Circle Dock: a beautiful, highly customizable launcher

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Circle Dock is a free, customizable launcher in the shape of a circular dock that can grant instant access to your favorite programs, files, or folders.

If you’re looking for a launcher for your favorite apps, folders, and/or files take a look at this one.

Circle Dock looks like a circular version of the Mac dock and manages a balance between being useful and practical on the one hand and providing a visually interesting launcher with a lot of room for creative customization and on the other. 

More notes below:

  • Activated by hotkey: (F1) by default. Also invoked by middle mouse-button and moving the mouse over a side of the screen. All of these can be customized and/or switched off (which is good if you, like me, don’t care much for things popping up on screen when you accidentally move the mouse over the edge).
  • Drag and drop: to add icons to the launcher simply drag and drop program execs, files, folders, bookmarks, etc. Dropping shortcuts will work too, except the launcher will always point to those shortcuts rather than their target destination and the connection will break if the shortcuts are removed or moved.
  • Behavior: you can rotate icons on the circular “disc” with the arrow keys or mouse wheel. Great effect, but apparently has no practical function. Hovering over the icons will display the title of the program, file, or folder.
  • Managing shortcuts: done by right-clicking on the icon, whereby both the Windows context menu entries and the Circle dock entries are available. You can set command line parameters for each item on the dock as well as the startup folder. You can also drag and drop icons to change their placement.
  • Organize in dock folders: you can create dock folders that can help organize your shortcuts (e.g. a folder for bookmarks or for your personal files or for all video-related software, etc). Clicking on the button in the middle of the launcher will bring you back from folder view into the main view.
  • Customizable: most every feature can be changed/customized in the settings section, including the icons, the visual style of the dock itself (as well as it’s width, transparency, etc.) as well as the “button” at the center of the dock. The behavior of most every visual element is customizable as well.
  • Icons: comes with a large collection of cool icons that can be used to further customize your apps and folders, should you feel that the default icons are not up to the coolness standards required.
  • Memory consumption: approx 10 megs or so, it seems. This is a .NET app so memory use is a bit ambiguous – I’ve seen it at as little as 6 megs and as high as 11 megs. Memory use seems reasonable/acceptable overall.
  • Installation: unzip and run. Not a portable app though as it requires .NET. Add to the startup folder if you want it to start with Windows.

Wish list

  • A way to launch shortcuts without using the mouse: for example, rotating the disk with the arrow keys until the icon was in a “special place” and pressing enter. I want this only to make the rotation action somewhat meaningful ;).
  • Automatically link to the program/file behind the shortcut: this would be great. It would mean that if I drag a shortcut from my desktop onto the launcher and then delete the shortcut Circle Dock would maintain the connection to the actual program.
  • Automatically remove extensions from the names of items added to the launcher: if I add drag Firefox.exe to the launcher and hover over the icon I would prefer “Firefox” to be displayed rather than “Firefox.exe”.
  • A hotkey to instantly display all the icon labels on-screen.
  • Automatic centering: the launcher can either appear where the cursor is placed or it can be permanently placed wherever you want it. It would be nice if a third option was provided to automatically center it on screen.
  • Bugs: this is alpha software and I experienced some bugs that lead to crashes. Expect these to be fixed in upcoming versions.

The verdict: this is a well rounded launcher overall (sorry could not resist the pun!), and manages to provide a user experience that is different from the usual Mac-dock style launchers such as RocketDock. I like that it can hold shortcuts not just for apps but for favorite folders as well. One thing to note is that unless you customize the icons for your various folders they will tend to look samey and somewhat uninteresting next to the cool program icons, so… go ahead and customize your folder icons; Circle Dock provides plenty of good icons for you to choose from.

Version Tested: 0.9.2 Alpha 8

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista (32 or 64 bit) and a “somewhat recent” graphics card. Requires .NET Framework 2.0 or higher for XP

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 7.6 megs).