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Posted 30 Jun 2006


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A Cool Way to Navigate Your 'Start' Menu that Integrates with your Desktop

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3 Jan 2007CPOL4 min read
A type ahead style combobox control contained in a desk band that builds lists of shortcuts from your Start menu

NOTE: For the latest news and updates, consider checking the official SmartStartMenu Web site.



SmartStartMenu for Windows essentially gives you a way to turn the process of running almost any program into a two or three key-stroke effort. Maybe you are wondering why one would want to do that when you can just make a desktop shortcut or a 'Quick Launch' toolbar item and I'll tell you. SmartStartMenu lets you run almost *any* program that is on your 'Start' menu in just a few key-strokes... not just the ones you use the most. It shows you a matched list based on the criteria you have typed to help guide you in real time. Since it is based on your 'Start' menu, you can configure it through your 'Start' menu and reduce clutter on your desktop and your 'Quick Launch' toolbar. I like to use my desktop like a real desktop... I keep what I need for my current tasks at hand. I don't want my desktop all cluttered with shortcuts to programs. With a little tweaking of your 'Start' menu, you can configure any program that you want to be run by any three or four letter key-stroke that you want. As you type into SmartStartMenu, a type ahead style list is generated on the fly from your 'Start' menu. Select the desired item (or just press the 'Enter' key if the item is already selected) and the program is started just like you had selected the 'Start' menu item directly. It is actually VERY simple. You can also type a path to open Explorer, a Web site to open your browser, or a system command such as 'cmd' or 'mspaint'.

Demo Project

The demo project download is a quick way to take a look at the source code if you are interested. Suggestions and comments are appreciated. One thing that you may find interesting is the code used to decode and interpret the data in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\UserAssist key of the registry. There are also some simple uses of the STL map and string classes, a simple 'desk band' Framework gleamed from Microsoft examples, sub-classes of both the MFC CComboBoxEx and CEdit classes that do some special key stroke processing to enable the type-ahead functionality, ROT13 decoding snippet used to decrypt the 'User Assist' data in the registry, and a performance oriented flavor of 'shortcut resolving' code that was helped along by the previous efforts of Igor Vigdorchik and his 'How to Create and Resolve a Shortcut' article.

Latest Release

If you just want to grab the latest release and start using the tool, click here. The download is a self-extracting setup. Just download and run it.

The code is pretty solid (and getting better all the time), but here is a list of known issues and future enhancements under consideration.

  • Issues
    • You must restart Windows after Upgrades.
  • Suggestions
    • Put icons in the dropdown list and edit control.
    • Hook into 'Desktop' search tools to find programs by name and add them to the list too.
    • Do a tray icon and pop-up the control when clicked.
    • Ability to omit shortcuts based on the file type of the target.
    • Support for 64-bit XP.
    • Impersonate user... "run as".
    • Command line merging and/or overriding.

Your comments are very important to me... do not hesitate to post suggestions and issues in the comments section below.

Using SmartStartMenu

When setup has completed successfully, you must RIGHT-BUTTON click within the clock area of your taskbar, select the 'Toolbars' sub-menu and then select the SmartStartMenu menu item.

If your taskbar is 'unlocked', you can resize the SmartStartMenu toolbar to display more information. You can also drag the toolbar to the top of the screen to get the maximum display area available.

For more information, get the help file by clicking here.

Upgrading and Uninstalling

When upgrading, it is necessary to restart Windows for the changes to take effect.

When uninstalling, it is advised that you hide the SmartStartMenu. If you fail to do so, the toolbar will continue to be available until the shell is restarted. While in this state, using the taskbar's 'toolbar' menu will cause an empty menu item to be displayed on the menu until you either select the menu item or restart Windows.


You can view the revision history here.



If I left out any details you think should be mentioned in the article, please let me know.

If you could take one last second to rate this article or even leave a comment, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading!


