[Review] Tidy Start Menu Pro

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Tidy Start Menu Pro

Version reviewed:

v3.4

Supported OS:

Windows 98 and higher

Price:

$19.95 (USD)

Software description as per the developer:

As time goes by, the list of the programs in the Start Menu becomes too long. As a result, each time you want to launch a program, it takes too much time to find it in the menu.

The “Tidy Start Menu” program will help you to put the menu in order and make your work comfortable.

————————-{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Allows users to work in two modes – “Simple” and “Explorer”.
  • Provides users with a handful of categories to use to reorganize the start menu, and gives users the ability to create their own.
  • Comes with a handful of supplementary features: adding icons to start menu folders, adding uninstall quick-links to right-click context menus, and searching for and removing broken shortcuts.
  • Can backup/restore the start menu and import/export the start menu as XML files.
  • Gives users the ability to organize the start menu of all Windows’ users’ accounts.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • There is no way to “undo” the deletion of a category.
  • All the entries placed in a category are deleted upon the deletion of a category – no way to automatically remove the entries after deletion so they can be placed in another category.
  • There is no way to “undo” the deletion of a start menu entry under “Explorer Mode”.
  • No option in “Explorer Mode” to move start menu entries instead of copying them.
  • “Icon Wizard” works but displays errors.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”7″}Very easy to use – literally point and click. However, there are four caveats: there is no way to “undo” the deletion of a category, all the entries placed in a category are deleted upon the deletion of a category (no way to automatically remove the entries after deletion so they can be placed in another category), there is no way to “undo” the deletion of an start menu entry under “Explorer Mode”, and you are only allowed to copy start menu entries into other locations instead of moving them with “Explorer Mode”.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”9″}Performs perfectly for what it does except for the “Icon Wizard” which displays some errors.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”8″}I can see many people finding this program useful.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”7″}$19.95 is a fair price considering there is also a freeware version of Tidy Start Menu which users can grab for free. However, taking into consideration that main job of Tidy Start Menu can be done manually by users, the developer may consider dropping the price to around $10-15.
{/for}
{for=”Arbitrary Equalizer” value=”8″}This category reflects an arbitrary number that does not specifically stand for anything. Rather this number is used to reflect dotTech’s overall rating/verdict of the program in which all the features and alternatives have been considered.
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_verdict}[tupr]
{/rw_verdict} –>

Unless you specifically tell a program otherwise, most programs nowadays will add themselves to your start menu when you install them. If you navigate your start menu often, you know how annoying it is to view the dozens (hundreds?) of entries there. If while reading these first two sentences you thought to yourself “yep… that is me” then Tidy Start Menu is the program that may solve your woes.

Tidy Start Menu has a simple goal in mind: to help you organize your start menu. It accomplishes this goal by allowing you to place each start menu entry under a specific category folder in your start menu instead of all them appearing at once when you open your start menu. In other words, expect to see something like this after you have used Tidy Start Menu:

The above screenshot is of a Vista start menu. Start menus of other operating systems will be similar but according to their format (i.e. a XP start menu will be similar but… XPish).

When you run Tidy Start Menu, you will be prompted with the following window:

As you can see from the above screenshot, there are two different “modes” that TSM (Tidy Start Menu) can operate in:

  • Simple Mode

Simple mode allows you to easily place your existing start menu entries under specific categories. The categories each correspond to a folder that will be created in your start menu (see the above screenshot of the Vista start menu for an example) so essentially you are taking existing start menu entries and placing them into folders that will be created by TSM. To do this, all you need to do is click on the category and check the checkbox next to the entries that you want to place in that category. Once an entry has been placed in a category, is disappears from the other categories; in other words you won’t be able to select it to place in the other categories. If you ever want to remove an entry from a category, simply uncheck the checkbox next to it. Take note that all changes you make are happening in real time. In other words, there is no “saving your settings” or “applying changes” button you need to press – as you check the checkboxes, the entries are moved into their respects new homes.

