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[Review] Aston Menu

Posted By Ashraf On May 3, 2010 @ 12:58 AM In Giveaway of the Day Reviews,Shareware Reviews | 15 Comments

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Aston Menu [1]

Also known as Aston2 Menu

Version reviewed:

v2.00

Supported OS:

Windows XP/Vista/Win7

Price:

$19.95 (USD) for a “personal” single license or $24.95 (USD) for a “home” 4 user license… but you can get it for free for a limited time at Giveawayoftheday.com [2]!

Software description as per the developer:

Aston Menu is Windows start menu replacement with the enhanced functionality.

{/rw_text}

{rw_good}

  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Allows users to easily “skin” the start menu.
    • There are many skins available to pick from.
  • Has widget support for the start menu; users can easily drag + drop widgets around as they please.
  • Allows users to customize the entries present in the start menu.
  • Gives users the option to show entries as folders or as menus.
  • Incorporates the ability to do a Google search in addition a desktop search.
  • Comes with basic hotkey modifying features.

{/rw_good}

{rw_bad}

  • Users are limited to a select number of entries that can be added to the start menu – no custom entry option.
  • Needs an ability to directly add entries to the “Top Programs” list.
  • No undo/redo feature when editing start menu entries.
  • No hotkey support for switching between Google search and desktop search.

{/rw_bad}

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”8″}Fairly easy to use. However, needs an ability to directly add entries to the “Top Programs” list and needs an undo/redo feature when editing start menu entries.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”8″}Focuses a bit too much on enhancing form rather than function, but still performs well. Computer resource usage is not too bad either (~8 MB) considering it is always running the background.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”4″}As just mentioned, Aston Menu focuses a lot on enhancing the look for the start menu rather than providing game-changing new features for the start menu, so I don’t see too many people finding this program useful; in my opinion really only the people who like skinning their Windows will find this program useful.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”7″}$19.95 is an OK price; personally I think it should be sold for $10-15 but one also needs to consider that there is a home 4 user license available for $24.95.
{/for}
{for=”Final Score” value=”7″}
{/for}
{/rw_score}

{rw_verdict}[tup]
{/rw_verdict}

Aston Menu is a start menu enhancing software. It aims to add features to your start menu that Microsoft did not built in, and allows you to skin your start menu.

Aston Menu has the ability to “replace” your start menu, so when you press the Windows button Ashton Menu pops up instead of Windows’ start menu. You have the option to turn this feature off but this feature is handy because it ensures that Aston Menu will “cleanly” uninstall in the sense that it doesn’t touch your start menu, so if you ever want to remove Aston Menu, your start menu will be as if you didn’t even touch it.

This is what my start menu looks before I use Aston Menu:

[3]

This is what my start menu looks with Aston Menu:

[4]

The Aston Menu you see in the above screenshot is actually just one of the many skins available for use with Aston Menu; you are allowed you change the skins as you will – just click on “Aston Skins…” and select the skin you want to use:

[5]

Aston Menu comes with 7 skins, but you can easily download dozens of other skins (62 by my count) from the Aston Menu’s skin page [6]. Most of the the skins keep the same basic structure as the default skin shown in the screenshot above except they change how the menu looks, add/remove widgets, and change where things are placed. However, some skins deviate, such as the “Classic Menu” skin which makes the start menu look like it did pre-Windows XP (I think its pre-Windows XP, anyway), or the “Metal” skin which makes the start menu look like a space ship. It is worth noting that, there is also a “Windows 7 Clone” skin for Windows XP users that have always wanted that Windows 7 start menu.

When it comes down to features, aside from the ability to skin the start menu, there are three main functions that Aston Menu adds to the start menu:

  • The ability to customize the entries in the start menu.
    • These entries – aside from the “Top Program” ones – can be made to appear as “folders” (in which case you click on them and the folder opens) or “menus” in which case the contents of the folder show up as a pop up menu (pop side menu?).
  • The ability to add widgets to the start menu. Currently these are the supported widgets as per the developer: Calendar, Clock, Disks, Keyboard Switcher, Launch bar, Notebook, Notification area, Power control, Quick Launch, Recycle bin, Resource monitor, RSS reader, Search, Start button, Task list, Toolbar, Top Programs, Username, Weather and WinSwitch.
  • The ability to perform a Google search via the start menu. If you are a Windows XP user, a new feature for you will be the ability to perform desktop searches via the start menu (Vista and Win7 users already have these features).

