Personalizing your Start menu

When you install new programs, they are automatically added to your programs list, accessible from the Start menu. Just because this is an automatically updated list does not mean you can not change menu choices. Desirably, the menu choices should be organized to support your personal accessible needs. Read on to see how.

Figure 1 Windows XP Start Menu
Figure 1 Windows XP Start Menu

No surprise Windows come with a menu choice called Start, usually left-bottom-corner of your screen. It is full of menu choices. It displays menu choices for:

  • programs you access the most,
  • all the programs on your machine,
  • links to recently used documents,
  • link to Help and Support,
  • link to Control panel, and
  • so on

If you look at figure 1, you may or may not realize the programs in the Start menu are divided into two parts:

  1. programs that are always available for you to click
  2. programs that change in response to the frequency of your use

The parts are separated by a horizontal line. In the list, the first 8 programs (Paint, Flash, Weblog, Publisher, Fireworks, IIS, and Calculator) are always available for click. So this represents a list of programs that remain always visible unless you make changes the list.

On the other hand, the second part of the list starts with most frequently used programs. This list includes PDF Converter and Dreamweaver.

What is the big deal here? This listing is a neat feature to quickly access a desired program. This is how the Start menu be organized to best utilize the two listing options. The programs that are needed most of the times should be added permanently to the top list. Remember the second list will contain your other frequently used programs. So if you have ten programs that you use most of the time, you can have eight added permanently to the top list and keep two in the bottom list. Alternatively, you can customize the Start menu.

Customizing the Start Menu

Customizing the Start Menu allows the user to easily access the most useful items on the computer. Follow these steps to open the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window (figure 2):

  • Right-click Start
  • Choose Properties
  • Click on the Start Menu tab if necessary (to see what is shown in figure 2)
Figure 2 Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window
Figure 2 Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window

There are two options here in Windows XP. You can either choose standard Start Menu option, which is the new XP style start menu. On the other hand, Classic Start Menu gives a styling look similar to earlier versions of Windows. See figure 3. Notice the change between the Start Menu and Classic Start Menu by toggling between the choices.

Figure 3 Classic Start Menu view
Figure 3 Classic Start Menu view

Remember changes are not made here until you hit OK or Apply. You can hit on Cancel or the X on top right corner if you want to exit at any time.

This shows you to how to choose the desired Start menu but how do I change the menu choices in my list. For this you have to click on Customize next to the type Start menu choice you make. (You will notice only the checked radio button has the Customize choice clickable the other Customize choice is grayed-out.)

Click on Customize next to the Start Menu style. It will open a window that looks like figure 4.

Figure 4 Customize Start Menu
Figure 4 Customize Start Menu

Here is a quick overview of the choices available in this window:

  • Icon size: you can choose large icons or small. See figure 5 to get a sense of the difference between these choices.
  • Number of program menus on Start menu. Specify here how many programs you want to see in the bottom list of the Start menu. Refer to the discussion pertaining to figure 1 to understand what this means. If you choose the number 5, your Start menu will include 5 most often used programs. If you hit the button Clear List (see figure 4), your frequently used programs list will be reset. Your program list will start to grow as you use programs that are not already in the list. Note, however, clearing the list does not remove the programs from your computer or Start Menu’s Programs or All Programs list.
  • Hit OK or Apply to save your changes. Remember you have to windows open.
Figure 5 Selecting icon size for programs: large icons versus small icons
Figure 5 Selecting icon size for programs: large icons versus small icons
Posted on 3/16/2008
by Raj Singh