Pimp up the Vista startmenu

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 6, 2007
Updated • Jun 5, 2013

We all know that Microsoft decided to add a search feature to the Vista start menu and get rid of the run box by default. You can add the run dialog again but there is a much better way to add functionality to the search box using the great application Start++.

It adds new commands to the search box which define actions that are then executed. Typing "g search term" for instance opens the default browser with Google search results for the search term that you have entered. Eight default commands are already defined and you can add new ones with ease.

The default commands open Word, let you search Google, Yahoo, Live Search and IMDB, use Sudo application to start the application with admin rights and search Wikipedia or Dictionary.com.

Using the command "y spyware spam fighting" would open search results from the Yahoo search for that query in your default browser.All commands described up to this point belong to the so called startlets group.

Start++ has another feature which it calls Search Startlets. The commands play, playartist and playalbum followed by the name of an artist search your hard drive for that name and play the songs, videos or albums automatically if they can be located. Play Who by Fire for instance searches for the Song Who by Fire by Leonard Cohen and plays it if found on the system.

The biggest advantage of Start++ is of course that you  may add commands to Start++ that help you make the most out of Vista's search box. You can add new commands and search startlets. New commands can open applications with a simple shortcut. Let me give an example of how that works.

I will add a command to launch notepad from the search box. I click on New in the list of commands and type !note as the shortcut. Name can be anything that you like so Notepad would be good to identify what the command is doing. The command itself is simply notepad.exe

Once Saved I can start Notepad by typing in !note in the search box of the start menu. You sometimes have to add the full path to an application but that is the only thing that might differ.

Adding Internet searches is a little bit trickier. Lets add a command that searches eBay for the search string that we enter. We have to perform a search on eBay to see how eBay handles the parameters. Go to eBay.com and enter a search term, test for instance. Take a look at the url and search for test in there. We have to replace test with %+ in the command box from start++.

So, to add a eBay search we would create a new command, give it the shortcut e and the name eBay and add the following line to the command http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?satitle=%+&category0= Please note that I removed some of the options in the url to shorten the output on my blog. You can now search eBay for antivirus software using the command "e antivirus". The same principle applies to many other sites such as Amazon, Digg and others.

As you can see it is pretty easy to add your favorite site to start++.

Search Startlets use a slightly more complicated syntax. If you take a look at the play shortcut you notice the command kind:(music OR video) %* store:file ; Let me explain the variables here:

  • kind: refers to the type of file that you want to play, in this case we have choose to include a OR statement which means that a search for music and video files is performed.
  • %* means that all results are added to the playlist, %1 would mean that only the first and %n where n is a number would add that number to the playlist and play them.
  • store:file - Well I can only guess here but i suppose that it defines that it should search for files only.

Start++ is a very nice application that added tremendous usability to Windows Vista. Can only recommend it to everyone who is running Vista.

Update: The program has been retired and is no longer available on the developer's website. You can download the latest release version of it from our own servers. Note that it is only compatible with Vista and not with other Windows operating systems: [Download not found]


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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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