Brandon Paddock, a Microsoft developer, offers a nifty add-on for Vista in his blog. Start++ extends the functionality of Vista's Start Search Prompt. It allows you to use command shortcuts to start a program, a search in Google or a search on your desktop.
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For example, to start a Google search, you just have to hit the Windows key, and type g <search term>. Internet Explorer will then start, and launch Google with your search term. If you use Firefox or another browser, you have to add your own command to Start++.
To access the configuration of Start++ you type "start" at Vista's Start Search Prompt. I wasn't able to modify the "g "command, somehow, but you can just add a new one. Use firexfox.exe as command and copy the command from the g shortcut in the argument field of your new shortcut (see screenshot).
Start++ has a feature which is quite useful for administrators. It enables you to start an application as elevated, i.e. with administrator privileges. So if you have an admin tool where Vista's UAC is unable to detect automatically that it needs admin rights, you can easily define a shortcut which runs it always as an elevated application.
For example, you could create a shortcut which starts your favorite editor with administrator privileges. This allows you to edit files under C:\Program Files or C:\Windows. The other option is to just enter sudo <command> at the Start Search Prompt. For instance, sudo notepad will run notepad with admin privileges.
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There are some additional startlets.You only have to click them to have a new shortcut definition. If you often search for files, you'll like the Desktop Search startlet.