Every now and then, we here at PCauthorities.com receive emails from software manufacturers asking us to review and feature their applications. We are always honored to be asked this but of course not all software is created equal. However, every now and then, we do try something that we really do like and end up using all the time. This proved to be the case with the Vista Start Menu.
What is the Vista Start Menu?
The Vista Start Menu (VSM), created by OrdinarySoft, is an alternative to using Microsoft’s built-in Start menu for Windows. And despite its name, it can actuallycan be used with both Vista and Windows XP.
So what does VSM bring to the table here? The Number 1 feature of VSM is that it has cognitive features. It makes use of your brain’s natural ability to memorize things and associate them with a particular item, location, function or action.
For example, with the typical Windows Start menu, what happens when you download and install a new program? Everything shifts! So if you got used to clicking at a specific location for a specific tool, then you’ll find that it won’t be there anymore because everything has changed after you install something.
Check out these cool videos explaining the rational behind VSM.
With VSM, everything stays in its exact place (or where you place it) regardless of what you install on your system later on. There are many other features to the app but I’ll break that down into its respective versions (Free and Pro) below.
What’s the benefit of all this cognitive stuff? The main benefit for the user in using VSM is of course increase in personal productivity. (And if you’re like me, when I’m hurrying and can’t find what I need, I really do get cranky!)
As your brain gets used to WHERE something is, HOW to reach it, open it, or activate it becomes faster. It’s just like driving to the same place over and over again. After some time, you just seem to get there on ‘autopilot’.
Vista Start Menu – Free Version Features
VSM comes in both Free and Pro versions. Here’s a quick rundown of the Free version:
- Zoom In/Out. With this feature, you can easily customize how big or small you want information on VSM to be. What’s nice is that the related images are also resized well.
- Re-sizable Menu. The entire VSM menu is resizable too. Just click on the upper right hand corner and drag the window to the size you want. In effect, VSM is trying to also replace your need for the Windows Desktop by making the VSM interface as big as your screen and having all your stuff organized and shown as you want it. At the start. I still kept going to the Windows Desktop but then I discovered the TABS feature of VSM ;)
- TABS! Maybe it’s just my overwhelming preference for Firefox but ever since I switched to that browser, I’ve been tab-crazy. Well, VSM has catered to that particular preference of mine by having Tab features. The Free version shows the All Programs, Quick Start and Autorun tabs. (See the Pro version for more flexibility.)
- Big, Shiny Power Buttons. At the bottom of the VSM interface, you’ll see Power Control buttons for easy access.
- Fast Search Capabilities. This feature is something I really find useful. When you click Start, there’s a command line where you can directly enter the application or file youwant to retrieve. As you type, results are provided in the upper pane for you to choose.
It’s important to note that the VSM interface is broken down into ‘blocks’ that can hold nine different apps of folders at a time. In the sample screenshot below, you can see that the Control Panel has four ‘blocks’, each having nine apps or folders. Every block is assigned a letter, and under each letter, the numbers 1-9 have been assigned to the folders and apps under the block.
We find this feature great because it’s easy to group apps or folder together and then access them by simply pressing two keys on your keyboard.
If the above features appeal to you, you can download the Vista Start Menu, Free Version here.
Vista Start Menu – Pro Version
In addition to the above features, the Pro version adds the following.
- One-Click Launch. Configure VSM to launch applications and open folders with just one click.
- Fast and Easy Uninstall. Right-click any app and you’ll see an Uninstall option in the pop-up menu, making it a whole lot easier to get rid of unwanted sofwtare.
- Tab Customization. My personal favorite… custom tabs! This is really the feature that made me stop using the Windows Desktop. I just added tabs, grouped my apps and folders and with the one-click launch feature, presto! I have everything within easy reach.
So how much does all these cost? The Pro version costs only $19.99 per license. If these extra features appeal to you, you can download the Vista Start Menu, Pro Version here.
So overall, we do recommend VSM. It organizes our apps and folders well, launches or opens them quick, and they stay exactly where we want to be.
If you are running Windows XP, you can use the XP version, Start Menu XP. And even on Windows 7 you can use this alternative Start menu!
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