Windows 7: Secrets of the Start menu (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jul 26, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - If you use Windows 7, you almost certainly use the Start menu on a daily basis. But how much do you really know about it? Sure, it's the default way to launch applications and even to search for files and programs.
But there's more to the Start menu - much more. Microsoft has tucked away lots of little surprises and a surprising amount of customisation options in the updated Start menu.
Read on for a taste of what you've probably been missing.
--- Launch URLs
Launching programs is just the beginning of what you do with the Windows 7 Start orb. You can think of the Start menu as a web browser, too - or at least a launchpad for web pages. For example, you can go directly to any domain by opening the Start menu and typing the web address, as in http://microsoft.com.
Or, even better, you can use the Start menu just like a search engine. To do so, first open the Start menu and type 'gpedit.msc,' and then press Enter. The Local Group Pollicy Editor will open.
From there, in the left-hand pane under User Configuration, expand the Administrative Templates folder, and then select Start Menu and Taskbar. In the right-hand pane, double-click 'Add Search Internet link to Start Menu,' and click Enabled in the resulting dialog box.
Click OK. Once you've done that, you can open the Start menu and type any search phrase, just as you would in a search engine. Directly above the search field will be an item labeled 'Search the Internet.' Click that, and your web browser will launch, with the search results for your phrase displayed immediately.
--- Pin apps and files
Applications find their way to the top level of the Start menu according to how recently or how often they're used. That's a handy feature, but most of us have programs that we'd like to have always pinned to the top level for quick access.
There are a couple of ways to pin programs permanently to the top level of the Start menu. First, if you open your Start menu and see a program that you'd like to have permanently on the top level, just grab it with your mouse cursor and start dragging it to the top of the Start menu.
The words 'Pin to Start menu' will appear, and at that point you can simply let the icon go, and it will be pinned to the top of the menu.
If you are a couple of levels into the Start menu and you see a program you want pinned to the top level, just right-click the icon and select 'Pin to Start menu' from the context-sensitive menu. Again, the application will be pinned to the top of the menu.
You can also pin documents or files to the top of your Start menu. To do so, locate the file using Windows Explorer or another file selection tool, and drag the file to the Start orb. When you see the words 'Pin to Start menu,' just release your mouse button, and your file will snap to the top of the Start menu.
--- Customise it
If you haven't customised your Windows 7 Start menu, find out what you've been missing. Right-click the Start menu, and select Properties from the pop-up menu. In the resulting Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box, click the Customise button to launch the Customise Start Menu dialog.
There, you'll see a couple dozen ways that you can make the Start menu your own - and make it much more useful than it is by default. Many of the options there control the items that appear on the right side of the Windows 7 Start menu.
For instance, you can give yourself direct Start-menu access to features you probably considered the domain of other applications. Your browser's Favourites menu, for example, can be ported directly to the right side of the Start menu, as can links to your network, documents, homegroup, downloads, and videos.
You can even bring back the Run command, which was available by default in the Start menu of earlier version of Windows. You can also create more space in the Start menu by turning off the 'large icons' option.
Finally, notice the 'Number of recent programs to display' setting at the bottom of the Customise Start Menu dialog box. Adjust this number up or down to change how many recently-launched applications show on the top level of the Start menu - on the left-hand side. Increasing the number from the default of 10 will, of course, make your Start menu longer.
If you end up being unhappy with your customisations of the Start menu and want to return to the default settings, click the Use Default Settings button.