About SyMenu

SyMenu tag cloud


SyMenu Community For me this is one of the most pleasant topic to talk about because the community is, for sure, the best gift SyMenu brings to me.

Everything started with the ugmfree.it contact form. I remember the first messages a user sent to me asking for a new feature. At that time, it was September 2008, I had just started with SyMenu and every feedback was important because it meant that, out there, someone was using my program. That first message was incredibly thrilling.

In the meanwhile the first translators started to come.
They wanted SyMenu to spread worldwide, to be used by persons speaking their own languages. I was (and I am) so proud of their collaboration because the program impact increased tenfold thanks to them.

The following step was the introduction of the forum and this was the real game changer.
With the forum SyMenu started to be really exposed to the public. Every person can publish everything because my policy is to delete nothing if the post is related to the program. And with my big surprise, I discovered that a little but really strong community was already born.

During all these years the community has worked as a sort of big, collective brain.
The forum users love to speak about SyMenu and above all they love to speculate on it proposing new program improvements.
The community is the real beating heart of this project because it produces ideas to expand and improve it. It's been a long time that I'm not in charge of these tasks. Today I'm only a sort of collector for the community ideas. I select the best ones, make them consistent and develop them. I only intervene to maintain the project on a straight path and to define the priority, according to the project natural order and to my free time availability, but SyMenu is no more me, since a long time now.

But the real surprise come with the SPS technology.
I invented SPS in a dark and stormy night and initially it seemed to me only a crazy idea: I wanted to convert SyMenu in the bigger program hub in the world opened to the contribute of every community member.
To be successful, the SPS needs some people collaboration and full dedication. These people have to regularly scan the web to find new programs and updates for the old ones.
When I started I thought that this kind of persons don't exist and I imagine I would have reached one hundred programs, managing all by myself. But, at a certain point, some strange guys started to get in touch with me offering to become SPS editor.
Today the hard core editor group counts not so many persons, but guys, they are genius. They understand the SPS technology better than me, and use it at levels that I never dreamt... well even if I invented and created the SPS technology there are people out there that are mastering it much better than me.

SyMenu is officially born on September the 14th 2008, about than 10 years ago.
This tag cloud series is intended as a celebration and a chronicle of this 10 years I spent with you all.
10 years is an incredible goal to reach and the results are far beyond my initial expectation.
And now my only wish is to get another 10 years with all of you, maintaining SyMenu always the best program launcher worldwide.

Time saving

SyMenu Time saving Don't get me started here.
How many times you need those particular program/tool/feature and you start searching the Internet to find it?

Let me guess.
The first search result brings you to a paid program. Well I'm not against paid programs, God forbid, but guys I can't pay a program for a single use.
The second link is from a notorious program hosting website called ImTheBestPirateInTheCarribeanSea.com (please don't search for it, it's fancy). No need to say we are completely against this kind of solution.
The third could be suitable: it's a free program, well known, updated, but guys... you need to install it... it's not portable. Again, should you dirt your PC because of a program you will use once?
Fourth: it's it!! You found it. It's free, portable, and it does what you need. OK let's go with the download. You got it. Unpack, execute..... Damn it!!! You don't have the right the version of Java/.NET/whatever dependency installed... Or your OS is not compatible... Or the program is not really free...
Oh please!!!

OK calm down.
This look like a job for SyMenu!
Jokes apart, the previous perilous, boring, and difficult search process has already been made by me and the fantastic team know as the "SPS editors squad". We've already found, categorized, described, and included in the SyMenu suites more than 1.000 programs exactly for this reason: to save your time.
Every SyMenu user has finally a single place where to search for any kind of program, to accomplish any kind of task.
Search, select the program you need, and click to have it available and ready to use.
All the programs in the SyMenu suites are selected because they are working, free, and portable. So even if you need it only once, your PC won't be dirtied by invasive software.

