The Windows start menu has not changed a lot in the last operating systems that Microsoft released. Sure, some features like the ability to search or execute programs directly has been implemented, but those new features have not changed the overall look and feel of the start menu.
One of the main points of criticism is the lack of options to organize the start menu. Practically any application that gets installed places an entry in the start menu, usually a folder with one or multiple program, file and website links.
This fills up the start menu over time, and even though it is sorted alphabetically, it often takes longer than needed to find and start a program from there. Even worse, many programs seem to keep the folder and/or files listed in the start menu when they are uninstalled.
It is possible to organize the start menu manually. But that is only a temporary solution, considering that any new program that adds an entry to the menu during installation or update breaks the order of items.
The free software Handy Start Menu offers an alternative. Probably the best feature of the program is its simplicity. Simply install it on a Windows machine, select to enable the organized start menu and watch the magic happening.
All start menu items are instantly organized into categories like Office, Internet, Security and Utilities. Everything that cannot be identified by the program is put into the Without Category folder.
The program offers options to manage all start menu items and the available categories. This option is directly accessible by clicking on "click to manage the menu".
The category manager displays the categories and items, with options to move items into different categories. There does not seem to be a way to create new categories, but the existing ones should be sufficient for the majority of applications available.
The category manager lacks customizability, which is the greatest weakness of the program. Besides the already mentioned inability to create new categories, it lacks the ability to delete items from the start menu. Even worse is the fact that it overrides the core functionality in the start menu. The user has to switch to the standard menu to delete entries, or browse to the folder in Windows Explorer to do so. Not a practical thing to do.
And while we are at it. Other standard options are not available as well anymore. A right-click displays only the options to open, move or manage the entry. No options to start the program as an administrator and no options to pin it to the taskbar or view its properties.
The Handy Start Menu has a lot of potential, but its shortcomings are what will keep a lot of users from using it permanently. Finally, the start menu appears only ordered for as long as the program is running in the background. A better solution would have been to sort it once, and save the structure.
This would remove all the shortcomings that we have identified in the review.
If you want to try it, The Handy Start Menu is available from the developer website. It has been tested on Windows 7 64-bit, but is said to be working on all Microsoft operating systems from XP to Windows 8.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.