Windows 7 / Getting Started

Customizing Navigation Shortcuts

You will find many new navigation links on the Start menu that will help you navigate to various parts of Windows. All these shortcut buttons on the right side of the Start menu can be customized. Many can be removed completely, and others can be added. By default, you will see a button with your username followed by buttons for Documents, Pictures, and Music. All these buttons are shortcuts to your personal libraries. The next set - Games and Computer - are more functional navigation shortcuts that allow you to jump to the most common system components. The last four shortcuts offer you a way to access system configuration components such as Control Panel, Devices and Printers, Default Programs, and a convenient shortcut to Help and Support for new users.

Some shortcuts are not displayed, such as the classic Run button and Favorites. Other features, such as Display as a Menu which converts buttons into a nested menu, are also disabled. This feature can be very useful in some situations. For example, if you enable Display as Menu on the Computer button, you will see a list of drivers that you can jump directly to. This eliminates a few extra clicks that will help you get where you want to go faster.

All these features and shortcuts are customizable on one screen. Follow these steps to access the Start menu Customization screen:

  1. Right-click the Start button and click Properties.
  2. On the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button on the top right of the window. This loads the Customize Start Menu window.
  3. Scroll through the list and make changes to the items as you see fit. Refer to the sections that follow for my recommendations.
  4. When finished adjusting the options, click OK twice to close Taskbar Properties. Your changes will be live instantly.

Now that you know how to change the settings, the next few sections guide you through my recommendations for creating a clean and powerful Start menu.

Hiding User Folders

Having all the user folders on the Start menu can be useful for some but not for me. You are already given a button that has your username on it. Through that button, you can access your music, pictures, and documents. Having these extra folders visible is just cluttering the Start menu and taking up real estate that could be better spent.

To clean up the user folders, set these options on the Customize Start Menu window:

  • Documents: Select Don't display this item.
  • Music: Select Don't display this item.
  • Pictures: Select Don't display this item.
  • Games: Select Don't display this item. You can reach the games through the normal Start/All Programs menu.

Customizing Feature and Management Shortcuts

The feature shortcut and management buttons such as Help and Support also take up a lot of space on your Start menu. I rarely find myself using any of these buttons with the exception of Computer. The others I have pinned to my taskbar, or you can find them in the Notification area. Here are my recommendations for these two sections:

  • Connect To: Clear the checkbox. You can access this in the Notification area.
  • Computer: Set to Display as a menu.
  • Default Programs: Clear the checkbox.
  • Help: Clear the checkbox.
  • Network: Clear the checkbox. You can access this in the Notification area.
  • Devices and Printers: Check. The only other place you can get this is in Control Panel, which is inconvenient if you print a lot.
  • Run command: Check if you like the old Run button. You can use the Search box now as a Run box, too, but some may still like the old Run box.
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