Organize and access your shortcuts, files, and URLs with 8Start, a nice-looking, versatile portable launcher

I am always ready to try out a new launcher, probably because of the prospect of finding a new way of organizing my stuff, or hoping for a stylish new user experience, or simply for a change.

8Start certainly satisfies all of the above criteria. This launcher, in fact, has been around for years, but has only recently undergone a change that transformed and immensely improved it’s user experience: support for drag and drop to add items to the launcher.

At heart, 8Start is a variation on a tabbed launcher. it’s strength, however, lies in its extremely customizable look and feel.

Not only is it skinnable, but it provides the user with a high degree of control over the layout, size of icons, whether to display a text label or not, etc, which is quite appealing. It also provides two layers of organization “categories” (e.g. tabs), and “groups” within those categories.

Aside from being a launcher, 8Start is also includes a built in, quite competent notes app (which supports a hierarchical tree structure), and a countdown timer function. These may resonate with some users, but personally the main launcher functionality is what attracts me to this program.

Here’s a list of pros and cons:

PROS:

  • Highly customizable layout: take a look at the screenshot above and you will see the attraction this holds; you can really cram a lot of shortcuts in a small space and customize them (‘cram’ in the good sense of the word!).
  • 8Start Screenshot2A good organizational tool: a good place to store lists of items; look at the screenshot to the right to see what I mean.
  • Add URLs/bookmarks: now, not only you can drag and drop everything on your desktop onto the 8Start interface, but bookmarks in browsers, and even URLs displayed in your browser’s address bar itself.
  • Can be summoned via hotkey: which is extremely important in my opinion. You do have to go in and add your user-definable hotkey in the settings. You can also access via middle mouse and system tray.
  • 8Start Screenshot3 iphone skinSkins: mean that this launcher can satisfy many different tastes. Personally I like the default skin most. Some users will likely be attracted to the iPhone skin (see screenshot to the right)
  • Portable: the isntaller simply creates a folder on the root C:\ drive, that can be moved anywhere you want. 8Start  supports relative linking (i.e. without drive letters) so it can be used from a USB for example.

CONS:

  • Navigating the settings: can be somewhat counterintuitive and take some getting used to. Also, I wish they had a setting where you could set the default button style going forward for every group or category.
  • Cannot drag and drop multiple items: strangely. You have to add items one by one.
  • Adding support for Simplenote: to the notes app, such as to provide notes syncing in the cloud, and transform it into a Simplenote desktop client. This would make the notes app worthwhile for me and others who want to access notes on more than one device.

The verdict: a nice launcher that is going to appeal to many a geek. This launcher’s strong points are its usefulness as an organizational tool (via a two pronged system of categories and groups), and the sheer degree of customization, in terms of layout and style, that it affords.

Once you have it installed for a while you will probably want to keep using it. For other similar launchers check out MousExtender, Toolbox, and MadAppLauncher.

Version Tested: 3.0

Compatibility: Windows NT, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, Windows 7

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 2.33 megs); or download here.


 
 
 
Five must-have programs for laptops and netbooks
Stream your music, playlists, podcasts to multiple PC’s and devices with AudioGalaxy
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
flattr this!
  • Dude Spell

    I’ll stick to 7Stack.

    I have a folder called FAVORITES on the desktop. I just have to drag shortcuts from Start Menu, and shortcuts to folders, to it, and from then on I have the same program launcher on the desktop, on Windows Explorer, on Directory Opus and, thanks to 7Stack, on the task bar.

    Simple and easy.

  • http://www.jhoodsoft.org John Hood

    I can’t believe you featured this. I downloaded it and installed:
    Icons can’t be moved from category to category (moving an icon from category to another actually moves the icon to the bottom-most category).
    No way to shut it off.
    The skins don’t fit. Plus, you can’t resize it.
    Documentation doesn’t match the app.

    I’ve been reviewing free software since 2000 and have run into only one launcher that was worse – Babya desktop.

    Sorry, but if you add a reminder app to PstartMenu, you’ve got this beat cold.

    http://www.jhoodsoft.org

    • Samer

      @ John:

      I first saw 8Start in 2007. I wanted to write it up, but it was buggy, and it was a huge hassle to set up. So I emailed the author about the errors, and although he responded and fixed some of these issues, I kept encountering errors, and moved on.

      Last week, I chanced on the new version of 8start and read that it now supports drag and drop (as of Jun 2011), so I downloaded and installed it, and quite liked it. Hence the writeup.

      Just to confirm; on my Windows 7 64 bit.
      -I just tested, icons can be moved from category to category, not the bottom most category.
      - To shut it off, left click the “menu” button and click “goodbye, 8start launcher”
      - The skins work just fine
      - You cannot resize on the spot via the mouse, but in the setting you can increase or decrease the number of buttons per row and that makes it wider or narrower
      - Documentation: I didn’t look at the documentation, so that part I cannot comment on.

  • http://www.jhoodsoft.org John Hood

    Note – this is running on Windows XP Home SP3. It looks like the problem is an interface drawing bug that only does the upper left corner of the window. No “Hide” or “Menu” button. I tried to edit the skin, but with no reference for what setting does what, I just ended up crashing it.

    Update, If I double-click the system tray icon, it redrawns the full application, but it makes the whole window smaller. It is now 32 pixels by 32 -essentially and icon itself. No setting to draw the windows larger or re-size it.

    I’m sure it works for the software’s author and for a lot of people, but there is a reason that programs have a standard layout. This “fun and useful little program” has a long way to go. PstartMenu is already there.

    My verdict: more of a program that should work, rather than one that actually does. Suggestion for the designer: Skip pretty, make it work first. If the support forum is larger than the program – that should tell you something.

    Thanks for replying and letting me vent.

  • http://www.videothy.com/ Mike

    Thank you. Quite a useful resource. I saved the information repository.

  • Judy

    I’ve been using 8Start for years and it is very good at keeping things organized. I also use Quick Cliq, which I believe you have also reviewed. Love your blog, BTW.

  • Roberto

    I recently found a free gadget for launching apps, etc, called Launch Control v1.6 at http://www.kinesys.co.nz. I am using it for a while and I like it.
    Regards,
    Roberto

    • Samer

      @ Roberto: thanks for the tip. I can’t figure out how to remove icons from Launch control once I’ve added them. Do you know how? Thanks.

  • Roberto

    Yes, to edit and or remove an icon from Launch Control just control-click over the icon and a dialog will appear that allows to edit the icon properties or to delete the icon.
    Ragards,
    Roberto
    Santiago, Chile