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First Great Windows Vista PowerToy

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Microsoft’s Brandon Paddock has independantly written the first amazing PowerToy for Windows Vista, one that takes the search function of the Start menu and tricks it out, called Start++. What Start++ does is extend the search to let you run all these search shortcuts from the Start menu search box. For instance:

  • Wikipedia search: Type “w washington”, and you will launch Wikipedia, and search for Washington
  • Google search: Type “g insidemicrosoft”, and you will launch Google, and search for InsideMicrosoft (also “y” for Yahoo search, “l” for Windows Live Search, “d” for dictionary.com, and “imdb” for the Internet Movie Database)
  • Run programs elevated: Type “sudo cmd” to run the Command Promt as an administrator with elevated priveleges
  • On-the-fly music playlist control: Type “play bon jovi” and Windows search will find all the music files in your search index with Bon Jovi in them, created an M3U playlist, and play the music. Wow! Also works by specifying an artist instead of a search (”playartist elvis”) or an album (”playalbum white album”) or pictures (”pics baby”)

But that’s just the beginning, because Start++ comes with those shortcuts, but lets you write anything you please. That means that you can grab the URL of any search engine, even the one for your favorite blog or Bit Torrent search engine, plug it into the configuration box, and search for “tor veronica mars” when you miss an episode, for example. Anything works.

And Start++ doesn’t just work on the Start Menu, it also works on the Command Line. So you could use it to do all sorts of things there, if you love working in text prompts, even write a batch file to do some crazy things with it. Brandon has truly created a very useful and seamless add-on for Windows Vista; once you get it to do what you want, you just use it, and you never even know its not part of the operating system.

Brandon says he just threw this together, but he’s been damn good about supporting it. In the week since he released it, there have been three updates already, tweaking some of the defaults, improving search syntax, letting you export your created “Startlets” to share with friends, and general bug fixes, and the stuff he’s got planned looks plenty cool. If you were looking for a great way to expand Vista, this is definitely it.

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