Supercharge your Windows Vista Start menu using Start++

Start++ by Brandon Paddock is a great tool that adds additional capabilities to the Start menu in Windows Vista. Using this tool, you can add shortcut commands to launch programs or Web sites, perform an action on search results, or create a Start menu Gadget. Let’s take an overview of this excellent tool.

COMMAND STARTLETS

Command Startlets are similar to SearchURL in Internet Explorer. Start++ comes with the following shortcut commands by default:

ShortcutDescription
wWikipedia Look-up
!wordLaunch Winword.exe
dDictionary Look-up
lLive Search
gGoogle Search
yYahoo Search
imdbSearch IMDB
sudoRun Elevated

To look-up a word in Wikipedia.org, just click Start, Search and type:

w <word>

Press ENTER. This opens the following URL at Wikipedia.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/<word>

Similarly, to search Google for a word or phrase, use:

g <phrase>

Example

g winhelponline.com

This searches Google for the word "winhelponline.com". Note that the shortcut commands can be used from the Command Prompt and Run dialog as well.

Adding your own shortcut commands

You can add your own shortcut commands in Start++. To do so, right-click on the Start++ icon in the Notification area and choose Configure. Select New… and type the shortcut command, Name and the Command to launch. For instance, you add a shortcut command to access a Microsoft Knowledgebase article.

Now, running the command Q 555077 from Start, Search box would open the following URL in your Web browser:

http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=555077

Tip: Do you access Device Manager frequently? If so, you can create a shortcut command named DEV which opens Device Manager.

Running applications elevated

Start++ comes with a SUDO command (The name probably came from the original Linux command SUDO) with can launch applications elevated. To launch an elevated Command Prompt window, type:

sudo cmd.exe

I use the SUDO command very often to launch programs (that don’t have the RequireAdministrator flag set in the manifest), elevated.

START GADGETS

Start Gadgets are used to display search results from the Web in your Start menu. For example, type g winhelponline.com (don’t press ENTER) in Start, Search box. Google search results for the word winhelponline.com will be displayed in your Start menu. You can create your own gadget from the Start Gadgets tab of the Start++ configuration dialog.

SEARCH STARTLETS

Search Startlets is another useful feature in Start++ where you can use a shortcut command to perform an action on the Search results. For example, type play in Start, Search box and press ENTER. This will add all the music and video files in your system to a Playlist file and play them using Windows Media Player.

Likewise, playartist command queues up songs from the specified artist and plays them in WMP. You use the following syntax:

playartist <artistname>

Example

playartist "George Michaels"

Adding your own Search Startlet

You can also create your own Search Startlet! Open Start++ configuration window and click Search Startlets. You can create new items there.

To play all media files from a particular composer, you can create a Search Startlet with the following search query:

kind:(music OR video) composer:"%*"

Click Start, Search Type:

playcmp "Harris Jeyaraj"

This adds all the media files composed by Harris Jeyaraj to the playlist in Windows Media Player and starts playing.

Tip: Read post Advanced search techniques at the Windows Vista Team Blog to know how to create Advanced Search queries, which can then be used as Search Startlets in Start++.

You can download Start++ (© Brandon Paddock) from Brandon Tools. Bugs, if any may be reported in the Start++ discussion forums.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

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