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

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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.