And, dear friends, it's not only the time you use for your needs to be spared. If you are like me, you have friends, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, colleagues that are always ready to ask for a little help to find a program to do something.
My lovely wife, spent literally years asking for a tool to split a PDF, to merge a PDF, to compress a PDF.... and when I tell her "...we already downloaded it last time...", she used to reply "I forgot where we put it... I forgot how it's called... I forgot in which PC I have it...".
And think how difficult is to explain all the steps to download, install, execute a program to a newbie, above all if you need to do that on the phone. Well my wife is not a newbie, over time she became an expert, here I'm speaking about my aunt instead... sorry aunty!!! :-)

So my strategy is simple, and, above all, it saves my time.
All my "proteges" have a SyMenu big icon available on their desktops. I usually tell them that those icon is a sort of wishing well so they understand that their needs are easily satisfied from there. If they need something new, I can lead them to use SyMenu to get the needed program, it's so easy that I can do that even by phone.

And sometime (it really happens) one of them call only to tell me that she had a problem, but thanks to SyMenu, she solved it, independently. :-)

Ease of use

SyMenu Ease of use SyMenu is a complex software but it's very easy to use.

Think about this use cases.

- If you want to take advantage of the built in one thousand free app collection, click on Get new apps button and choose which programs you like more. The apps will automaticaly appear on your PC with no effort and ready to use.
- Don't you remember which was that fantastic program to accomplish that particular activity? Go to the search bar and write some keywords related to the magic app. SyMenu searches for it inside its name and description, in a flash.
- Want to automate a complex task? You can create it with the help of the SyMenu Autoexec.

These are some of the features you've got in SyMenu. All of them are very easy to use but at the same time, they are so powerful and complex in what they do.
Think again to the search bar for example.
The search bar is able to search inside the SyMenu installed programs but even among its native functions, such as, Configuration, Get new apps, Check for update, Exit...
Have you already try to index a folder? The search bar searches among its files and subfolders too.
And don't get me started with the resources it is able to finds in the host PC such as programs, control panel items and, in future, the Windows metro apps.
Despite this bunch of different elements SyMenu is able to present each of them homogeneously and let you interact with them in the same exact way.
How is it possible to combine a so complex project with an user interface so easy to use?

Apparently the two concepts, complexity and ease of use, are strong enemies but in SyMenu they live in love and harmony. Is this strange cohabitation an accidental coincidence?

The key to understand this phenomenon, which represents one of the real SyMenu powers, is a simple world: consistency.

SyMenu is projected firstly to be and to remain consistent.

When you are able to stay in the world of consistency, you will discover that some magics start to happen...
Usually when I introduce a completely new feature in SyMenu, it interact with all the others in perfect harmony and balance, because the rules I use to project any new function can't leave the consistency aside.
If, on the contrary, a new feature breaks the existing balance it means that I thought it in the wrong way from the start, because I probably forgot to study the new implementation with the consistency in mind. And this is bad because I'm at risk to break the entire project harmony. And if I break the harmony the users will perceive that something is wrong and they will be in trouble in using SyMenu.

This process is like something magical: the ease of use comes down from the consistency, the consistency gives you the tools to simplify the complexity. Hence the complexity can be reduced in simplicity. And I strongly hope this philosophy succeed to shine through the entire project.


SyMenu Multilingual One reason that grants SyMenu a great audience is its availability in several languages.

For every program the translation in different languages is an important key to spread worldwide, in fact, even if English is the computer "lingua franca", having a program that speaks in your same language is a great benefit to be more productive and faster.

The freeware world is peculiar even regarding the translation topic. It's really common that a freeware program, even a little one, offers dozens of different languages where a paid one hardly offers three or four languages.
How is this possible?
A freeware program creates a relation between itself and its users and some of these users decide to return this act of goodness in some way. The easy way is to donate something. The hard way is to offer one's free time contributing, for example, with a translation.
Usually you don't have to be a developer to translate a program. In some cases the translation is as simple as writing an email. SyMenu is not so friendly with its translation process but its wonderful translators don't spend more than half an hour for every release.
Thanks to these people SyMenu can count on several complete and professional translations starting from the more common languages (English, Spanish, Chinese) to the less usual ones.

How is SyMenu translated? This is what happen behind the scenes:
- when I finish a new version I send to every translator a copy of SyMenu beta along with a document that describes in details which labels are changed, which one must be deleted, which are the new ones
- the translator edits the previous language file, that he finds in the beta version, following my instructions
- when he finishes, he sends to me the new language file to be included in the final version.

Great guys the SyMenu translators, someone loves this project almost more than me :-)
Some of them are both translators and SPS Editor. And some others are UGMFree forum animators too. What a crew!
BTW if you want to become SyMenu translator let me know, we have a lot of vacancies.

Last thing. I take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all my great, spectacular, fantastic translators.
Thanks to Yang, Jan, Rogér, Marc, Radek, Janos, Åke, Veikko, Florin, Björn, Richard, Luis, Rolf, Nacho, Ilias, Scott, Wonjae, Erhan, and all the translators that worked with us for a while.

Search all

SyMenu Search all Whenever you deal with a large data set, your only hope to find what you need is through a search engine.
Think about the web with its billions pages and how useless these contents become without a good tool to search among them.

The configured programs in your SyMenu can easily grow to the critical point where your perfect item organization unfits your need for a fast finding. What is this number? 100? 500? It depends on how good you are in organizing your programs. Some users prefer to have all the programs under the SyMenu root... well with this kind of configuration I'll personally be lost with only 30 programs.
Besides, because of its own nature, a hierarchical organization such as the foldered structure offered by SyMenu, is prone to placing errors. For example has Irfanview editor be located under the Photo or the Editors container? And when you decide where to put it, are you really sure that next time you need Irfanview you'll remember where it is?

The key for a fast and easy solution is the SyMenu internal search engine.
The search engine in SyMenu is one of the most powerful feature you can play with.
It can search all the configured item names and, since the version 5.02, it can search even inside the item descriptions.

You can ordered the SyMenu search results according to the program execution counter. So the more you execute a program the higher it'll be presented in your result list.

If you instruct SyMenu to index a real folder on your HD, the search engine can search among the files located inside the folder and all its subfolders. The search in folder indeed will take place on the files name only and not on the files content. To activate the search in folders mode you can switch from SY (SyMenu) to FS (File System) mode during a searching session.
The FS mode allows you to directly navigate on the file system too. Try to write a path such as C:, D:, \, and the search result will present all the files and folders available on those paths.

Even more interesting is the search engine capability to integrate the search results with the programs available in your host computer. Think about a SyMenu deployed inside an USB pen drive. If you connect the pen drive inside an unknown PC and launch SyMenu, you'll have a search engine capable to search among the portable programs in your USB and among the locally installed programs.
A future implementation will extend the search to the Windows apps too to cover all the possible needs.

At this point you surely understand what the SyMenu search engine is: a Windows Start menu with steroids.
It includes all that you can have in the Windows Start menu plus your portable program collection, plus all the peculiar SyMenu features supplied by the action modifiers such as open program location, show the program properties, execute it with different credentials and so on. And, on top of that, the SyMenu search engine is fast, it's really fast. The trick for its speed resides in the way SyMenu search among the items. When, in the desktop notification area, you see the SyMenu icon blinking with a green or red light, it means that SyMenu is indexing all your programs to store them in memory so that it doesn't need to go to the file system again to present the search results. This is the winning approach that grants SyMenu its high speed with a relatively tiny memory footprint.


SyMenu automation Automation is a strict technical topic. It speak about doing complex and repetitive operations that could be done without a manual intervention.
SyMenu can help to automate your tasks thanks to features like Autoexec on Start and Autoexec on close.
The Autoexec events are thrown during the initial and the final stage of the SyMenu running life and thanks to them SyMenu can do things for you. Typically you can configure SyMenu to automatically launch programs or, if you need some peculiar things, you can create some batch scripts to run.

Let's examine a hypothetical scenario.
When you turn on you PC you need to start several programs such as SyMenu, the mail client, your preferred browser, and maybe you need to open your working folder and synchronize your files with the client of your preferred cloud hosting service.
To accomplish all this tasks, instead of repetitively double clicking all around your desktop, you can use the Autoexec on start that instructs SyMenu to launch your programs.

Another more complex example.
Sometimes you have to launch a program that needs some parameters. Think about a system that mount a crypted drive, yes I'm thinking about the program VeraCrypt. You have to start the program, browse to the archive file that contains the crypted drive, choose a drive letter, input your password, and eventually define some other custom parameters.
If you properly configure SyMenu to autolaunch VeraCrypt on start, you can use the program command line switches to avoid all the initial configuration. In that way you can find your crypted drive mounted, every time SyMenu starts with no configuration needed except for the initial one. Great!

Now we can think about a scenario suitable for the Autoexec on close feature.
If you usually quit SyMenu just before finishing your daily work you could use the Autoexec on close to tidy up your files or to secure them. For example just before closing, SyMenu can launch your backup software so you are sure not forgetting it or simply launch a command to power off your PC.

Another typical example is when you work with SyMenu on a removable drive.
On SyMenu closing you can launch a software that removes the USB unit for you.
Try that with USB Disk Ejector, that BTW is available on the SyMenu Suite. If Disk Ejector is located on the same SyMenu USB drive, you can configure the program to be launched with the command line parameter /REMOVETHIS to remove its same unit. At this point you only have to close SyMenu and remove your pen drive... nice huh.

The Autoexec on start and on close are the main automation tool available in SyMenu but if you are a real script guy you can create all the code you want and have a full support from the SyProgram and SyCommand items too.
Automation is a time saving key and we know, our time is the most valuable thing we have. So let's automate your lives with SyMenu.


SyMenu customization One of the strongest SyMenu feature is its flexibility. In fact you can customize quite every detail of your SyMenu.

Let's start from the most obvious way: through the program Options.
Among the SyMenu Options you'll find all the possible customization: the program language, the Themes, the shourtcuts/gestures to popup your menu or to lauch every program, the structure to organize the built-in menu items, several configuration tied to program events and so on. For a deeper Options description you can read the online manual http://www.ugmfree.it/SyMenuManual.aspx#Advanced_menu_Options

The configuration available through the Options form are many but they don't cover all the program scope.
We have two others customization categories reserved to the advanced users and the third-party publishers.

The first one is related to the command line options. You can choose to override some options thanks to the command line for example providing SyMenu with some different keyboard shortcuts. But you can even activate features not accessible from the Options form. For example you can force SyMenu to execute itself in multiple instances. Another example is supplying custom environment variables that can be used inside SyMenu.
See http://www.ugmfree.it/SyMenuManual.aspx#CommandLine for further information

The second kind of advanced customization is directly accessible via the File System.
Thanks to some particular files created on certain locations, you can force SyMenu to run in read only mode, you can change the built-in splash screen image, you can even change the big floating SyMenu icon.
The read only configuration is really useful in an environment where more than one user access your SyMenu installation.
The splash screen and floating icon change instead could be used to deeply customize SyMenu appearance, a scenario that is helpful above all for thirt-party distributors.
One other FS configuration can be activated with a simple hack in SyMenu configuration file. From there you can change the root folder for the SyMenu program files to move it wherever you want on your disk.
You can go deep on these topics here:

SyMenu is one of the most flexible menu launcher even for its chameleon abilities. It can transform and adapt itself to the user needs with a complete set of options to grant a real custom and tailor made experience both to the newbies as well as to the most advanced and demanding users.


SyMenu portability Let's start with an academic definition.
"Freeware is proprietary software that is available for use at no monetary cost. In other words, freeware may be used without payment but may usually not be modified, re-distributed or reverse-engineered without the author's permission".
(from wikipedia)

And now let's continue with a more relaxed and friendly exposition.

A software program is a very interesting and peculiar product. A software can't be stolen because it's replicable endlessly without causing a loss for the master copy. This doesn't mean that it is wrong to pay for a software program... a program represents a huge cost, because it is a complex construction and requires tons of resources, time, people, skills, hardware, money... So guys if a software is available at a certain cost, please pay for that.
Freeware instead means "for free" so you don't have to pay for use it at all.

The endless duplicability of the software partially explains how the freeware concept is possible in this world but what about the costs? Is it freeware totally free even for the people behind the software production? For the authors? For the distributors?

