17 June 2007

#25. For Desktop Neatness Freaks

As your devoted Tool Bar & Grill chef, I admit to more than a touch of what the nice man with the white coat and butterfly net said is “anal retentiveness.” Apparently, this is a common ailment among chefs as well as technical writers. I’ll have to take his word for it, because they don’t let me have any books in here since I bounced them off the walls. Certainly, I can spend hours keeping my computer tidy and clean.

Organize the Desktop Clutter

I recently stumbled across 8start Launcher, a free utility for bringing order to the Windows desktop chaos. I don’t usually spend any time on cosmetic utilities like screen savers, launchers, and other desktop accessories. But I gave 8start a chance to organize my icons into categories and subcategories (called groups) when it got increasingly harder to find anything in the forest that was my desktop.

Here’s my desktop before 8start:

Setting up 8start through its graphical user interface (GUI) is very tedious. I had to create categories and at least one group under each category. Then I could select only one item at a time (shortcuts or files from the desktop, Start menu, Favorites, or My Computer) to copy or move into the group.

Using a file manager like Windows Explorer to set up 8start was a lot faster and easier – especially with a dual-pane file manager like my favorite, xplorer2 (reviewed in #5, 25 October 2006). After using the GUI to establish categories and groups, I could drag and drop multiple items into the 8start group folders. Soon I had nearly cleared my desktop of icons. (A few Windows system icons could be copied but refused to be moved off the desktop, as you can see below.)

Here's my desktop after 8start:

I am quite pleased overall with the new sense of organization that 8start Launcher lends my desktop. It takes more clicks to find and launch a program, but at least now I can find it quickly, and see it together with all other related programs.

Some helpful suggestions to the designers of 8start: In the setup GUI, 8start should remember my preference for moving rather than copying; I should not have to reselect the Move option for each file, and then confirm each move. Multiple file selection would be nice for each action. After each action, the cursor should remain where it is in the item list, rather than jump back to the top each time. And is it just me, or does 8start seem upside-down? It seems to me more natural to place the category buttons at the top of the 8start window and the groups at the bottom.

Otherwise, the 8start GUI is highly customizable. Many skins are available for download at the 8start Web site (the default out-of-the-box skin is shown above). And you can customize the button appearance, for example by adding labels as shown here for my Internet category:

You can download 8start Launcher version 1.4.1 (with Vista support) at http://www.8start.com, where you also will find a help file and additional skins. The author encourages PayPal donations, and I hope they will be used for English lessons.

Caution: If you decide to stop using or uninstall 8start, you’ll need to move your icons back to their original positions (use your file manager). 8start won’t do this for you.

Despite the tiresome initial setup, I can recommend that you try 8start. But for all I know, there may be dozens of similar free tools out there. If you have a favorite, please share it with the rest of us by commenting below or emailing jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

Update Bulletin

Last week I told you about Phrase Express. This week there’s a new version (4.1.12) with a new wizard for importing Autotext and Autocorrect entries from Microsoft Word. Visit http://www.phraseexpress.com for the update.

You also can obtain today's utilities, and thousands more, from C|Net's http://www.download.com. I especially like download.com for its Watch List function, which alerts you by e-mail to any new updates to programs you previously downloaded.

Thanks for visiting. Do come back next week for another snack at the Tool Bar & Grill, and don't forget to bring your friends!


  1. Great tool! Also check out Desktop Icon Toy http://www.idesksoft.com/

  2. NIce.But even nicer the list of Web sites that offer free storage and transfer of large files from GAOTD.

  3. Thanks, I've been looking for something like this. I think I had it at one time but lost it when hard drive crashed and I forgot the name of it. Icon clutter has been a big problem for me. I had created a folder on desktop to put them all in. This works much better! I needed it to better show my own personally created wallpapers :)

    Thank you for the links you provided on the Giveawayoftheday site as well!


  4. Thank you very much for your complimentary comments! It is always gratifying when my blog helps someone, and even more so when that person bothers to let me know about it. Do please visit every week, and tell your friends about my blog too!

  5. Mr. Plutchok,

    I helped myself to some of the software goodies detailed in your blog. Thank You for taking the trouble to blog something really useful.

    Best Wishes,

    Dinker Rao

  6. Thank you for the referral to Desktop Icon Toy. I have indeed tried out that utility; it was a recent Giveaway Of The Day. However, its purpose is cosmetic, and it does not provide the efficiency gains of utilities like 8start Launcher.

    For those of you who do not visit www.giveawayoftheday.com, stay tuned to this blog for upcoming roundups of free Web-hosted file storage and transfer services and local backup software.

  7. First, thanks fr a good blog. Just found it by "mistake". Seem like you have a lot of good stuff/ideas/comments, so I'll likely link from my site.

    But, as for desktop clutter, I have found that the best way is to switch the "start menu" to Windows Classic" and dump all my good/needed shortcuts into folders under my user profile or "all users" (depending on how you have set up profiles and sharing, if any, of PC).

    All my "core" shortcuts are now easy just one click away in the "root" of the start menu. Other shortcuts are "to the right" in a subfolder, etc. Works well. Never understood why MSFT needed to screw with the perfectly good "start menu" from Windows 2000.

  8. Thanks very much for your compliments, Per-ola. As for your suggestion for organizing the Start menu, I agree whole-heartedly. Mine are organized that way, too (at least partially). However, for those who like to keep desktop shortcuts too, utilities like 8Start Launcher can be time-savers and aesthetically pleasing.

    Tool Bar readers, Per-ola's blog ("about life and living in the Pacific Northwest") is well worth visiting at http://kirklandzoo.blogspot.com. Per-ola, I'm sure your profile photo does not do you justice. :-)

  9. Jonathan wrote:
    "I'm sure your profile photo does not do you justice. :-)"

    Jonathan , not sure our dog, Phoebe, would agree with you. She'd be very disappointed if I put my face up there instead...