Being a Windows user for all my life I have come to realize that my Start Menu quickly becomes filled with applications that I frequently install. Windows Vista makes this much better by incorporating an easy-to-access search bar right in the Start Menu. One thing that surprised me with the release of Vista was that it still sported the same old Quick Launch bar that seems to be an ineffective solution to accessing the programs you use the most.
First I’ll mention two programs that we have already written about on CyberNet before, but then I’ll throw in two programs that you probably haven’t heard about. This way you’ll have four different programs that all behave differently to help you launch programs and open files quicker than you ever have before.
Launchy is an amazing little program that we have covered here several times before. It was just 6 weeks ago that they rolled out version 1 and people all over the world have been grateful with the features Launchy brings to the table.
Once you have Launchy installed, you will be freed from your Start Menu, desktop, and much more! With it you can pull up it’s sleek little window (pictured below) and start typing anything. Launchy will then search the Start Menu for programs with that name as well as files in your My Documents folder. I wish I had a similar program to find things around the house. :)
Apple does a great job with some things in the Mac OS, and one of its claim to fame features is the Dock, typically located at the bottom of the window. That is where all of the shortcuts for programs as well as running programs are kept.
RocketDock does an amazing job of emulating the Mac OS Dock and the newest version provides even more benefits for Vista users. Anyone running Vista will be able to take advantage of a new feature for when windows are minimized to RocketDock. This new feature will actually let you preview minimized windows, which is especially awesome if you minimize a program that is playing something like a video. Then you’ll actually see a small thumbnail with that video playing! Check it out in this video:
This option is one of the more unique ones that I have seen. It essentially creates an expandable menu that pops out when you hover over it. Take a look at this screenshot that I put together that demonstrates the normal state on top and the hover state on the bottom:
The shortcuts available in the hover menu are highly customizable and you can put almost anything you want in it. Here are the different configuration screens that let you turn ManganeseMenu into your own personalized shortcut tool:
Note: I couldn’t get this application to work on Vista so I had to use it on Windows XP.
This program reminds me quite a bit of Google Desktop because of the way it efficiently searches your computer for files and programs to run. After I had the program installed and running all I had to do was hit Ctrl+Space to pull up the search box and start searching for things:
Then there are also a large amount of configuration options:
In the settings you’ll be able to change a lot of things around. One of the cool things is that you can create custom keyword searches much like you can for Firefox and Opera. If you’re a searching addict then you will indeed find this to be useful! For more information on what (and how) Guillotine can do head on over to their documentation which also has many alternative screenshots available.
There are so many different ways to manage all of your shortcuts that I’m sure you can find a way that meets all of your needs. I use RocketDock to get quick access to all of my shortcuts. Previously I used Launchy as well, but Vista covers its turf well enough that I didn’t feel a need to use it anymore. You’ll never know what you will like until you play around with the different options.
Recommended software from the comments below: