Hate the new Windows 11 Start Menu layout? Replace it with these 5 freeware apps and skins instead

Hate the new Windows 11 Start Menu layout? Replace it with these 5 freeware apps and skins instead

The new Windows 11 Start Menu layout is at the center of a heated debate among PC users. Instead of taking steps forward in form and function, Microsoft seems to be listening to everyone else but their own users.

If you are frustrated with the limit of customization available within Windows 11, take a look at these free (freeware) apps available to replace your Windows 11 Start Menu:

1. SystemTrayMenu
2. OpenShell
3. Rainmeter
4. Launchy
5. ValliStart (Rainmeter skin)

Microsoft provides plenty of documentation about how the Windows 11 Start Menu layout can be customized to look the way you want it. For various reasons, many users are dissatisfied with the new Start Menu on Windows 11. Freeware is just free software

This guide won't show you how to customize your Windows Start Menu, but instead show you the free (freeware) apps that are available in the Microsoft Store, GitHub, and elsewhere to use to replace the Start Menu on Windows 11.

Replace the Windows 11 Start menu layout

The new Windows 11 Start Menu layout has limited options for customization. Using applications such as Stardock's Start11 allow you to make Windows 11 look and act more like Windows 10. The problem is Start11 is not free, and I am not sure I want to pay for another app that doesn't have all the features I want.

There are similar paid apps out there, but they are often outdated. StartAllBack (formerly StartIsBack) is a tool to edit the Windows 10 Start Menu only, but it can't be used on Windows 11.

Another, Start Menu X is free to download, but  charges $10 for the "pro version" of software that looks like it was created in the very early days of Windows 10,

Windows 11 users (and those remaining on Windows 10) want the power to edit and customize their Start Menu how they want it. In this guide, we will look at the best free Github projects to customize Start menu layout on Windows 11.

1. SystemTrayMenu

SystemTrayMenu is an "open source 'Desktop Toolbar' or 'Start Menu' alternative" available on GitHub. SystemTrayMenu expands the System Tray menu to act as a Start Menu from the right side of your screen.

windows 11 start menu layout
(via SystemTrayMenu on GitHub)

SystemTrayMenu also gives the user more control over access to specific file and folder paths to launch apps, folders, and files.

An added bonus is SystemTrayMenu is portable, so it doesn't need to be installed right away. After downloading it, you can install it whenever you want by unzipping the folder and clicking SystemTrayMenu.exe to start. If you prefer to install the app on Windows 11, you can download SystemTrayMenu from the Microsoft Store.

2. Open-Shell-Menu

Open-Shell-Menu, otherwise known as "Classic Shell Reborn," is available on GitHub (Classic Shell was discontinued in December 2017). Open-Shell-Menu is free software that allows you to set your Start Menu layout to your favorite Windows operating system (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10).

windows 11 start menu layout

Though Open-Shell-Menu does not specifically indicate it is compatible with Windows 11, your best option to install this software is to download the Open-Shell-Menu setup file from the home page.

3. Rainmeter

Rainmeter is a desktop customization tool that can help you customize your whole Windows 11 desktop, not just the Start Menu.
windows 11 start menu layout

Rainmeter has a vast array of customization options in available, with the ability to add customizable skins to your desktop, that include PC (and peripherals) hardware usage meters, audio visualizers for Spotify, and more!

Rainmeter has a large GitHub repository, but you will have to download the tool from their website.

4. Launchy

Launchy is an open source, and cross-platform keystroke launcher utility that helps you get rid of your Windows 11 Start Menu layout completely. Launchy is a free download on Windows 11, but the developer does ask for an optional $3 donation to keep the app up and running.

windows 11 start menu layout

Launchy can also help you get rid of Windows 10 and Windows 11 icons and File Explorer too. Launchy indexes the programs in your Windows Start Menu, so you can launch documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes.

Launchy has plugins available for additional features, including the ability to allow you to index special system folders and files.

5. ValliStart (Rainmeter Skin)

windows 11 start menu layout

ValliStart is a Start Menu replacement to change the default one on Windows 11. ValliStart is not an app, but rather a Rainmeter skin you can download and install the skin into Rainmeter. ValliStart features 8 different color schemes and 15 other customizations.

Be sure to check out all of the other JaxOriginals Rainmeter skins and modules.

What you use to replace the Start menu on Windows 11? Let us know in the comments!

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