SmartMenu Help

SmartMenu is a knowledge managemement system that uses an innovative Windows start menu as the interface to your most actionable information.


Key things to remember
  • You toggle SmartMenu visibility by holding down the Ctrl key and pressing the "Windows" key. Press once to show the menu, and again to hide it if necessary.
  • Doubleclick the "drag and drop" area on the popup form to open menu designer
  • Normally pressing the Escape key once or twice hides the menu. If it doesn't, just press Ctrl-Windows again to hide the menu. These keys toggle the menu's visibility.
  • Pressing F1 with SmartMenu displayed list both the built-in keyboard shortcuts and those you have defined.
  • For the enterprise version only, hold down the "Alt" key and press the "Windows" key to bring up the form to post something directly to SmartKB (enterprise knowledge base).
  • Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Windows opens the designer which includes a tree control for quickly rearranging menu items and other advanced options.
  • The main popup menu works by hovering over the options. If clicking the "StartMenu" option doesn't just move the mouse away and back to display the submenu.

Search smarter with StartGen Link:

Using MenuSets and the Start Menu

  • SmartMenu introduces the concept of a MenuSet. Unlike Windows, which provides a single start menu, SmartMenu allows you to create as many feature rich start menus as you want. A MenuSet is simply a collection of menu options. Each MenuSet is stored in a highly secure file (see Security section) with a ".sgn" extension.
  • SmartMenu is runs along with the Windows start menu. it does not replace it. It is designed to always be available, just like the built-in Windows start menu. SmartMenu uses less than 1 megabyte of memory most of the time it is running, so the impact on PC performance should be minimal. When you install SmartMenu, it adds itself to the "Startup" folder in the "All Programs" section of the Windows start menu. This tells Windows to run the program each time your PC is Restarted. You are free to remove it from this folder and load it from "All Programs->SmartMenu" whenever you want if preferred.

    Because SmartMenu is intended to always be running, it doesn't exit when you close the main form. To completely exit, you need to select the "Exit" option from the SmartMenu designer "File" submenu.

  • Normally pressing the Escape key hides the menu, but if it does not, you can also press "Ctrl-Start" a second time to hide it.
  • Holding down the "Ctrl" key while clicking a menu option in your start menu opens a note window specific to that menu item (Sometimes you need a place to jot things down.)
  • SmartMenu adds an icon to your Windows System Tray. In general you shouldn't need to use this unless a problem occurs. If this happens, right-click on the SmartMenu icon and select "Exit". Restart SmartMenu to continue.
Note that while SmartMenu adds an icon to your Windows System Tray (usually in the lower right corner of your Windows Task Bar), you shouldn't need to use this feature under normal conditions. If a problem arises, you will most likely need to restart SmartMenu as follows:
  1. Right-click on the SmartMenu icon in the System Tray and select "Exit"
  2. Open your Windows start menu, select "All Programs - SmartMenu4 - SmartMenu" to restart SmartMenu. If the problem persists, see the troubleshooting section of this guide.

Search box in start menu

When you start typing a search criteria in the box at the top of the start menu, SmartMenu first auto finds any menu options beginning with those characters, if none found, SmartMenu will then search for any menu options containing those characters. If less than 11 matches have been found after typing 3 characters, the contents of folders you have added to your SmartMenu are searched, provided you checked the box on the "Add Folder" for to do so. After typing 3 characters, SmartMenu also lists matches found in the SmartKB enterprise knowledge base. Finally, after typing at least four characters, SmartMenu includes matches in found in your recently used files and folders list kept by Windows.

What happens when you press ENTER on the start menu search box is driven by your selections on the "Tools->Settings" form. This search box is so handy we added the ability to direct it to three search engines. On the Settings form, you can specify what is searched if you just type in your criteria and press ENTER. To use the 2nd search engine, type one space; and the third, two spaces. The defaults are as follows:

  1. Your knowledgebase
  3. (note: this search has the BrainDance Software Amazon Associates Id included. The does not result in any additional cost to you and helps us keep the price of SmartMenu low (currently free for personal use and $4.95 for business use.))
These boxes include dropdown options for a few standard searches but you can use any web or application based search as long as you include the "{crit}" token to tell SmartMenu where to place the criteria you enter, after trims leading spaces if present.


MenuSets are stored in highly secure files with an ".sgn" file extension. Tied to each users Windows Login via the "CurrentUser" feature of .net's cryptography api's. Consequently, they can only be opened by someone logged in using the windows account that created them. You can open them on different PC's, as long as you are logged in using the same Domain account that was used to create them.

