Launch your desktop into the future with Aero QLaunch

Add some Windows 8 magic to your desktop with this quick launch tool.

Windows 8 is coming soon, bringing with it a snazzy new look with lots of animation and visual effects. For a preview of some of what it will bring to your desktop, try Aero QLaunch. As a program, it's prosaic: just another freeware quick-launch toolbar for the desktop. As a desktop enhancement, it's anything but subtle, adding some dazzling 3D fireworks to an updated theme based on the new look of Windows 8. Aero QLaunch is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. As part of the setup process, Aero QLaunch downloaded and installed the latest applicable version of Microsoft DirectX, including all legacy updates.

At its heart, Aero QLaunch is a quick-launch toolbar, a simple but useful desktop tool that lets users group together the programs they use the most in one place and quickly launches associated programs with a click. Aero QLaunch is no different in that regard. It showed the programs pinned to our taskbar as well as icons to open IE, show the desktop, and switch between windows when we clicked Aero QLaunch's prominent Q icon in the notification area (aka system tray). Right-clicking this icon accesses Aero QLaunch's main menu, where we could add or remove program shortcuts, change the scale of the icons, enable sound effects, and access the Options. The program's Options are grouped under three tabs: Main, for choosing the themes and special effects; Visual, for selecting HDR or MSAA and debugging the program's advanced visual settings; and Text, with a simple but effective tool for picking colors. The default theme is Windows 8 Metro, but we could use bricks, chocolate, and other materials for our buttons.

About those effects: with Aero QLaunch active, our cursor trailed an explosion of fireworks wherever we moved it, and not your typical cursor trails but a big blaze of animated color. We could also use sparks or rainbow colors, but it's just as easy to disable the effects once they've worn out their welcome. Aero QLaunch's large, solid-color icons, cool aero and window-switching effects, and spinning 3D program icons offer a peek at things to come.

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