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This chapter is from the book

Customizing the Start Menu

The Start menu, with its live tiles and easy access (just press the Windows Logo key), is meant to be a kind of automatically and frequently updated bulletin board that tells you what’s going on in your life: your latest messages, your upcoming appointments, the music you’re listening to, the weather, the latest news and financial data, and so on. The key phrase here is “your life,” meaning that it’s unlikely the default configuration of the Start menu will be a reflection of who you are, what you do, and how you use Windows 10. Fortunately, the default Start menu layout isn’t set in stone, so you’re free to customize it by resizing and moving tiles, adding new tiles, and much more. The next few sections provide the details.

Resizing a Tile

The Start menu tiles come in up to four sizes (we say “up to” because not all app tiles support all four sizes). Medium is the most common (see, for example, the default Music and Video tiles), and the other sizes are based on the Medium dimensions: Small is one quarter the size of Medium; Wide is the equivalent of two Medium tiles side-by-side; and Large is the equivalent of four Medium tiles arranged in a square.

The Wide and Large sizes are useful for tiles that are live because the tile has more room to display information. However, if you’ve turned off the live tile for an app (see “Turning Off a Live Tile,” later in this chapter), these bigger tile sizes now seem like a waste of menu real estate, so you might prefer to use the smaller size. Similarly, if you turn on the live tile for an app that’s using the Medium tile size, you might see only limited information in the tile (or none at all if the tile is using the Small size). For example, when the Mail app tile is set to Medium, it shows only the number of new messages you have, compared to showing you a preview of the new messages when the tile is set to Wide.

Whatever the scenario, you can resize a tile by right-clicking it, clicking Resize, and then clicking the size you want (see Figure 4.13).

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 Right-click a tile, click Resize, and then click a tile size.

Moving a Tile

One of the problems many new users have with the Windows 10 Start menu is the slight delay that occurs when they try to find the app they want to launch. This is particularly true when you have many live tiles on the go, because you no longer see the app name in each tile, just the app icon. If this is the case with just the default Start menu tiles displayed, it’s only going to get worse after you start adding more tiles (see “Pinning an App to the Start Menu,” later in this chapter).

One way to reduce this problem is to rearrange the Start menu in such a way that it helps you locate the apps you use most often. For example, you could place your favorite apps on the left side of the screen, or you could arrange similar apps together (for example, all the media-related apps).

Here are the techniques to use to move an app tile:

  • Regular PC—Use your mouse to click and drag the tile and then drop it on the new location.
  • Tablet PC—Use your finger (or a stylus) to tap and drag the tile and then drop it on the new location.

Turning Off a Live Tile

As we mentioned earlier, the Start menu offers a kind of aerial view of what’s happening in your life, and it does this by displaying live content—called tile notifications—on many of the tiles. That seems like a good idea in theory, but much of that live content is not static. For example, if you have multiple email messages waiting for you, the Mail tile continuously flips through previews of each unread message. Similarly, the News and Money tiles constantly flip through several screens of content.

This tile animation ensures that you see lots of information, but it can be distracting and hard on the eyes. If you find that the Start menu is making you less productive instead of more, you can tone down the Start menu by turning off one or more of the less useful live tiles. You do that by right-clicking a tile and then clicking Turn Live Tile Off.

Pinning an App to the Start Menu

One of the significant conveniences of the Start menu is that the apps you see can all be opened with just a couple of clicks or taps. Contrast this with the relatively laborious process required to launch just about any other app on your PC: Display the Start menu, click All Apps, scroll through the list to find the app you want to run, and then click it. Alternatively, you can use the taskbar’s Search box to start typing the name of the app and then click it when it appears in the Search results.

Either way, this seems like a great deal of effort to launch an app, and it’s that much worse for an app you use often. You can avoid all that extra work and make a frequently used program easier to launch by pinning that program to the Start menu.

Follow these steps to pin a program to the Start menu:

  1. Use the Start menu or File Explorer to locate the app you want to pin.
  2. Right-click the app.
  3. Click Pin to Start. Windows 10 adds a tile for the program to the Start menu.

Pinning a Website to the Start Menu

If you have a website that you visit often, you can use the Internet Explorer app to pin the website to the Start menu. This means that you can surf to that site simply by clicking its Start menu tile.

Follow these steps to pin a website to your Start menu using Internet Explorer:

  1. On the Start menu, select All Apps, Windows Accessories, Internet Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the website you want to pin.
  3. Click Settings, which is the gear icon that appears to the right of the Address bar.
  4. Click Add Site to Apps. Click Add when the Add Site to Apps box opens. This adds an icon for the site to the Start menu’s Apps list (the left side of the menu).

  5. Open the Start menu.
  6. Right-click the website icon.
  7. Click Pin to Start. Windows 10 adds a tile for the website to the Start menu.

Follow these steps to pin a website to your Start menu using Microsoft Edge:

  1. On the Start menu, select Microsoft Edge.
  2. Navigate to the website you want to pin.
  3. Click More Actions, which is the ellipsis icon near the upper-right corner of the window.
  4. Click Pin to Start. Windows 10 adds a tile for the website to the Start menu.