Not at all. A freeware program is a software like any others.
It costs.
It requires time and devotion to be developed.
It requires skills.
It requires organization.
It requires people.

Sometimes behind a free software we can find a real company or a software foundation. They decide to sponsor the development of a free product for whatever reason. It could be because they want to get publicity, or to push their paid program version, or because of ethical reasons.
Let's do a simple and well known example. If you read the Mozilla Foundation claim you'll discover that they create freeware and open source products to "protect the Web as a public resource and empower its users" or to "keep the web open for all". Anyway behind the ethical look the Mozilla Foundation needs money, as well as a normal company. For example do you know where the money for Mozilla Firefox comes from? Easy! It comes from its search partners: Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, Amazon, eBay.
I'm not trying to diminish the Mozilla Foundation nobility... they works thanks to the sponsors resources but mostly thanks to the free efforts of a great developer community. I'm only trying to put the things in the right order because we have a further, deeper level on the freeware software world.
Indeed sometimes behind a freeware software you don't find neither a company nor a foundation but you find one single developer or a small group of independent developers that offer their time, skills, money, devotion to their own project in a pure and admirable act of generosity, an act of idealism.
These people are making you a real gift.
They are working to simplify your lifes, to give you services, to enjoy you, to entertain you, to solve your problems, to ease your lives. And they expect nothing in change, they only want you to use their software, they only want you to take advantages from their work. We are speaking about people that dedicate their free time to other people they never meet and probably that never thanks. A give away for perfect strangers.
So respect for freeware and for its people!!

SyMenu primarily is a freeware software and its mission is to collect the highest number of freeware programs to give these software the stage they deserve.
SyMenu wants to take an obscure but useful piece of software and brings it to you attention rewarding in this way the software authors with a wider audience. At the same time SyMenu wants to offer the mostly known freeware software too, to allow you to manage your personal program collection with a single program, in a single place, with easiness and outrightness.

Let the freeware world to disclose to you with its full strength, give SyMenu a try... you'll be greatly surprised.


SyMenu portability What is a portable program?
The easiest way to explain what a portable program is, is to start from what it is not.
Portability doesn't mean that you can move your application from a Windows OS to a Nix or IOS platform. Usually a program is compiled to be executed in a certain OS or OS family. In this case portability is limited to a particular platform.
In the same way the correct execution of a certain program can be tied to a certain architecture or OS version. If we have a program that can run only in x64 platform it could be portable among x64 platforms but not portable on x86 platforms. A program written to run on Windows 10 is surely portable among all the Win10 PC but can crash in Win XP.

Finally we can explore what portability is.
A portable program doesn't need a setup process. You can copy the program with its folders and files from a PC to another and it works.
You can execute your program from an USB drive, a network share, and, in several cases, even from read only supports such as CD and DVD.
Normally a portable program carries on every dependencies (libraries) it needs. So you can execute it in whatever PC regardless the availability of that certain library.
The majority of portable programs don't leave tracks in the hosting OS. The main consequence of this is that using a portable program you don't overload the System Registry or the System folders and your Windows installation will be grateful to you.
You can execute portable programs in a limited environment because usually they can run with normal privileges, even if you are logged as a simple guest.
In case of an OS re-installation you can save all your portable programs and their settings in a separate disk or partition, and found them and their settings in your new OS with no need of reinstalling and reconfiguring anything.

There are some subtle exceptions to these ideal rules.
For example a great debate occurs for .NET and Java applications. Can they be considered portable?
These particular applications need a specific runtime to work but, as counterpart, the .NET runtime is already supplied with every Windows OS since Vista so in my opinion the .NET applications are fully portable. The Java applications can't enjoy of this preferential treatment and you won't find Java runtime on a fresh new Windows installation but Java itself is a portable runtime so you can carry with you the Java runtime to execute a Java application so, in my opinion, the Java applications are fully portable too.

Another problem regards the stealthiness of an application. Is it always true that a portable application is perfectly stealth (i.e. doesn't leave tracks behind on the host system)? No it isn't, a lot of applications leave track on the Registry but is it enough to disqualify these applications to be considered portable?
Not at all again. These applications execute in different PC without any problem and without a setup process so they are portable even if they are not stealth.
In the SyMenu suite, me and the other editors try our best to document the not stealth behaviour, then it is on you to use or not that application.