By default, TSM comes with nine categories: Office, Utilities, Games, Entertainment, Internet Programming, Graphics, Security, and Other. However, you are allowed to create new categories, and delete or rename existing categories. Be very careful when deleting categories. Firstly, there is no way to “undo” a deletion of a category. Once you hit that delete button, the category is gone. (The developer really should add some way to “undo” deletes to prevent accident deletions.) More importantly, however, all the entries that were placed in that category are also deleted; not only does TSM not provide a feature to automatically move the entries out of that category so you can place them in other ones, but there is no feature to recover the deleted entries either. Thankfully, though, TSM deletes all things to the Recycle Bin, so there is a margin of safety in that regard; you may still be able to recover deleted categories  – and the entries in the categories with it – from the Recycle Bin if you have not emptied it out. Do note, though, once you recover a category from the Recycle Bin, it is no longer “editable” from TSM (at least not from “Simple Mode” – with “Explorer Mode” you can).

Since all changes are in real time, once you are done editing your start menu, you can either close TSM or go back to the first screen to access other TSM features.

  • Explorer Mode

Explorer mode is essentially the “hands-on-do-it-yourself” mode – it allows you to move or delete start menu entries and create new folders as you please. (“Explorer Mode” shows you how your start menu looks currently; so if you have already used “Simple Mode”, your start menu will be organized into categories already which you can further customize with “Explorer Mode”). You can move/delete whole folders, or the individual entries inside each folder. All moving is done via drag + drop; deletion is done via right-click; creation of new folders is also done via right-click. Take note that “moving” is actually not moving in the traditional sense. Rather, when you “move” an entry, you are essentially copying the entry to another location – the original entry stays as-is and another entry is created in the new location. In that regard, I do think the developer should add an option where the user can select to move entries in the traditional sense instead of just copying entries because, frankly, it can get annoying to move an entry and having to go back and delete the original entry so there are not duplicates.

As with “Simple Mode”, all changes made in “Explorer Mode” are real time and there is no way to “undo” deletions (aside from the Recycle Bin method I already mentioned). So, be careful when deleting things and after you are done editing, you can exit TSM or go back to the previous window to access other TSM features.

Before you even get to selecting “Simple Mode” or “Explorer Mode” take note of the fact that you are allowed to select which Windows user account’s start menu to edit:

By default your current Windows account will be selected, but clicking on the drop down menu will give you the option to select other users (if applicable – you need sufficient access privileges).

Aside from the already mentioned, TSM can do a few more things:

  • Backup/restore the start menu:

Backup

Restore

  • Import/Export from/to a XML file:

The backups made by TSM – from the Backup/Restore feature I just discussed – are made to XML files, so you could, technically, import a backup you made.

  • Find and delete broken shortcuts:

  • Add icons to start menu folders:

The “Icon Wizard” allows you to change the default folder icon for start menu folders (and subfolders) to custom icons. You can have TSM add icons automatically (“Assign automatically”) – it tries to add the same icon to the folder as the icon for the main program shortcut in the folder (keyword: tries – TSM is not always successful in automatically adding icons) – or you can manually add icons to each folder by clicking on the folder and selecting the icon:

If you ever want to restore the icons to default, the “Restore default” button will restore all icons for all folders to default while the “Default” button will restore the icon to default of the folder that is currently selected.

As with “Simple Mode” and “Explorer Mode” any changes you make via the “Icon Wizard” is made in real time.

There is one problem I ran into with the “Icon Wizard” while using “Assign automatically”. I get a couple of errors while using the feature:

The odd thing is, though, that after I bypass the errors, the “Icon Wizard” seems to work fine – icons are assigned to folders. So, I am not sure what is up (yes I am running TSM in administrator mode so that is not the issue).

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}

Users can easily manage/clean their start menu directly from within Windows

Windows XP

Windows XP users can simply right click on the start menu button and click on “Explore” to edit the current user’s start menu, or “Explore All Users” to edit all Windows’ users’s start menu. Another way – instead of right clicking on the start menu button – is for Windows XP users to go to C:/Documents and Settings/All Users/Start Menu (this is all Windows’ users’ start menu) and C:/Documents and Settings/%USERPROFILE%/Start Menu (this if the current user’s start menu).

