Personalize the Windows 7 Start menu

Windows 7 start menu

Bob Black asked about altering the Windows 7 Start menu to make it fit his preferences and work habits.

You can do a lot with the Windows 7 Start menu. You can put your favorite programs front and center. You can replace big, easy-to-hit icons with smaller ones that take less real estate, and you can control the behavior of clicking on Documents or Music.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Let's look at three separate areas where you can alter the Start menu.

Taskbar and Start menu properties

Right-click the Start button and select Properties. Click the Start Menu tab, then the Customize button.

0911 start menu properties

Here you can control how Computer, Control Panel, Documents and other options appear on the menu's right panel. For each item, you can select Display as a link, Display as a menu, and Don't display this item. Experiment a bit to see what you like.

As you scroll down, you'll find an option to check or uncheck Sort All Programs menu by name. We'll go into that more in a bit.

The Use large icons option controls the look of the menu's left pane.

Which brings us to our next section:

The left pane

This list of your most-used programs is one of the Start menu's best features.

You may notice a horizontal line separating the panel into two sections. This separates two lists of the programs you're most likely to use.

The lower section--and the only section if there's no line--displays the programs you've been using a lot recently. There's not much you can do here, aside from right-clicking a program and selecting an option from the very short menu.

0911 pin to start menu

But one of those options is Pin to Start Menu. Select that, and the program moves above the line. Once there, it won't go away until you right-click the item and select Unpin from Start Menu. You can also drag these items up and down to put them in your preferred order.

The All Programs menu

When you click Start > All Programs, you get a list of your installed programs, often in submenus and sometimes in submenus of submenus. If you use this menu much, you may want to organize it.

If you've turned off Sort All Programs menu by name (see above), you can reorder this menu by simply dragging and dropping, putting the items in your preferred order.

Regardless if you've unchecked that option, you can place an item into a submenu. Drag the program to one of the submenus, all of which have a menu icon. Hover over the submenu until it expands, showing its contents. Drop the program's icon inside. You can use the same technique to put a submenu inside another submenu.

You can also manage submenus inside Windows Explorer. Every item in the All Programs menu is actually a shortcut file in one of the two Start Menu folders. Why are there two? One stores items that only appear in your Start menu. The other stores items that are shared across all users' Start menus.

To get to these folders, click Start, right-click All Programs, and select either Open or Open All Users.

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