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Shaun Harrington
Web Developer
United States United States
16yrs of GUI programming experience gained at: (most recent first) BlackBall, Veritas, Seagate Software, Arcada, Stac, Mountain, and Emerald Systems.

Languages/Scripting: C, C++, JAVA, BASIC, JAVASCRIPT, HTML, XML, PHP, and SQL

Tools: MS Visual Studio, MS Visual SourceSafe, CVS, PVCS, Bounds Checker, VMWare, ToDoList, InstallShield, and Office Applications

Libraries and API: RTL, STL, WIN32, MFC, ATL, .NET, ActiveX, DirectX, COM, DCOM, Shell Extensions, and Shell Namespaces

Strengths: Honest, communicative, keen eye for usability, good at estimating workload and completion dates, ready to take on grunt work, team player, experienced working with QA, localization, Tech Pubs, Sales, and Marketing teams.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: Is it just me (plasma Pong) Pin
Stupid Paintgun11-Jul-06 5:10
MemberStupid Paintgun11-Jul-06 5:10 
GeneralRe: Is it just me (plasma Pong) Pin
Shaun Harrington11-Jul-06 6:19
MemberShaun Harrington11-Jul-06 6:19 
GeneralRe: Is it just me (plasma Pong) Pin
Stupid Paintgun12-Jul-06 13:58
MemberStupid Paintgun12-Jul-06 13:58 
GeneralRe: Is it just me (plasma Pong) Pin
Stupid Paintgun12-Jul-06 14:33
MemberStupid Paintgun12-Jul-06 14:33 
GeneralRe: Is it just me (plasma Pong) Pin
Shaun Harrington13-Jul-06 7:10
MemberShaun Harrington13-Jul-06 7:10 
GeneralA few comments Pin
Michal Blazejczyk8-Jul-06 5:53
MemberMichal Blazejczyk8-Jul-06 5:53 
GeneralRe: A few comments [modified] Pin
Shaun Harrington8-Jul-06 12:17
MemberShaun Harrington8-Jul-06 12:17 
GeneralGood Stuff Pin
faulty6-Jul-06 6:05
Memberfaulty6-Jul-06 6:05 
Nice article. You might also want to take a look at Launchy at

See Ya
GeneralRe: Good Stuff Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:45
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:45 
QuestionCan't download too! Pin
tojocky5-Jul-06 11:50
Membertojocky5-Jul-06 11:50 
AnswerRe: Can't download too! Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 2:43
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 2:43 
GeneralAlready in existence... Pin
Mr. Say_how_it_is5-Jul-06 7:40
MemberMr. Say_how_it_is5-Jul-06 7:40 
GeneralRe: Already in existence... Pin
Shaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:48
MemberShaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:48 
Generalcan't download Pin
jdem5-Jul-06 3:46
Memberjdem5-Jul-06 3:46 
GeneralRe: can't download Pin
Shaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:44
MemberShaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:44 
GeneralRe: can't download Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:38
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:38 
QuestionMissing include file? Pin
Grump5-Jul-06 0:29
MemberGrump5-Jul-06 0:29 
AnswerRe: Missing include file? Pin
Shaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:43
MemberShaun Harrington5-Jul-06 7:43 
AnswerRe: Missing include file? Pin
tojocky5-Jul-06 12:03
Membertojocky5-Jul-06 12:03 
GeneralRe: Missing include file? Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:52
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 14:52 
GeneralRe: Missing include file? Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 19:10
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 19:10 
GeneralGood piece of work Pin
Fuzzychaos4-Jul-06 16:01
MemberFuzzychaos4-Jul-06 16:01 
GeneralRe: Good piece of work Pin
Shaun Harrington6-Jul-06 19:11
MemberShaun Harrington6-Jul-06 19:11 
GeneralA happy coincidence... Pin
rdribeiro4-Jul-06 6:44
Memberrdribeiro4-Jul-06 6:44 
GeneralRe: A happy coincidence... Pin
Shaun Harrington4-Jul-06 9:23
MemberShaun Harrington4-Jul-06 9:23 

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