Windows Vista and Windows 7

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users don’t have it as easy as Windows XP users. As far as I know, there is no way to right-click-on-the-start-menu-button method for Vista/Win7 users. Windows Vista and Windows 7 users need to go to C:/ProgramData/Microsoft/Windows/Start Menu (this is all Windows’ users’ start menu) and C:/Users/%USERPROFILE%/Appdata/Roaming/Microsoft/Windows/Start Menu (this if the current user’s start menu).

Tidy Start Menu [Freeware version]

The freeware version of TSM has limited features. Specifically, it lacks the “Icon Wizard”, the “Explorer Mode” is limited, and users cannot create/delete/rename categories.

WinStep Start Menu Organizer

The Winstep Start Menu Organizer is an application designed to help you organize and clean your Start Menu.

Over time, as more and more applications get installed, the Start Menu can get so cluttered that you end up spending a lot of time just trying to find that program you want to run. This is where the Winstep Start Menu Organizer comes in: it allows you to quickly group your Start Menu shortcuts into a specific set of categories (e.g. Utilities, Internet, Office, etc…) thus making finding what you are looking for a lot easier and much faster!

-Developer

SMOz

SMOz (Start Menu Organizer) is a program that can help you keep your windows start menu organized.

SMOz categorizes the items in the start menu according to a template file which can be easily modified to fit your needs. A sample template file in included in the release. A template file consists of categories and values (similar to ini files). Files/Directories that match value, which can be simple text or a regular expression, are moved to directories specified on categories. This keeps your start menu clean with out the pain of manually organizing it every time you re-install windows.

-Developer

Vista Start Menu

Vista Start Menu is the convenient alternative to the plain Start menu you find in Windows XP and Windows Vista. The program uses your cognitive abilities (visual memory, reflexes,etc.); however, while it is easily understandable for beginners, it is also highly efficient for experienced users.

-Developer

{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}I really like Tidy Start Menu. Sure the main job of Tidy Start Menu can be done manually via Windows Explorer, but TSM makes organizing your start menu really easy. I give it a thumbs up and highly recommend it to those people that need or want it. (TSM has a freeware version that you can check out if you can’t get the Pro version.)
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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38 comments

  1. Dru

    I’ve been looking off and on for an app launcher that works for me. I like simple, low maintenance, and fast. I just tried the idea mentioned earlier, to create folders in my quick launch. I think this really works for me. I’m on XP (I really don’t like the Vista/Win7 gui… and I can’t live without keyboard shortcuts and command window). I have unpinned many programs from my start menu and moved them into my folder structure under quick launch, and have cleaned up my dozens of apps there. Awesome, it’s fast, and it sorts alphabetically automatically. My start menu sorts manually and I hate that. I used Tidy Start Menu last time it was offered on GOTD and tho I liked the concept didn’t like the how. So I uninstalled and started organizing manually. So much better than before, and I customize icons of all folders to make even better/faster (amazing what a bit of graphic recognition will do). Sorry long-winded, just thanks for providing the idea of cascading menus in quick launch.

    Cheers!

  2. David Roper

    @Mr.Dave: Thank you times a million. I am going to spend all day getting rid of my desktop shortcuts and putting them in the links button on my taskbar. I wish Ashraf would convince you to make a full “issue” out of this shortcut, baby step at a time, because I’ll bet everyone who uses a lot of desktop shortcuts (i.e. too many) will be using this method,

    Question: are there any pitfalls? Other than tiny icons which are harder to see?

    Again, thank you times a million, Sincerely.

  3. Rob (Down Under)

    @Jim W:
    If you are referring to Win 7 Start Menu, I did do that first.
    But the Win 7 Start Menu was still a PIA navigating and clicking the desired shortcut (Start Menu Item)
    If you have already organized your menu Categories, then try the program I mentioned.
    It makes no changes, and is much easier to use, trust me.
    What do you have to lose ?

  4. Jim W

    Create a folder in your start menu for each category you want, like Audio, Video, Utilities, Graphics, Office, etc. Then you can just drag the menu items into the appropriate folder. Why spend $20 to avoid this?