If you need to share your MenuSet with someone and are not using the Enterprise version, the simplest way to do this is to use the "Tools->Export to Xml" menu option. The resulting XML file will contain all settings with the exception of passwords in SQL search menu items.

Publishing MenuSets to the Cloud

Selecting the "Publish->MenuSet to" menu option brings up a form asking for your login information. is cloud-based service also provided by, the creators of SmartMenu. Before you can publish a MenuSet to the cloud, you need to click the link provided on the Publish form for registering with You can view sample MenuSets published or approved BrainDance Software by clicking this link

Menuset Visibility

  • Private: only visible to the member who created the MenuSet. This is tied to the email address and password used to upload the MenuSet to
  • Public: Use this to have your start page app listed in the directory which others can use to download into SmartMenu for use in their own Windows start menus or start page apps that they are building. By selecting this option, you are giving others permission to use the links, searches, notes and checklists in your MenuSet in any manner they wish. NOTE: your MenuSet will not show up until has reviewed it's content. This is necessary to prevent inappropriate and potentially harmful content from being distributed to others. If we cannot determine to our satisfaction that the start page is not safe to download, it will not be made public, but can still be shared with others by sending them the link directly.
  • Unlisted: This allows others to view and import your MenuSet but indicates that you do not want it listed in the directory for others to discover by browsing or searching. It doesn't guarantee that someone won't guess the URL and be able to access it, but it makes it difficult to do so given the unique URL assigned to each start page app

Using published MenuSets (Mobile Start Page Apps)

Mobile start pages support four types of menu items:

  • Searches (blue buttons): There is a single search box at the top of the mobile apps published (generated) using the SmartMenu Windows application. To use any of the search links you include on your start page, type in a search criteria in this box and then tap on the search you want to run. Alternatively, if you press the ENTER key after typing in your criteria, it launches a Google search.
  • Links (gray buttons)
  • Notes (yellow buttons)
  • Checklists (tan buttons)

How to use the other buttons on your mobile start pages:

  • Refresh: There is a refresh button in the upper left corner of each start page. You need to click this each time you publish an update to your start page. This is because your start pages are stored locally on you device for fast loading. They only check back to our servers when an update has been posted.
  • Text: Send a
  • Tweet and Facebook: Post a link to your start page app to Facebook for others to check out. Note they can only access the start page if you marked it "Public" or "Unlisted" the last time you published the start page
  • Home: Takes you to your home page if you are logged in.
  • Help: Displays a list of all of the items on your start page along with the first 250 characters of the description you entered when you defined the MenuSet in SmartMenu. Notes and Checklists just show the first few characters of the note/checklist. There is no separate description for these items at this time.

How to use checklists you include on your start page:

  • Back: Should take you back to the start page, but there are some bugs we are still working out. If a problem arises, just reload the page using your browser.
  • Text: Check the items you want to send someone and then click the "Text" button to include the checked items in a text message. You will be prompted who to send the text to.
  • If the checklist doesn't appear: Refresh the page using your browser refresh button. We are working on this to prevent it from happening.

Importing MenuSets (Mobile Start Page Apps) published by others

To import one of these samples, you need to drag it to the right hand side of the SmartMenu designer. If you drag it to the left, it will be added simply as a link to your start menu. The intension was for you to drag the sample to the SmartMenu logo (3 overlapping circles) which you can display anytime by pressing Ctrl-Start twice.

Pinning MenuSets to the Toolbar

If you use certain MenuSets frequently, pinning them to the toolbar gives you a quick way to switch between MenuSets. If you only use one MenuSet, this option isn't that helpful since you will always have the same MenuSet loaded.

We will be adding a "Recently opened MenuSet" in a future release.

Calling Custom Search Applications

Any exe that accepts command line parameters can be called from the SmartMenu start menu. Just place the "{crit}" token after the file name in the url. SmartMenu will remove the "{crit}" token and pass whatever search criteria you enter in the search box to your custom app. You do not need to place the parameters in quotes. They will be encoded and passed to your application exactly as you enter them. To pass multiple parameters, enter them as your application is expecting them.

Database Searches

This is the most advanced type of menu item that you can add to your MenuSets. While it requires IT/Database skills to create these menu options, anyone can use them once defined. This is one of the main reasons the Enterprise version exists. While you don't need the enterprise version to use database searchs, it does make it a lot easier to share advanced MenuSets with non-technical users. The help for this feature is available by clicking here.

