How to Create a Program Launcher


Finding a program to run on Windows can be difficult when many more programs are installed and get cluttered in one place without grouping.

Windows XP has four places to launch a program, but all with some limitations:
  • Desktop shortcuts, cluttered with too many icons.
  • Programs pinned to Start Menu, a limited space.
  • Programs listed in All Programs, over crowded if many programs installed.
  • Quick Launch, a limited space.
To cope with these restrictions, Vista adds another place to launch a program:
  • Start Search, a keyword search challenges the user's memory. Some program names (such as IZArc) might be difficult to memorize.
Windows 7 hides Quick Launch and removes Classic Start Menu. It adds a new approach to running a program:
  • Programs pinned to Taskbar, again a limited space.
Why not create a Program Launcher?
Do-It-Yourself Program Launcher ("DIY Launcher")

To prevent many programs from cluttering in a limited space, grouping of similar programs in the same folder by their functions helps the user access to the programs, quick and fast.

With this in mind, you can create a program launcher easily with a toolbar that comes with Windows, without the need to install any other programs.


Create a Program Launcher in Two Steps

These are two simple steps, I and II, to build a Program Launcher using the toolbar:

I.  Creating a Folder Containing Sub-folders and Shortcuts

  1. Create a new folder called Launcher (any other name, or just an invisible space by pressing Alt+0160).
  2. Under the Launcher folder, add sub-folders Home & Office, Cleaning & Tuning, etc.
  3. Under each of the sub-folders, add shortcuts to the programs.

For example, you may right-click a program Notepad.exe, select Create shortcut, then cut and paste the program shortcut to the sub-folder Home & Office, and so on. Rename the shortcut if needed. (Note: A program shortcut can also be created in a single step by dragging a program to a folder while holding down Ctrl-Shift keys).

The Launcher folder will then look like the screenshot here.

Launcher Folder

II.  Linking a New Toolbar to the Folder

New Toolbar
Program Launcher
  1. Right-click on the taskbar, mouse over Toolbars and click New Toolbar.
  2. Browse to the Launcher folder and click OK (on Win. 2K & XP), or Select Folder (on Vista & Win. 7).
  3. Voila! the Program Launcher is ready for use. A click on the double right-angle brackets (">>") brings up a Context Menu to run the programs like this, no more cluttering.

Other Features Available to the Launcher Toolbar

After setting up the Launcher, you can utilize other features available to the toolbar:

  • Drag a program shortcut from other places (e.g. Start Menu, Desktop, etc.) onto the double right-angle brackets (">>") on the taskbar. 
  • Drag and drop a program shortcut from one category to another in the Context Menu. 
  • Right click Launcher on the taskbar, select Open Folder to go directly to the Launcher folder for creating more categories or adding shortcuts in the Windows Explorer.
  • Change icons of the category folders to your liking—right-click a folder > Properties > Customize > Change Icon.

Other than programs, shortcuts to favorite folders can be added for quick access too.

Applicable to: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7.

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