Monday, June 15, 2009

3 tools to add a start menu to USB flash drives

Menus are a convenient way to access applications on a drive or computer, and they also help in organizing the stuff. Portable application suites often come with such start menus or program launchers to access the programs within the pack. If you do not use such application packs but still want to use a start menu to locate and search files on your flash drive, here are three free programs to choose from.

1. PStart is a simple tray tool that enables the user to add program and file shortcuts to it. PStart can be used as a program launcher for both Windows as well as a portable drive, but since there are so many advanced program launchers for Windows, the only proper use for PStart will be as a portable drive application launcher.

pstart-main pstart-menu 

Unlike Windows shortcuts, PStart uses relative paths, when installed as a portable application. So it doesn’t matter what drive letter your USB drive gets, it will work on all computers. This means you can also use PStart to start applications you burn to a CD.

PStart also has a search feature and a handy note taking tool to quickly jot down important data. It’s the simplest start menu you can get.

2. AStart is another start menu application that resembles PStart, but is more advanced. For instance it has crash recovery, maintains a list of recently used programs, can import start menu list from winPenPack Launcher and also PStart.

Adding shortcuts to AStart is easy. You can either add them manually or scan a folder or directory for files of a certain type and add them automatically to the launcher. After you scan the folders and add items to your list and change their properties, you can save your work by exporting the settings to a XML file. AStart also features a search tool.

asuite2 asuite-menu 

AStart enables you to customize each application, file, folder or URL you add to the menu. You can set certain programs to auto execute every time the flash drive is inserted into a computer, assign hotkeys for applications, configure window state (normal, maximized, minimized), prevent it from showing up in the recent programs list and so on.

AStart’s menu can also be set to appear as a simple window similar to PStart or mimic the Windows start menu.

NOTE: If you using Nod32 Anti-virus, you might get a false virus warning. Disable the AV before you download the application. 

3. SyMenu is the third tool and the best among the three.

To add programs to the menu, simply drag and drop files, folders and applications into the configuration window and SyMenu will automatically populate the correct path and name of the application. It’s search-as-you-type tool makes it easy to find your desired files. This search box can even integrate the searching result list with items configured on host PC Windows Start Menu. In this way you can access programs installed on the host PC as well as on your pen drive from a single location - the Search bar.

 symenu

SyMenu has a large number of advanced features that allows you to manipulate how the portable applications behave or run. For example, you can configure applications to be launched automatically when you insert the pen drive into a computer, and even with a custom interval between each others. You can also force application to run in single instances.

Another very useful feature of SyMenu is the Extension manager. All Windows PCs have different programs associated with different file extensions. So when you try to open a file, say a PDF file, present on your pen drive on a host PC, the file will be opened by the application configured to open PDF files on the host PC. Suppose on this PC, the program is Adobe Reader. But you wish to open PDF files on say Foxit Reader. Using Extension manager you can override file association on a host PC to your custom ones so that on matter on which PC you are connected to, your PDF files will always open on Foxit. (more screenshots in original review)

Verdict: SyMenu wins hands down when compared to PStart or AStart, as far as extra features are concerned. But if you stick to the basics, both of them are quite good and simple. I would still recommend SyMenu, but the choice is of course, yours.

P.S: Oops, there is another one - 4. Codysafe.

3 comments:

  1. Have a look to barnone from k23 productions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. or rocketdock (now portable.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. You left out my favorite, "Portable Start Menu".
    http://www.aignes.com/psmenu.htm
    At first, I thought SyMenu was it but nope... it was not.

    ReplyDelete