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 Removed)


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