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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Traybar - FREE Start Menu Replacement Software (Freeware)

Sometimes, the Start Menu just doesn't cut it for me. Ok, most of the time, the start menu doesn't cut it for me. It's slow, disorganized, easily cluttered when any new program is installed, full of things I don't need, and lacking some of the ones I do need.

I keep my most often used shortcuts on the left side of my middle monitor[1], but there are a few reasons I only keep a minimal amount here. First, Windows will randomly lose the formatting, even if I've organized them and rebooted multiple times (implying it should save the settings) - one crash of an IE window could take the whole thing down, and upon reboot it's back to a random, or alphabetical order. Second, there's just too much chance for an accidental click with them there out in the open. I've already quite a few times gone to grab the scroll bar in the left monitor, and click Photoshop instead. With how many programs I have open at a time, a resource hog like that could take minutes to open. Not very efficient!

Instead, TrayBar[2] allows you to fully customize what I like to call a "start menu replacement", which acts very similarly to a custom start menu, except it runs faster and is cleaner looking[2] (and more easily customizable [3,4]).

TrayBar Features
  • Runs in systray (starts with Windows)[2]
  • Extremely fast loading and responsive interface
  • Clean, usable interface with no learning curve[2,5]
  • Simple options, no bloatware, uses low resources/overhead[7]
  • 600K average mem usage (winamp, open not playing: 1,240K; services.exe 1,308K) (my machine[8])
  • Integrates into context (right-click) menu in Windows perfectly[3,4]
  • Multiple folders and separators for easy organization[2]
  • Customizable icons[6]
  • Ability to open emails with the TO field filled out (see note below)
One of the best features, which I don't have in my screenshots because I use gmail at home, not Outlook, is the ability to add an "email" folder to the top of Traybar. This will allow you to pre-fill a bunch of email addresses - for example I have each of my family, closest friends, and co-workers in there. Now, to email them, instead of opening Outlook, starting a new message, and typing/browsing to their name, I just click Traybar, hover "email" and click their name - an Outlook email pops up with their email address filled in. VERY handy!

The author no longer supports/is writing this software but if you have any questions he has responded to my emails and is a very very nice guy. I've never had any problem with the software at all, everything has always functioned exactly as expected, so I can see why he isn't going to mess with it! This is by far one of my most often used tools, and I can't imagine life without it now that I have it installed both at home and at work. Check it out!

Screenshots

[1] my left-side shortcuts
[2] traybar!
[3] context-menu integration
[4] context-menu "add shortcut" dialog
[5] config screen
[6] config a custom icon
[7] simple options
[8] task manager memory comparison

4 Comments:

  • looks just like my XP start menu... you can customize that, so what's the need for an extra background task that duplicates it?
    and keeping your spyware in a dedicated folder is nice, but why would you want to be spied upon?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 PM  

  • Interesting post. Yes, the XP start menu can be customized. However as anyone who's used a computer with a lot of programs installed knows, the XP start menu is clunky, slow loading, and loaded with crap. Every time a program is installed, it throws more stuff into the start menu. With Traybar, I'm able to put ONLY the programs I want, in a sorted order, very easily. And if you read the full post, you'd see how easy it is to add NEW shortcuts - much faster and easier than adding them to the XP start menu. But ultimately, the background task is extremely small, and responds to my clicks immediately, something the XP start menu has never done for me, even on a brand new installation.

    As to the spyware question...I can only hope you weren't serious with that question. I don't have spyware installed, good lord. Those are anti-spyware programs, like Spybot, Adaware, SpySweeper, etc. They're sorted under Spyware/PC Tools...aka Spyware Tools and PC Tools.

    By Blogger Stephen N. McDonald, at 9:19 AM  

  • Almost forgot the main point of why I use Traybar. There are certain programs I install that I use daily, such as my FTP programs, my web browsers, etc. Then there are programs I use only rarely, such as Adobe Premiere. The XP Start menu is a great place to keep EVERY shortcut to EVERY program I have installed - in case I ever need them - but I don't want to have to wade through every program I have installed to get to the 20 I use on a daily basis. That's where Traybar comes in - it's only got the programs I need ALL the time. :)

    By Blogger Stephen N. McDonald, at 9:23 AM  

  • Too lazy to login and edit my comments...

    One other reason. Man you really didn't read the post, did you?

    Traybar gives me immediate access to creation of new emails with the TO address already filled in. At the top of my Traybar (not visible in the screenshots, which were made before I had my mail server set up) I have a folder called "Email" with the names of the people I most commonly email. All I do is click Traybar then their name, and an Outlook "New Message" window comes up immediately, with their email address already filled in. That's not part of the XP start menu.

    And I just opened my XP Start Menu and compared it to an open Traybar...you're really off with "looks just like my XP start menu". They look nothing the same - Traybar is definately a Jag while XP's start menu is a Yugo.

    By Blogger Stephen N. McDonald, at 9:28 AM  

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