RAW Computing

A Start menu alternative for Windows 8

Windows 8's new Start screen is something you either love or hate. You do get used to it after a while, but you may still wish for a simpler way of organising and starting applications. Sometimes that is as straightforward and easy to use as the old Start menu. MadAppLauncher is a free utility that works on any version of Windows, but it is probably most helpful for Windows 8 users. It isn't like the Start menu, but it is useful for starting applications quickly and easily, so it goes some way to filling in the void produced when Microsoft took out Start.

MadAppLauncher can be found at the right side of the taskbar when it is installed and running. Click the icon to display the window and select Drag and Drop Mode on the View menu. Open an Explorer window and go to C:\Program Files\ where you will find most of the software on the computer.

The MadAppLauncher screen shows a keyboard and what you do is to drag and drop programs on the keys. For example, Put Firefox on the F key, Chess on the C key, Internet Explorer on the I key and so on. (They don't have to match, it just makes them easier to remember.)

Finally, select Settings, Hotkey and choose the hotkey you want to use. For example, tick Ctrl and enter M into the key box to define the hotkey as Ctrl+M.

Now you can minimise MadAppLaucher and it is ready to use. Just press the hotkey and then the key with the app you want to run. So if you wanted to run Firefox for example, you would press Ctrl+Y and then F. (Clicking it with the mouse will also run it.)

This is a clever menu system and there are 10 tabs, so if you have lots of programs you can organise them onto tabs, such as all the games on one tab, utilities on another and so on. It's not a Start menu, but it is a menu of sorts and if you are a Windows 8 user you might find it better than going through the Start screen. It works in Windows XP, Vista and 7 too and you may prefer it to searching the Start menu for the application you want.

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