So is portability all rainbows and unicorns?
No it isn't.
The big commercial programs rarely have a portable version. No MS Office here... but you easily find alternatives.
You should have slower performance on portable programs because they can't be optimized for you PC, since they could be executed on several PCs.
Since you don't setup the program you don't find a shortcut on your already crowded Windows Start menu. Well, don't worry for this because SyMenu take the place of your Start menu and shows all the portable programs under its controls.

And finally let's recap the advantages of portability.
  • Your PC remains clean and fast
  • You have all your software ready and configured in every PC you work
  • You have all your software ready and configured even after a complete OS re-installation
  • You can carries your software with you in a physical support (USB, CD, HD) or in your cloud account
  • Your privacy will be always protected thanks to stealthiness
  • You can execute all your software even in a restricted environment (at University, at work)
  • You'll be the coolest guy with all that power on your pen drive :-)

Program suites

SyMenu program suite SyMenu contains two different program suites for an astonishing total of more than 1000 programs!!! It's the largest freeware program collection worldwide and it's daily growing.
For a detailed program list you can directly use SyMenu or go to these web pages:

- SyMenu program suite http://www.ugmfree.it/SyMenuSuiteSPS.aspx
- NirSoft program suite http://www.ugmfree.it/SyMenuSuiteNirsoft.aspx

NirSoft is a suite strictly dedicated to the IT professionals and sysops while the SyMenu suite includes all-purposes software for the normal users too. In the SyMenu suite you will find programs for the Internet, utilities for managing the file system, editors, viewer, games, system utilities, benchmark software, security programs.

Every program offered with SyMenu is freeware or have a freeware level, so you don't have to pay for any of those.
Moreover they all are portable programs. For a detailed explanation of the portability concept please read #symenuportability.

How is it possible to collect a large set of program such this?
The magic answer is SPS.
SPS is a new documentation format that stands for Standard for Portable Software. I created SPS to feed the voracious SyMenu.
Thanks to SPS, SyMenu can grab the programs directly from the authors web sites or, when this is not possible, from trusted hosting sites such as http://sourceforge.net https://github.com, http://www.filecluster.com, http://www.snapfiles.com.
This feature simplifies the managing of a such large program collection.
The second advantage in using SPS is that the programs don't need to be repacked. SPS counts on the fact that a lot of programs, natively, come with a portable version too, and another great number of others programs can be executed in a light portable mode, i.e. they are not perfectly stealth and they leave tracks on the hosting system, but they work the same without installation, so they are portable.
Eventually there are some programs that aren't natively portable at all and that can not even run as light portable. In this residual cases SPS can link programs repacked by third parts with portabilizer formats like paf, x-software, thinstall....

How is it humanly possible to maintain such a great collection?
Given the numbers involved it would be a complex task even for a well structured software company but SyMenu is not a commercial program and UGMFree is not a well structured company.
The replies here are two: it becomes possible thanks to the SPS editors and the SPS Builder tool.
The SPS editors are great guys. They daily scan the web to check for new programs to add and for the newest versions of already SPSfied programs to update. Some of them give an even greater contribution to the whole project because they are SyMenu translators or because they help suggesting me new features to implement in the program. Further we deeply discuss which is the good path to walk to maintain SyMenu at the highest level. Thank you guys!
The SPS Builder tool is a program, available inside the SyMenu program suite itself, that allows the editor to build and manage the SPS. Someone is even using the SPS Builder to keep in order his own programs.

Are the suites expandable?
Yes sure. The traditional suites are continuously growing but the SPS concept is not bound to this particular organization. In the future I'll probably build a spin off suite from the SyMenu main suite, with the 50 most useful programs, then I would like to create a new suite dedicated to the academic software and another one completely dedicated to the games.

What's in the future of the SPS?
SPS is a flexible format and could be used for various purpose. The UGMFree web site uses the SPS itself to create the documentation pages dedicated to the three suites. And who knows where the SPS can take us in the future...
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