  5. Athlonite

    Hi Ash!
    I have been using Vista Start Menu from their first version (which was on my XP) and am still using it on Vista. I did change to Start Menu 7 for my Win7 notebook and still can’t understand why people don’t use it more.

    I haven’t tried TSM but, might just give it a try on this Win7 PC.(yes we have 4 PCs and three notebooks in the house:Addicted).

    The only problem I can find is that it does take more memory than I would like it too. But, considering the fact that it does all what it does, I will overlook that shortcoming.

    Thanks for all of your Good reviews and time spent. Even though you enjoy doing it, I’m sure it takes away from everyday quality of life. IF you’re willing to enlighten us then, I will be more than happy to read your reviews.

  6. Ashwin

    @Rob (Down Under):

    Yes it requires installation.
    It will replace your Windows start menu, but you can exit the app from the tray icon.
    AFAIK it did not make any changes to my PC. It just organizes the start-menu programs into categories.

    Once you exit the app, it will revert to the usual “cluttered menu” :p

  7. Rob (Down Under)

    @Ashwin:
    I have browsed their web site, and could not find answers to these questions –
    Does it require installation ?
    Does it make changes to the system ?
    Does it become part of the Win 7 Start Menu, or replace it ?

  8. Rob (Down Under)

    Vista owners – I would not be admitting that.
    If you are a Win 7 user, and you want to get a Start Menu similar to XP’s Classic Start Menu, then get this –
    http://coreaffinity.megabyet.net/classicwinstartmenu.htm
    There is at least one other program out there with a very similar name, so use the above link.
    The program is FREE.
    It does not make any changes to your system, and does not require installation.
    When you run it, it floats a Start Button over the Win 7 one, so you cannot see the Win 7 one.
    (It has an option to get out of the way, if you want to see the Win 7 button).
    You will have to manually create and organize your special folders, but that is a once only task.
    I have mine identical to XP’s Classic Start Menu, BUT EVEN BETTER, as you can choose which Font, and the Font size.
    MS appear to have gone out of their way to make it difficult to manually create/organize the Start Menu folders, so yell out if you need help.
    I detested the Win 7 start Menu, so this has become essential to me.

  9. jb

    Thanks for the detail, Dave. I currntly display the Links toolbar as a toolbar in IE. I removed all the default garbage that MS and Dell put there and replaced it with the Favorites I use most often and the Favorites that I hardly ever use but don’t want to forget. If you saw the intricate Web which is my Favorites (many levels of folder, heavily categorized), this would make sense.

    But I realized from your message that I can create folders and subfolders with the Quick Launch bar. Not sure why I didn’t realize that. So I’ll probably do that with Quick Launch or a custom-made toolbar.

    Thanks again. You’re a kindred sprit!

    jb

  10. Mr.Dave

    @MichaelC: You and I think alike!  I have a folder on my desktop called “New” and I drag things into that until I’m sure I want to keep them, then I drag them into my main folder structure.  Makes it easy to keep track of what I installed recently.  I enabled the new toolbar called “Desktop” so I can quickly get to my “New” folder without hiding windows to see the desktop.
     
     
     
     

  11. Mr.Dave

    @Ron: Thanks very much for the links for Explorer replacements.  I can’t believe Microsoft went through many thousands of beta testers and felt Windows Explorer worked great.  To me, it should be the core of the computer and the place you go to manage all your information.  They took a giant step backward.  I wonder if it works the same in Windows 7?  Anyway, I’m looking forward to trying your recommendations.  Thanks again!
    Also, I have friends who like all the desktop icons.  They had 40 or 50 of them, took a lot of searching to find anything (since they tend to move around a lot).  So I created new folders on their desktop: System Tools, Guitar Stuff, Music, Pictures, and a few others.  Moved the related icons into the new folders, and they love it.  It’s organized and seems to start and run faster.  People get used to one thing and don’t like to consider there are other ways that might be easier.  My friends almost never run more than one program at a time, don’t like tabs in Firefox or Yahoo!, etc., but they get along fine with the PC.  Kind of nice that PCs give you that level of choice.