Some things to keep in mind

  • Use integrated security whenever possible. It's always better to avoid saving passwords locally, no matter how secure the software claims to be.
  • The DataViewer app currently only handles database searches against Microsft SQL Server and Microsoft Azure Database. Adding support for other database servers is a top priority for future releases.
  • SmartMenu is not meant to be a SQL editor. The creating and testing of SQL searches should be done in a seperate product, and only after you have them working properly should you paste them into a SmartMenu menu item.
  • An "Add" button is provided on the SQL search definition form to allow you to save the connection string for reuse. Use the "Saved Connections Manager" option from the "Edit" submenu to manage these connections once created.
  • The first time you run a database search, SmartMenu will save the column widths automatically. After that, you have to check the save column widths box to tell SmartMenu to update the saved settings. This applies to both the main grid and each of the subforms.
  • You can sort either grid by clicking the column header.
  • You can select the ""Export to Excel" option from the "File" submenu to open the content of the top and current bottom grid in Excel. Note, this version only includes the currently selected subform.
  • To open a sample MenuSet containing several database searches based on the SmartMenu database: Open the designer (Ctrl-Alt-Windows keys), Select the "Tools->XML->Import Sample SmartKB Admin MenuSet" menu options. Aftr entering a file name, it will create a MenuSet containing several example SQL Searches, including 'My Posts', which is a 'dynamic menu' option populated on the fly showing your most recent posts to SmartKB. (Note: This import only works if you have entered the connection string to the SmartKB database on the "Enterprise" tab of the "Settings" form").


Anytime you add a "Parent" menu item to your start menu, it is potentially a "MultiLink" item. What this means is that if you right-click on a parent menu item, 8SmartMenu will try to open all of the sub items within that parent based on the parent items definition. Some web pages don't like to be opened in frames, which is the approach SmartMenu uses to show multiple web pages in a single browser window. If the pages don't load, you need to check the "Use Embedded Browser" option on the parent items definition in SmartMenu. This usually works, but it isn't ideal since Windows tends to use an old version of (Internet Explorer) IE to open web pages in this manner. Consequently, you need to be very careful about only opening web pages that you trust!. This is true in general, but it is especially true when using this embedded browser. There is a way to change the version of IE Windows uses but it involves tweaking the registry, so it isn't for the faint of heart.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I transfer a MenuSet to another PC or share the MenuSet with someone else?

If you need to share your MenuSet with someone and are not using the Enterprise version, the simplest way to do this is to use the "Tools->Export to Xml" menu option. The resulting XML file will contain all settings with the exception of passwords in SQL search menu items.

A second way to share a MenuSet is to publish it to using either the "Public" or "Unlisted" options. However, this only transfers Links, Web Searches, Notes and Checklists.

Troubleshooting (Undo, Backup, Restore)

While we have done extensive testing to ensure that you never lose any changes you make to MenuSets, we cannot entirely rule out the possibility that a change you make to a MenuSet corrupts it beyond further use. If this occurs, you have multiple options.
  1. Undo: The simplest resolution is to select the "Undo" option from the "Edit" submenu. In most cases, this will immediately undo the last change you made. If you select it more than once in succession, it will display a list of the last 30 versions of your current Menuset for you to select from. If you haven't made 30 changes, there will be less than 30 to choose from. If you make more than 30 changes, the oldest are replaced with more recent versions.
  2. Backup/Restore:
  3. If you invest a lot of time creating a MenuSet, we recommend that you back it up using the "Tools-Backup" menu option. This takes an encrypted snapshot of the MenuSet and stores it in the "Data" folder (Help-Troubleshooting-Open Data Folder menu option). You can restore from this backup if needed. It's good to have options :)
  4. Post to Enterprise Knowledgebase:
  5. If you are using the Enterprise version of SmartMenu, a great way to backup your MenuSet is to post it to the Enterprise Sql Server database. This saves all aspects of the MenuSet for use on other PCs.
  6. Xml Files:
  7. Selecting "Export to Xml" from the "Tools" submenu allows you export everything except database search passwords to an XML file for importing by yourself or others on other PC's.
If none of these options are helpful, please do the following if possible:
  • Turn on logging by selecting the Help-Troubleshooting-Enable Logging" menu option>
  • Retry the procedure that caused the problem
  • If the problem happens again, select the ""Help-Troubleshooting-Open Data Folder" option and use this form to send us the content of the "sgenlog.txt" file if one exists.
  • Here's the form you can use to notify us of any problems you experience using SmartMenu.

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