused isons folder, then create a new sub-folder in there named "Shortcuts", then create sub-folders in that one (AVP,Misc,Online,Safety,Utilities) and move all shortcuts into the respective folders, then create a new toolbar link to the Shortcuts folder on my taskbar. Along with using Desktop Sidebar, my taskbar, start menu, desktop is 97 percent clutter free.

    • N. Beans
      August 7, 2008 at 5:52 am
  16. Frango
    February 17, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Can you send me an invite to Hulu? Thanks

  17. littletinyfish
    February 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I use Launchy all the time and as a result, I hit my start menu once a month these days. I can definitely see why you need to keep the start menu, but Launchy works great for all your favorite apps.

  18. Rajiv
    February 17, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Nice article. I find the Vista menu very confusing though. I would not want to switch to that! I like the simplicity of the Windows Classic Menu. On XP i usually change the menu to look that way. :)

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:28 am

      Since you prefer simplicity, I think you'll prefer Launchy :P

  19. Rajnikant Parekh
    February 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I just tried Launchy and I love it. Thanks!

  20. Bill
    February 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    One of the best launchers doesn't act like the Windows start menu. It is free at SourceForge - called LaunchMate.

  21. Scott
    February 17, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    You have to also mention Google Desktop, which works a lot like Launchy, but in my experience uses less resources, is less buggy, and also indexes files and web history.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:12 am

      Yes, I agree that Google Desktop may replace Launchy as a 'launcher', but I'm afraid that I'll have to disagree on the other point you've made. It's pretty slow as far as I have tried.

  22. jeffsters
    February 17, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    humm.... how about the Mac OS X dock? hehhehe

    hey! don't loose your sense of humor!

  23. kristofer
    February 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    These are cool, I've always liked the ability to customize things in Windows but don't really care for the ones that cost money. I'm downloading the Vista Start Menu Emulator to check it out, the XP start menu is cool and works, but I do like the Vista one better...

  24. LekkereDirk
    February 17, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Forget about Launchy, I used it for 6 months, then stumbled upon Keybreeze and within seconds I switched. It is VERY good at what it does and most if not all of the extra features of the start menu are not needed anymore!


  25. Nataly Short
    February 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Gnome start menu of Ubuntu is a way better than anything mentioned.
    It is clean and logical as it should be on any production system.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:27 am

      Well, yes I have to say Linux organizes menus neatly, and they do save people some annoyance.

      I love the way Gnome menus have applications categorized, like, in Ubuntu, we have 'Accessories', 'Internet', 'Sound and Video', 'Office', etc.

      Linux FTW!

  26. onix
    February 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Launchy is awesome. It's not a Start menu replacement, and it shouldn't be, since the Start Menu isn't half bad. But, it's a different concept, and a piece of software you can't not love after you got used to it. I'd recommend it to anyone.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:26 am

      Of course it is awesome, and I believe it can fully replace your start menu. In essence, it 'launches programs' - just what the start menu lets you to do.

      I'd love to recommend it to anyone as well. Anyone who wants to save a little time and be a little more productive should try Launchy.

  27. Morghus
    February 17, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    When I tried Vista Start Menu a while back it kept feeling like an alpha-version that's received alot of visual polish and no coding. The little I could glean off of it made it feel clunky and bothersome, although it's a damned good idea with grouping.

    Now I'd rather just customize the start-menu in XP myself, and I've made it similar to the JetStart one with 5 categories and the normal top used programs in the main window.

    After getting used to that customization I found those programs redundant.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:20 am

      Hmm.. One thing seems to be true: everyone has his/her choices :)

  28. Ben
    February 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    My wife has Vista on her laptop, and we deactivated the Vista start menu (switched to Classic) because it's hard to use, non-intuitive, hogs system resources, and is slow. Why would I want to bring that experience to my XP machine?

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:16 am

      Not all people hate that Search feature in Vista Start Menu, though.

      In case you have some good RAM as well, and need that search, you could try the options I have mentioned.

    • SteveK
      February 18, 2008 at 1:44 pm

      I'm shocked to learn that there are people who find the the Vista Start Menu difficult to use. I respect your opinion, but it is wildly different than mine, which is that the Start Menu is arguably Vista's strongest feature and the most compelling reason to upgrade.

      As well, the live search feature in Vista pops up in various aspects of the Vista UI and has been the tipping point for me to recommend it to others. The Start Menu, Control Panel, and Windows Explorer in general all feel much more intuitive to me. I also like the way Vista has organized the user documents, which is different again from previous versions.

      I suspect that someone with a lot of experience using the older Start Menu format may have trouble adjusting, but my belief is that once you do, it becomes a great asset.

      • James
        August 31, 2009 at 8:10 am

        Here Here!!

  29. Darryn
    February 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    You forgot StartMenuEx, from

    It's a great replacement, and so useful too.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:32 am

      Hey, that's pretty. Thanks.

  30. liquidice
    February 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    you guys forgot RocketDock .. it's a osx type menu for Windows.. works really well ..

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:31 am

      Yep, we indeed did miss Dock Apps :)

      Thanks for the heads up on that.

  31. James
    February 17, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    You should look at
    Enso 2.0 is coming out very soon and is going to be amazing.
    It's from Aza Raskin, Jef Raskin's son (maker of the macintosh).
    Humanized is great at interface design (
    It definitely is a start menu replacement.

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:30 am

      Yeah, Enso is doing pretty well and causing some waves recently.

      I just downloaded it the other day, but unlike Launchy it's taking me some time to get used to.

  32. stimy
    February 17, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Build your own with bb4win and bbinterface

  33. Sherri
    February 16, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    You mentioned the first program using a lot of system resources; how do the others do?

    We each had our own pc when we used w98, so I got used to my very own start menu, that was EASILY edited. Now that we're sharing an XP machine, it's a lot more challenging being able to edit the start menu, especially since there's some things I can't do from my acct, and if I do it from admin it could affect my husband's acct.

    I moved my mandatory icons into a desktop toolbar from the taskbar options, then I moved the rest of my frequently used shortcuts into the quicklaunch, which I dragged until they all showed. Then I turned off all icons from showing on the desktop, and then my hubby freaked at first because he didn't know how to log me off when he wanted to log on. He'd ALWAYS started at the "start button", so no difference there, but since the desktop LOOKED different, it through him off ROFL

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 18, 2008 at 2:13 am

      Haha LOL thanks for sharing your story.

    • hikkiko
      February 21, 2008 at 7:13 am

      Launchy also sucks a lot of resources while running in the background.
      It's bad for laptop users like me.