  12. Mr.Dave

    @jb: Sorry for the late reply…  I do tend to avoid IE as much as possible.  So I never used all the links that Dell and Microsoft so kindly stored in my Links toolbar when I bought my PC.  It would be a simple matter to move all of them inside a new subfolder _inside_ of Links, you could even call it Links if you’re nostalgic.  Then you would get a drop-down folder for all of those inside the Favorites toolbar that shows at the top of IE.
    When I look at my folder structure using Windows Explorer, I see this:
    Favorites
    Dell
    Favorites Bar   (this is the “Links” toolbar)
    Stuff
    Applications
    Communications
    File Management
    etc. etc. etc….
    Microsoft Websites
    MSN Websites
    Windows Live
    Links    (this is NOT the Links toolbar)

    The “Favorites Bar” is what shows up at the top of IE – this everything in your “Links” toolbar.  The folder called “Links” is where Vista puts all the links to folders like Music, Documents, Video, etc. so that should be left alone.  Confusing beast this Vista is.
    An alternative is to create a folder for all your shortcuts somewhere else, or even within the Favorites area (or you can use the Quick Launch toolbar this way also – I just tried it and it works just like any new toolbar you create).  This new folder can have subfolders as needed….  Then right click on the Task Bar, click on “Toolbars”, then “New Toolbar…”.  Then pick the folder you created and it will appear on the Task Bar.  To make cascading subfolders work, you need to drag the new toolbar down next to something else (another toolbar, tasktray, etc.) and you’ll see the name and a double arrow below it.  Right click on the Taskbar and select “Lock the Taskbar” to keep it that way, and get rid of the separator bar.  Now you can click the arrow to see all the shortcuts in your new toolbar, and any subfolders will have a “>” arrow to the right – click on a subfolder name to expand it.  The only thing you loose with this approach is having your most used shortcuts just a click away.  And, if you play with it a bit, you can move all your subfolders to the bottom of the list in the new taskbar and resize the display area so your icons show.  As long as you have at least one subfolder not showing in the list you’ll get the down arrow, and as long as you click the down arrow to get to your subfolders they’ll cascade to the right when you click on them, as many levels deep as you want.
    I also found you can have toolbars vertically and horizontally stacked, so there are lots of options.  Try dragging them to different places in the Taskbar.
    When I got all done with trying this, I wondered if the Quick Launch bar works the same as a new toolbar I created.  It does, and many install programs offer to load their icons into it for you.  Once you enable the Quick Launch toolbar (right-click Taskbar, click “Toolbars” and click “Quick Launch”), you can find it’s folder by right-clicking the toolbar and then click “Open Folder”.
    Note, all this stuff works fine on my Vista Home Premium 32 system.  Locations and names may be different on others, but I’ve used the same strategy in Win 98 and XP.  Great timesaver!

  13. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Joji:

    …you just need the ability to write three to five coherent, thoughtful, 150-word blog posts per day on a regular schedule.

    I can’t see myself being able to write 3 -5 articles a day and limiting them to 150 words.

  14. MichaelC

    Well, I think I will give this Tidy Start Menu Pro a try, Ashraf, based on your review.  Like some others have commented, I just edit the Start Menu by hand (thru Explorer) once in a while.  So I was thinking of passing, but there were some positive comments on GOTD, too, about Tidy, so…  And maybe this will get me to actually do it, since right now I can’t see the last column under the START menu (!)
    Mr. Dave (above) — that sounds cool with the Links toolbar, I might give that a try, too.
    One thing I do to “tidy up” a bit, is drag all the stuff into a folder named “Desktop” on the Desktop, once in a while.  Downloading freeware a lot, the desktop gets really cluttered.
     

  15. Ron

    @Mr.Dave: You’re a man after my own heart! I have a dear friend who fills her desktop with shortcuts. She finds my system somewhat devious. I’m going to try out your setup on one of my machines later today, even though I tend to assign hot keys to my most-used programs; these differ from machine to machine.
     
    Btw, I left you a couple of Windows Explorer replacements in the comments on the “How much software/” post. Hope they are useful.

