Review: Access your Start Menu and more with StartMenu9 Free

Access the start menu and more from your desktop with this old-school freeware.

We had a lot of fun with PapaT's StartMenu9 Free. Not as a desktop start menu widget, though it's not bad at it, but as an example of the sort of "handcrafted" software that's less common these days. S9's "look" isn't for everyone, but its functionality is up-to-date. What S9 does is place a floating desktop icon that you can right-click to open an enhanced start menu (extra stuff like My Scratch Pad and various Modules) or double-click to show the desktop (like Windows' Show Desktop button).

S9's Splash Screen describes five easy steps to access its features, especially your enhanced start menu. But S9 suggests starting with the Art Module, a library of free icons to choose from. There's something for everyone, including puppies, kitties, flags, smiley faces, and scientific symbols. But look: It's an icon. You just have to be able to recognize it. You can use your own or any picture (small and square is best). We set our icon and right-clicked it. S9's menu accesses Computer, Control Panel, and other Windows features, your Default Internet Browser (Papa; hint: "Browser"), documents and libraries, Google and social media, and My Modules and Stuff. Apparently some of the stuff is only available in S9's premium version, including a rather confusing-looking Data Module partly obscured by an upgrade nag. Unfortunately, we saw no options for customizing S9's menu, like adding shortcuts. But there's no doubt that, once placed, we could instantly access our PC, Windows, and data. Though there's no real negative with the program, we did all that just fine without S9, too.

StartMenu9 Free is clearly a labor of love. We respect that, and the program's old-school vibe. We're desktop minimalists and use few gadgets, and Win7's Start Menu suffices. But we're glad S9 is there to challenge creeping software sameness. Fact is, you can do much worse in start menu apps than S9 -- whatever you think of its look.

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