The average Windows user might be fine accessing software through the Start menu or shortcuts on the desktop—maybe even pin an icon or two directly on the taskbar for easier access.
However, true fans of customization and aesthetics use third-party launchers. These are tools dedicated to launching other apps, which usually look like some form of bar floating or stuck on the screen.
Still, there’s an even better solution; A powerful application that makes your average launcher look like a preschooler’s toy: Directory Opus file manager. So, let’s see how you can use this app to create a true super-taskbar.
Shortcuts, Launchers, and Friends
You can use many ways to launch your software, each with different pros and cons.
- Desktop icons are straightforward and don’t require extra software. Add too many, though, and your desktop will look like a mess. Plus, you must move windows out of the way to access them.
- The Windows taskbar allows you to pin icons on it and initially looks better than dumping shortcuts on your desktop. Soon you realize its space is limited, and it, too, lacks organization.
- Launchers are third-party tools and come in many shapes and forms. Many work like a second taskbar. Others expect the user to type the name of what they’re seeking.
The approach we’ll see here using Directory Opus is a hybrid of the last two. We’ll create a taskbar like the one that comes with Windows, but with the organization of a bar-looking launcher, and some extra functionality as the sugar on top.
Still, if it’s a simple launcher you’re seeking, and you’d prefer a ready-to-use solution instead of investing the time to craft your own super-taskbar, we’ve got you covered, too. Check out our comparison of some of the best free Windows alternatives to Mac’s Alfred app.
Just a Bar
Visit Directory Opus’ official site and download the app. You’ll have to request an evaluation license to be able to try the app. We won’t go through the process in this guide and jump straight to the point where the app is installed, up, and running.
Note that we’ll be using the older version 10 of the app. The interface might look somewhat different in the latest versions. Also, note that we’ll refer to the app with its “Dopus” alias.
Since the toolbar’s useless on its own, let’s see how we can add some menus and buttons to it.
If you didn’t close the customization window yet, good: don’t. You should keep it open while you’re customizing your sidebar. When you close it, you’ll exit Dopus’s “customization mode” and return to its normal mode.
Adding & Customizing Entries
- Move the customization window out of the way (without closing it) and focus on your taskbar. Right-click on it and choose New Menu from the New submenu.
- A “New Menu” entry will show up on your taskbar. Right-click on it and choose Edit.
- Another window will show up, titled Command Editor. From here, you can customize the menu entry and, in the future, any other element you add to your toolbar.
- Clicking on the icon will have yet another window pop-up, from which you can choose another icon from Dopus’ built-in collection. Since those can be limiting, you can enable Select image from a file and then use the folder button on its right to choose any file. Don’t restrict yourself to image files – Dopus can use any file’s icon(s). Yes, that also means you can use your favorite game’s icon for your menu by choosing its executable file or launcher. We went for a terminal icon from Dopus’ own set.
- Use the Label field to change your menu’s name in the Command Editor window. You can also type something in the Tip field to have it show when you hover the mouse cursor over the entry.
- While here, check if you prefer how the menu will look if you enable the Large image size option.
- With your menu ready, you can populate it with entries like your favorite apps. We decided to use it as a collection for our most used “system tools”, so we named it as such.
- Adding entries to it was trivial since you can drag and drop them from a Lister window on it. Dopus is smart enough to “read” each file’s details and add an appropriate entry to the toolbar. And when it isn’t, you can always edit an entry as we saw before, the same way you tweaked your first menu.
- While adding more entries to your menu, you can assign a Hotkey to launch them using key combinations. To do that, click inside the Hotkey field. Then, press the desired key combo. Finally, save the newly customized setting.
- Dopus offers some ways of keeping your toolbar organized. One of them is hidden behind a gesture: grab an entry by left-clicking on it and dragging it away from the others. You’ll see a splitter in your menu, separating the grabbed entry from the ones above (or next to) it.
- You can also add space between entries. Right-click on a spot and choose Spacer from the Insert New submenu. You’ll see a blank rectangle show up where you clicked. You can drag it among entries to place it where you wish and drag its bottom edge to adjust its size.
Buttons and Three-Buttons
You don’t have to hide everything inside menus. For quicker access, you can place buttons directly on your toolbar.
- Start by right-clicking on the toolbar and choosing New Button from the New menu.
- Then, proceed as we saw before to “point” your new button to any app, game, or even other types of files you may want easily accessible.
- You might have noticed we’ve added a button for launching Firefox. That’s not the only browser we’re using, though, and adding buttons for more would take more space on the toolbar. Hiding them inside a menu would mean one extra click to reach them. Thankfully, there’s Dopus’ “three-buttons” concept that can help. By right-clicking on the existing Firefox button and choosing Three Buttons, we change it to that type of interactive element.
Most mice today come with three buttons—one for left-clicking, one for right-clicking, and one under the scroll wheel. Dopus’ “Three Buttons” elements perform a different function depending on which mouse button you use to click on them.
- So, by adding two more entries pointing to Chrome and Tor, we turned a simple button into a solution for instantly launching any of three browsers.
Congratulations, you’ve just created a launcher equivalent using Dopus! If you’d prefer a simpler way to keep a handful of apps front and center, maybe you’d prefer to check our article on how to center your Taskbar icons on Windows 10.
Adding more menus and buttons to your toolbar and further customizing it can turn it into a launcher like no other. As proof, here’s what rests on the bottom of this humble writer’s second monitor:
Thanks to such a toolbar, you can keep everything easily and instantly accessible. It doesn’t even have to take space on your desktop, as long as you revisit its options and set it to auto-hide! It will then show up only when you point at its usual spot.
Strangely, that’s only the beginning, for Dopus allows much more customization of each toolbar element. We’ll leave that, though, for some time in the future.