2.2 The Start Menu
The Start button (in the lower left-hand corner of your screen) is your gateway to just about everything in the operating system. You use it to open programs, customize your computer via the Control Panel, and shut down your computer. In fact, you probably use the Start menu more than any other part of Windows. This section shows you how to reorganize the menu, make it work more quickly, and generally train it to behave the way you want it to.
2.2.1 Making the Start Menu Jump to Attention
When you click around the Start menu, you may notice a delay between the moment you select a menu item and the time Windows gets around to displaying it. Since you're not getting any younger , it should come as good news that you can eliminate the delay. Or, if you have slower reflexes (or if you like moldering away in front of your monitor), you can lengthen the delay.
To do it, run the Registry Editor (Section 15.1.2) and then:
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop .
This Registry setting controls many aspects of how the desktop works.
Find the string value MenuShowDelay .
This value tells Windows how long it should pause when you highlight an item on the Start menu. It comes set to 400 milliseconds .
Change the value to 100 or 200 .
A setting of 100 or 200 speeds up the menu noticeably; anything less is imperceptible. If you want a longer delay, change the value to something greater than 400.
Exit the Registry .
You many need to reboot in order for your new settings to take effect. If the new settings are too fast or too slow, re-edit the Registry.
2.2.2 Switching to the Classic Start Menu
Windows XP has a lot of bold, new features ‚ including an outsized Start menu that takes up a ton of room. If you're a back-to-basics kind of person and prefer the way the Start menu worked in previous versions of Windows, you can easily switch back to the classic look. Figure 2-10 compares the two.
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Figure 2-10. Left: Windows XP's Start menu looks dramatically different from the Start menu in previous versions of Windows. It's larger, more cartoon-like, and takes up a lot of acreage. Right: The classic Start menu stacks fewer icons on top of one another and takes up much less space.
To switch to the classic Start menu, right-click the Start menu, choose Properties Classic Start menu, and then click OK.
2.2.3 Tweaking the Start Menu
Windows XP lets you decide how many programs appear on the Start menu, and to some degree, which ones appear and how they're arranged.
Get started with the customization process by right-clicking the Start menu and choosing Properties Start Menu Customize. The Customize Start Menu dialog box opens, displaying the options on the General tab. Figure 2-11 explains the three choices Microsoft's engineers saw fit to give you.
2.2.4 Customizing the Most Frequently Used Programs List
One of the Start menu's more useful features is the list of programs that appears right above the All Programs button (Figure 2-12). For your menu-ing pleasure , you can set the number of programs Windows includes on the list.
To do so, right-click the Start button and choose Properties Customize General. The Customize Start Menu dialog box appears. Change the number next to "Number of programs on Start menu" (you can choose any number between 0 and 30).
To clear all of the current programs from the list ‚ say you've been using several programs recently that you're not going to run anymore ‚ click Clear List. Now you can start fresh.
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Figure 2-11. Change the size of the icons on the Start menu by choosing either Large icons or Small icons. To change which Internet browser and email programs appear at the top of the Start menu, select them from the drop-down lists in the "Show on Start menu" area. If you turn off the Internet and E-mail boxes, these programs disappear from the menu.
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Figure 2-12. Windows XP keeps track of the programs you use most frequently and automatically puts their icons on the Start menu.
Suppose there's a program you want to access quickly that's not on the list, or, conversely, there's a pesky program on the list you no longer want there. In these circumstances, you have to make those changes from within the Start menu itself.
To delete a program , right-click it and select "Remove from This List."
To rename a program on the list, right-click it and choose Rename.
To add a program , click the Start button and then the All Programs menu. From All Programs, right-click any program you want to add, and then drag it to the list.
2.2.5 More Advanced Start Menu Tricks
You can do some deep- tissue customization of the Start menu. Use the Advanced dialog box shown in Figure 2-13.
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Figure 2-13. To reach this dialog box ‚ which lets you bend the Start menu to your will ‚ right-click the Start menu and choose Properties Start Menu Customize Advanced.
The Advanced dialog box has three sections that let you change how the Start menu looks and behaves. Here's what each does:
Start menu settings . This panel gives you control over two settings. If you select "Open submenus when I pause on them with my mouse," the submenu opens automatically after a short delay when you hold your mouse over any of the small arrows next to a Start menu item, such as the one next to My Recent Documents. You can change the amount of delay, as described in Section 2.2.1. (If you don't turn on this option, you have to click an arrow to open a submenu instead of just holding down the mouse.)
When you turn on "Highlight newly installed programs," any new program you've just installed appears highlighted the next time you choose the All Programs menu. This option makes it easier to find that brand-spanking new file-compression program you're just dying to use.
Start menu items . This section lets you determine the items that show up on the Start menu and also tweak some Start menu behavior. You can decide whether to display My Computer, My Documents, My Music, My Network Places, and several other items on the Start menu (by selecting "Display as a link" or "Display as a menu"), or hide them instead (by selecting "Don't display this item").
You can also control features such as whether you can reorganize the Start menu by dragging and dropping items to another part of the menu (to use that feature, select "Enable dragging and dropping"). Finally, you can choose whether to display the "Help and Support" link, a link to your computer manufacturer's Web site, or a link to the Printer and Faxes folder.
Recent documents . If you want the documents you've opened recently to appear on the Start menu, turn on this option. Should you want them not to appear ‚ say you share a computer and you don't want others to see what you're working on ‚ turn it off.
2.2.6 Organizing the All Programs Menu
When you click All Programs on the Start menu, it displays a cascading menu that lets you run any program you have on your PC. When you take your computer out of the box, the list is alphabetized, but as you download new programs, XP usually adds the latest additions to the bottom of the list ‚ essentially throwing alphabetical order out the window. This nonsense makes it difficult to find the program you want quickly (and defeats the purpose of your elementary school training).
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Handcrafting the All Programs Menu
Windows Explorer can help you organize the All Programs menu more quickly. After all, the All Programs menu is nothing more than a collection of shortcuts found in two folders, My Computer C: Documents and Settings [Your Account Name ] Start Menu, and My Computer C: Documents and Settings All Users Start Menu.
For programs that you want to appear at the top of the All Programs menu, place their shortcut icons in one of the Start Menu folders (depending upon whether you want the item to appear only on y our All Programs menu, or on everyone's All Programs menus ). Put the shortcuts for programs that you want to appear on the lower part of the All Programs menu in the Start Menu Programs subfolder, again depending on whether you want the item to appear only on your All Programs menu, or on everyones.
Fortunately, there's a way to restore order to the All Programs menu. In fact, you can create any order you want, like alphabetizing the list or organizing it by frequency of use. What could be more efficient than placing programs you frequently run at the top of the menu, and programs you rarely use at the end?
To move any item on the menu, simply drag it where you want it to appear.
To delete an item , right-click it and then choose Delete.
To sort the entire menu in alphabetical order, right-click an item and choose Sort by Name.
To sort a submenu in alphabetical order, right-click the item in the submenu and choose Sort by Name.