The idea behind Menoku is to make an application menu laid out like a Sudoku board. A single window is divided into nine groups of nine icons, making an array of nine by nine. Each icon can either load a new menu of up to 81 icons or can launch an application. To select an icon, you can either click on it or use your numberpad to select which group of nine icons to choose from and then which of the nine icons to activate. (See the Screenshots page if this isn't clear)
Why is this a good idea? Well, the purpose of Menoku is to try to make a more effecient menu system, and it does so by combining the best elements from several common application launching methods:
Using the desktop to start applications is nice because it lets you browse through a large number of applications graphically using large icons. Unfortunately, keeping a desktop full of icons organized is a pain! Also, having launch icons on the desktop is really pretty inconvenient because you have to minimize windows to see all your icons. You shouldn't have to disrupt what you're doing to start a new program.
Menoku lets you graphically search through a large number of icons, just like a desktop, but its unique grouping layout enforces some level of organization, so you always know where to look. Also, Menoku is not a desktop, it's more like a popup menu. It comes onto the screen when you ask for it (on top of any other windows) and when you select an application to start, it disappears.
Many power users like to use the keyboard to start their favorite programs. This means they don't have to move their hands to the mouse to start a new program, and it's also much faster to just type out a memorized combination than to browse through a menu. Of course, the problem with this is that you have to memorize all your key combinations! You can make yourself a cheat sheet, but having to lookup a key combo before you type it defeats the purpose.
In Menoku, any icon you see on the screen is uniquely accessible through typing at most two keys: one to select which group of nine you want, and another to select one of those nine icons. This means that every application you want to start with Menoku has its own short key sequence. You can quickly memorize the sequences for your favorite programs, but if you forget you always have the icon display to remind you.
The standard way to start programs in a WIMP interface (such as Windows or X11) is to open up a menu. You click a button and get a long list of names and small icons, some of which represent programs and others more menus. The reason menus are so ubiquitous is that they work! You can store any number of programs that way and organize them into groups. Unfortunately, menus are very slow. You have to browse through text, which is inefficient, and you also have to wait for new menus to pop up beneath your mouse.
Menoku is in large part modeled after a standard hierarchical menu. Although you can only have 81 icons in any given menu, you can have any number of submenus which can also have 81 icons. You can easily group your programs together either by putting them into the same group of nine or by putting them in the same submenu. However, browsing in Menoku is much faster. You can search for large icons instead of text, and you can use your keyboard instead of following a winding path with your mouse.
Menoku is a Qt4 application written in C++ under the Gnu General Public License. It uses an XML menu specification with the goal of extensibility in mind. It works perfectly under Windows and most Unix-like systems, and with very minor tweaks could also work for Macs! Right now Menoku is BETA level code. It's a new and exciting idea, but the interface could probably use a lot of work. That said, it should be perfectly stable and it has been well tested.
As it stands, the sole developer of Menoku is Nathan Gaylinn. He wrote all of the Menoku code except for the OS-independent system tray and keyboard shortcut code which was borrowed from a Jabber Client called Psi under the GPL. However, this could change. If you would like to help improve menoku and help it grow, please send an email my way!