Customizing the Start Menu

As millions of Windows users illustrate, it's perfectly possible to live a long and happy life without ever tampering with the Start menu; for many people, the idea of making it look or work differently comes dangerously close to nerd territory. (It's true that listing your favorite files there gives you quicker access to them—but it's even easier to use the Quick Launch toolbar, as described in Section 4.3.2.)

Still, knowing how to manipulate the Start menu listings may come in handy someday. It also provides an interesting glimpse into the way Windows works.


Any Start menu changes apply only to the person that's currently logged on to this computer. When you log on, Windows loads your customized Start menu, as stored in your user profile; when the next person logs on, he'll see his own version of the Start menu.

Changing the Basic Start Menu Settings

Microsoft offers a fascinating set of Start menu customization options. It's hard to tell whether these options were selected by a scientific usability study or by a dartboard, but you're likely to find something that suits you.

To view and change the basic options, right-click a blank spot on the Taskbar; choose Properties from the shortcut menu. Alternatively, choose StartSettingsTaskbar & Start Menu. Either way, the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box opens, as seen in Figure 3-16.

Only two of the options on the General tab apply to the Start Menu; the rest are for configuring the Taskbar. The two Start Menu items, "Show small icons in Start menu" and "Use Personalized Menus," have a great deal of influence over the way the Start menu looks and behaves. Because of their importance, you should try changing the settings for each before deciding on a final configuration for the Start menu.

Figure 3-16. Only ...

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