Create a custom start menu that you can access with a hotkey using SystemTrayMenu
OpenShell (formerly Classic Shell) is my favorite Start Menu replacement, I use it with the Fluent Metro theme. Not everyone wants a fancy looking thing, sometimes it's better to just have something that works.
SystemTrayMenu is a free start menu program that focuses on simplicity. It's not like your regular menu though, you'll need to set it up before you can use it.
Click on the tray icon, and the program will prompt you to set a folder to be used as its working directory, and I recommend creating a new folder for it. Try clicking on the icon again, and it'll tell you to add some shortcuts. Doing this is as simple as copying over some shortcuts from the desktop to the newly created folder using Windows Explorer. You can also add URLs (web shortcuts) to the folder, personally I think a shortcut for the browser is better, but if you like web shortcuts who am I to criticize that?
Add as many shortcuts as you want, when you're done, click on SystemTrayMenu's icon. This time, it will work as intended, andÂ the menu will appear. It pops-up near the action center, just above the clock. Unfortunately there is no way to move the interface to a different location, this could be a drawback for some.
Back to the menu, the shortcuts in it are listed in alphabetical order. Can I add folders to it? Yes, just create a sub-folder in the working directory, and it will be displayed in the tray menu. Shortcuts inside a sub-folder will be displayed when you click on the directory's name in the menu. This allows you to organize the menu, and is particularly useful if you want to add dozens of shortcuts.
To launch a program, mouse over its shortcut and double-click on it. Right-clicking on an item displays the operating system's context menu. SystemTrayMenu has a search option, which allows you to filter the menu's contents and find specific shortcuts instantly.
To customize the program, right-click on the tray icon and select settings. You may change the main folder, and optionally set the application to start automatically with Windows. Switch to the Expert tab, and you can modify the behavior of the shortcuts from opening with a double click to a single one.
SystemTrayMenu uses a light theme by default, but comes with a dark theme that goes nicely with Windows' night mode. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the tray icon.
You can access the application with the hotkey, Alt + Ctrl + Apps. In case you aren't aware, the Apps key is located on the right side of the Space bar, between the Windows and Control keys. Don't worry if you find that inconvenient, the program allows you to customize the hotkey.
What's the point of a keyboard shortcut, when the menu appears all the way to the right of the screen? Well, the hotkey focuses the keyboard on SystemTrayMenu's interface, so you can start typing the name of a shortcut, and hit the Enter key to open the corresponding program instantly.
SystemTrayMenu is an open source program, written in C# and .Net Core 3.1. It is a portable software. Does it get bonus points for being a start menu alternative, without actually replacing it? You decide that.