Kana Launcher: launch apps from pop-up or floating menus, on-demand

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Kana Launcher is a “pop-up menu” style applications launcher that can either reside in your system tray or appear anywhere on the desktop when invoked by a hotkey.

It offers two modes, a regular “context menu” style pop-up launcher with a hierarchical tree structure, and a so-called “floating icon” launcher style.

It also offers the ability to install a permanent shortcut to programs, bookmarks, or folders within the system tray itself.

Ok so those of us who have tried indexing, search-box style launchers (such as Launchy) may not be looking for a new icon-based launcher, but we at Freewaregenius are always on the lookout for useful and/or interesting launchers, and have determined that Kana Launcher deserves a mention here. More notes on this program below:

  • Two modes of operation: a “floating window” style launcher and a pop-up, context menu launcher. These can be configured separately (i.e. the shortcuts that are displayed in one need not be the same as those displayed in the other). The “floating icon” mode displays tooltips that can help identify each icon as you hover over it. See the screenshot above to get a sense of what these two modes are like.
  • System tray or hotkey: the launcher is called by right clicking or hovering over its icon in the system tray (for the pop-up and floating window launchers, respectively), or otherwise both the pop-up and hovering styles can be called anywhere through user definable hotkeys.
  • Shortcuts: Kana can open programs, folders, files/documents, or URLs/bookmarks. The popup menu style launcher includes the ability to create a hierarchical folder structure that can be used to organize your shortcuts.
  • Configuration: you can configure the launcher simply by dragging and dropping shortcuts onto the main configuration screen (and into the appropriate area/launcher mode), which is very quick and easy. Alternately you can open the folder structure itself that the launcher uses and makes your modifications from within Windows explorer.
  • bookmark in the system trayTray icons: I mentioned previously that Kana uses 2 modes of launcher (floating icon and popup). This is not true; there is in fact a third mode where you can add a shortcut straight to the system tray (see screenshot). This could be a very good place for that special shortcut that you would like to place in a very unusual place (see screenshot to the right; a shortcut to the Freewaregenius URL inside the system tray).
  • Group Start: an option whereby you can assign a number of shortcuts to be launched together, with the ability to set the number of seconds to wait between them. These groups can be invoked from the “Group start” section in pop-up menu launcher.
  • Memory use: despite having read reports of this program hogging user’s memory, the version I tested consistently consumed less than 5 megs, and did not present any memory problems for me. Please let me know in the comments section if you have a different experience.
  • Portable: there are two version of the program on offer, including a zipped archive you can run without installing.

The verdict: definitely an interesting launcher. I especially like the ability to stack a great number of icons together in floating icon mode, and have instant access to them in a relatively small amount of screen real-estate.

I have received a couple of emails in the past few months asking me about a free system-tray based launcher for shortcuts and URLs, and Kana Launcher will likely be what I will recommend going forward.

Version Tested: 3.0.0 b29

Compatibility: WinAll; no info on Vista.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 534K).