Here are four short videos by the developer walking users through the main functions that Aston Menu adds to the start menu:

Aston Menu – Start Menu Editor

Aston Menu – Top Programs

Aston Menu search widget

Weather widget

Since Aston Menu is potentially a start menu replacement, it will be running all the time on your computer. So its computer resource usage is essential. Well, don’t worry about Aston Menu hogging up your computer resources – it has a fairly light footprint using about 10 MB at peak, and usually 6-7 MB while sitting idle.  CPU usage is negligible.

One thing to note is that currently there is no easy way to modify the widgets or skin in Aston Menu – you can only use the premade skins provided with the program or the developers website, and the widgets that come with these skins. However, in the next version of Aston Menu the developer plans on adding a WYSIWYG editor making it very easy to modify skins and add/remove widgets.

There are a few things I dislike about Aston Menu – areas that the developer can improve:

  • There needs to be a direct method of adding menus to the “Top Programs” list. Telling users “if you want a program to appear here, just run it a couple of times” is not good enough in my opinion, especially not for a program that users pay for.
  • In the first video above it shows how to edit the start menu. What the video does not show is that users are limited in the selection of entries that they can add to the start menu. These are all the things users can add to the start menu:

[7]

Yes, that is a fairly extensive list, but there is one major thing that I find to be lacking: the ability to add a custom entry (file or folder). Personally, if I am going to use a program to replace my start menu, I want the ability to add custom files/folders – not be limited to a selection provided to me some by some developer.

  • When editing the start menu, there is no undo or redo features, so be careful what you do. However, if you do make a mistake, you can always hit “cancel” and all changes will be canceled.
  • There is no way to activate Google search via a hotkey – you must click on the round button to change it from desktop search to Google search and vice versa. I find this to be very annoying considering one of the main reasons to have the search box located in the start menu is easy access via hotkeys (press windows key and type in search query to find what you need – no mouse involved). Now it just slows me down to have the use my mouse to switch to Google search, so much so that if I were an Aston Menu user I probably wouldn’t even use the Google search.

Last but not least, I would like to criticize the fact that the developer puts a lot of focus on form, but lacks in regards to function. Aston Menu allows you to skin your start menu, yes, but it really doesn’t make the start menu groundbreakingly different – in general the start menu is still what it is before installing Aston Menu; you still have to deal with the pop up menus, etc. I would like the developer of Aston Menu to add the ability to make the start menu very different, so that a user may want to use Aston Menu for how it changes the start menu rather than for the ability to skin the start menu. For example, VistaStartMenu/StartMenu7 make fundamental changes to the start menu which really alter the start menu is such a way that a user can compare Windows’ start menu and VistaStartMenu/StartMenu7 and think “how do I want my start menu to work”? In other words, VistaStartMenu/StartMenu7 change how the start menu works, where as Aston Menu (primarily) skins it.

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}

All of the following software allow you to change your start menu:

VistaStartMenu [8]

StartMenu7 [9]

Classic Shell [10]

{/rw_freea}

{rw_verdict2}In my opinion, Aston Menu focuses too much on form, and lacks in terms of function. However, it still is a good program; but it is a good program that will primarily only attract the brave few that like to change how their Windows looks.
{/rw_verdict2}


Article printed from dotTech: http://dottech.org

URL to article: http://dottech.org/16124/review-aston-menu/

URLs in this post:

[1] Aston Menu: http://www.aston2menu.com/

[2] Giveawayoftheday.com: http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/aston-menu/

[3] Image: https://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2010-05-03_000404.png

[4] Image: https://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2010-05-03_000515.png

[5] Image: https://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2010-05-03_000749.png

[6] Aston Menu’s skin page: http://www.aston2menu.com/skins/

[7] Image: https://dottech.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2010-05-03_004124.png

[8] VistaStartMenu: http://www.vistastartmenu.com/index.html

[9] StartMenu7: http://www.startmenu7.com/

[10] Classic Shell: http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/

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