  16. jb

    I didn’t realize this was from the same developer as Vista Start Menu. I’ve gotta be honest — I almost want to absolutely love Vista Start Menu! :-) I used it for a month and found a few bugs and a few under-developed features that were important enough to me to (regretfully) uninstall it last week. But it’s a very good program, and many people won’t care about or encounter the same deficiencies that troubled me. I know of no real competitor to it.

    jb

  17. Ash

    I use Vista Start Menu from the same developer (Tidy Start Menu) and it’s wonderful change compared to my Windows 7 navigation I had natively. I recommend everyone Vista Start Menu (free version) to try.

  18. jb

    That’s a genius way of approaching it, Mr. Dave. I have no idea why it hasn’t occured to me before. I’m generally pretty good with those innovations. I never liked the “Quick Launch” toolbar, at least not Vista’s version

    One question – I actually have stuff (that I put there) in the Links folder of Internet Explorer’s Favorites menu. They are automatically displayed in the Links toolbar. Do you know of a way to avoid that, or do you not have your own things in Favorites | Links, or do you not use Internet Explorer?

    Thanks!

    jb

  19. Mr.Dave

    I use a dual approach.  I let programs put things in the start menu wherever they want, which results in a long alphabetical list of every program, or sometimes a company name folder with more programs inside.  This is time consuming for quick access, but it’s great for finding things, and getting to less-often used features of a program (icons for manuals, registration, safe-mode access, tutorials, uninstalls, etc. are often put in a start menu folder for a program).  So the Start Menu has all programs, even ones I rarely or never use but am afraid to get rid of!
    For the programs I USE, I keep a second menu system in a toolbar on the Task Bar.  The trick here is to use the LINKS toolbar (right-click on Task Bar, click Toolbars, then click Links).  This lets you have cascading folders right out of the Task Bar, where all the other Toolbars you can add will open an Explorer window if you click on a folder.
    I put shortcuts for my most-used programs directly in the Links toolbar, so they’re only 1 click away.  I created a folder in the Links toolbar called “Stuff” and in that folder I have subfolders for Graphics, Music, Security, Multimedia, Games, System and others.  These show up automatically in the Links toolbar.  Inside these folders are shortcuts for the programs that apply.  In the Games folder I have a bunch of other folders like Strategy, Matching, Adventure, etc., with game icons in each of those.  It all opens QUICKLY, I can see program names (and change them if I want), I’m never overwhelmed by hundreds of programs in a single list, and I’m free to rearrange things as needed – the program uninstallers don’t know about any of this.  And I can right click on the Stuff shortcut to manage things using Explorer.  When I add a new program I tell its installer to create a desktop shortcut (or create one myself) and it’s easy to drag them from their onto the Links toolbar or the Stuff shortcut.  The only drawback is I need to manually delete shortcuts when I remove programs but that’s not hard either – can do it directly within the Links toolbar.
    One other thing that makes this useful: I keep my taskbar on the left edge of the screen.  Links toolbar at the top, LOTS of room for program tasks, and the Task Tray & clock at the bottom.  I’ve never figured out why most people have this on the bottom screen edge, there’s simply not enough room that way unless you only open one or two things at a time.  I also have no icons on my desktop – they’re always covered by program windows…
    So this is all free, there’s NOTHING added to mess up Windows or slow the PC.  Give it a try!

  20. Ron

    This is probably useful for users who know next to nothing about how their OS/GUI functions.  In fairness, this includes many, if not most, computer owners who have no desire to delve into the techie side of things.
    Manually editing the Start Menu is truly easy, and something I’ve been doing since I learned how. I prefer to create my own categories; organizing the programs in a folder is as easy as a Right click>Sort by Name.
    While this software doesn’t interest me personally, I’m sure there are many readers that it will serve nicely. Without your thoughtful reviews, many would not try it, imo.

  21. jb

    Thanks Ashraf.

    One correction. You said “As far as I know, there is no way to right-click-on-the-start-menu-button method for Vista/Win7 users.” 

    In Vista (I use Vista Home Premium 64-bit), right-click the Start Menu button. You then have options to “Open” or “Explore” (which display the contents of the folder associated with the current user’s Start Menu) and also options to “Open All Users” or “Explore All Users” (which display the contents of the folder associated with All Users Start Menu).

    jb