WinExt: a horizontal docking launcher for all your apps, files, and folders

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WinExt is a free horizontal bar docked to the top or bottom of your screen that can give access to your files, folders, and programs as cascading menus or as shortcuts placed on the bar itself.

It also offers an optional “infobar” with status indicators for CPU, memory, battery, and hard disk drive usage.

There are many ways to get access to your favorite folders, files, and apps, and WinExt can do this in the form of a docking bar that can be placed topmost on your screen or on the bottom above the Windows taskbar.

What the screenshots might not at first convey is the depth and versatility of this program, and the extent to which WinExt allows for customization. Here are more notes:

  • Folders on the WinExt bar: you can do 3 different things with folders placed on the bar; (1) create a cascading menu from a folder; (2) place a folder icon on the dock itself that you click on in order to open that folder in Explorer; and (3) place a so-called expanded folder, whereby the contents of the folder are displayed as clickable icons on the bar itself (as for example the contents of the quicklaunch folder in the screenshot). Personally for many folders I like to put up both a folder icon that opens the folder itself as well as a cascading menu from the folder right next to it.
  • Always visible: WinExt will “nudge” your desktop down, so to speak, and Windows will maximize such that they will touch the bottom of the bar so that it is always visible.
  • The infobar: an additional bar that is placed adjacent to the original and contains gauges that display status indicators for CPU, memory, battery, and hard disk drive usage, etc. I don’t care much for this, personally, but I can see how it can be useful (I use Systraymeter for some of these and am very happy with it).
  • Customizability: WinExt is highly customizable; however, I will also say that the interface used to tweak and change the settings is not very user friendly and, in my view, is a lot more work than it could be (why can’t I just go into some sort of edit mode and right click on elements to change them?) It will take some work to get this app configured exactly the way you want it.
  • Skins: comes with 2 skin choices (pictured in the thumbnails on this page). Customizable variables include alpha blending, changing the color of every single element, etc. Keeping my fingers crossed that more will be provided in the future.
  • Hotkeys: comes with a system-wide hotkeys manager that can launch a file or maximize, minimize, or close windows. I honestly couldn’t figure out how to get it to work, but didn’t try that hard as I am not that interested in this functionality personally.
  • Marquee: the right hand side of the bar can display information such as the time, memory use, battery consumption, Winamp track information, etc. It will scroll these in succession, and you can click to scroll through the different messages. The kind of info displayed is customizable and you can switch it off altogether if you like.
  • Memory consumption: consumes a rather large 30 megs of memory.
  • URLs: a built in tab provides for quick IE
  • Notes: one of the built in tabs functions as a simple notes organizer. Won’t replace my favorite notes program (Tobu) anytime soon, but I’m sure many will find such a notes-right-on-your-desktop tab very useful. Somewhat buggy in the version I looked at (see wish list section below).

Wish list:

  • Enabling right-clicking on the items in the cascading menus: as it is at the moment, you are unable to right click on an item in the menus and perform context menu operations (e.g. renaming, deleting, etc) in the same way you can, say, in Windows’ start menu or quick launch. It would be great if WinExt allowed for this as well.
  • Bugfixes: program stopped responding and displayed an error message on at least three occasions within a 24 hour period, and had to be shut down and restarted. The built-in notes tab also presented an error whereby it seems to automatically save notes as you type them in, and then one you are done and click “ok” an error message appears informing you that the note is already there (?).
  • Opening folders in the cascading menus by double-clicking on them: seems like a no-brainer; would greatly enhance this program’s functionality.

The verdict: I am posting this program for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a great way to always have your favorite folders on-screen and access them both as cascading menus or easily open them in explorer. Secondly, I am intrigued by the possibilities it presents for those who like customizing their desktop experience and/or experimenting with Windows shell replacements. I don’t much care for the infobar or the hotkeys but if you are interested in these you will find them to be solid components.

This is not a perfect program by any means, but I am hoping that it will get better in future releases. It’s (relatively) high memory use is somewhat of a drawback and will probably put some people off (I know the Freewaregenius audience is a tough crowd!); however if you put the time into customizing this program initially you can arrive at the perfectly customized docking bar that delivers access to your favorite folders, apps, and files quickly and easily.

Version Tested: 1.03

Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, Vista.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 1.08 megs).