Displaying the Administrative Tools on the Start Menu

Windows 10 comes with a set of advanced programs and features called the administrative tools. We cover many of these tools in this book, including Performance Monitor, Resource Monitor, and Services (all covered in Chapter 23, “Windows Management Tools”) as well as Disk Cleanup, Defragment and Optimize Drives, and Computer Management (all covered in Chapter 25, “Managing Hard Disks and Storage Spaces”).

  • arrow.jpg For a rundown of all the administrative tools, see “Reviewing the Control Panel Icons,” p. 217.

Some of these tools are relatively easy to launch. For example, you can press Windows Logo+X or right-click the Start button to display a menu that includes Event Viewer, Disk Management, Computer Management, and a few other administrative tools (see Figure 4.14). However, the rest of these tools are difficult to access in Windows 10. For example, to run Defragment and Optimize Drives, you display the taskbar, type defrag in the Search box, and then click Defragment and Optimize Your Drives in the search results. Other administrative tools aren’t even accessible via an apps or settings search, so instead you need to know the tool’s filename. For example, to run the System Configuration utility, in the taskbar’s Search box, type msconfig and then press Enter.

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14 Press Windows Logo+X to display this handy menu of power user tools, which includes a few of the administrative tools.

This extra effort isn’t that big of a deal if you use the administrative tools only once in a while. If you use them frequently, however, all those extra steps are real productivity killers. Instead, configure the Start menu with a tile for Control Panel’s Administrative Tools icon by following these steps:

  1. Press Windows Logo+X (or right-click the Start button) to display the menu of advanced tools, and then select Control Panel.
  2. Use the View By list to select either Large Icons or Small Icons.
  3. Right-click Administrative Tools.
  4. Select Pin to Start. Windows 10 adds an Administrative Tools tile to the Start menu.

Adding Shutdown and Restart Shortcuts

Although the Start menu does offer a few productivity improvements—at-a-glance info with live tiles, one-click app launching, as-you-type searching—a few tasks are maddeningly (and, in our view, unnecessarily) inefficient. We’re thinking in particular of shutting down and restarting the PC. To perform these tasks using a mouse, you must click the Start button to open the Start menu, click Power, and then click either Shut Down or Restart. It’s just inefficient, particularly if you regularly shut off or reboot your machine.

If you want an easier way of shutting down and restarting your PC, we show you how you can do just that. The basic idea is to create shortcut files that perform the shutdown and restart tasks, and then pin those shortcuts to the Start menu or taskbar, or leave them on the desktop.

So let’s begin with the steps required to create the shortcuts:

  1. Right-click the desktop and then select New, Shortcut. The Create Shortcut dialog box appears.
  2. Type shutdown /s /t 0. This command shuts down your PC. Note that the last character in the command is the number zero.
  3. Click Next. Windows 10 prompts you to name the shortcut.
  4. Type the name you want to use. The name you type is the name that will appear on the Start menu.
  5. Click Finish.
  6. For the restart shortcut, repeat steps 2–5, except in step 3, type shutdown /r /t 0 (again, the last character is a zero).

To help differentiate between these two shortcut files, follow these steps to apply a different icon to each file:

  1. Right-click a shortcut and then click Properties. The shortcut’s Properties dialog box appears.
  2. Click Change Icon. Windows 10 warns you that the shutdown command contains no icons.
  3. Click OK. The Change Icon dialog box appears.
  4. Click the icon you want to use, and then click OK to close the Change Icon dialog box.

  5. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box.
  6. Repeat steps 1–5 to apply a new icon to the other shortcut file.

Finally, you can now pin the shortcuts to either the Start menu or taskbar by right-clicking each shortcut and then clicking Pin to Start or Pin to Taskbar.

Creating an App Group

At first, the right side of the default Start menu appears like nothing so much as a random collection of tiles scattered willy-nilly. However, look closer and you see that there are actually two collections of tiles: the one on the left is labeled Life at a Glance, while the one on the right is labeled Play and Explore. These are called app groups and you can create your own to help organize the Start menu to suit the way you work and play.

Follow these steps to create an app group:

  1. Pin to the Start menu an app, website, or Control Panel icon, as described earlier in this chapter. Alternatively, drag an existing tile to an empty section of the Start menu.
  2. Add the other tiles you want to include in the group and drag each one to the same area of the Start menu as the first tile.
  3. Move the mouse pointer just above the new group until you see an icon with two horizontal bars, and then click that icon. Windows 10 displays a text box above the group, as shown in Figure 4.15.

    Figure 4.15

    Figure 4.15 Move the mouse pointer above the group and click the icon to see the app group’s Name text box.

  4. Type the name you want to use for the group, as shown in Figure 4.15.
  5. Press Enter. Windows 10 applies the name and your new group is ready to use.

You can rename the group at any time (including the default Start menu app groups) by repeating steps 3 and 4.

Customizing the Start Menu’s System Icons

As mentioned earlier, the left side of the Start menu includes a collection of system icons just above the Power button. In a default install, there are two system icons: File Explorer and Settings. However, Windows offers 10 icons in all, including icons that take you to the specific user account folders (such as Documents, Downloads, and Pictures) as well system folders such as HomeGroup and Network. Follow these steps to add one or more of these icons to your Start menu:

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings to display the Settings app. (You can also press Windows Logo+I.)
  2. Click Personalization. The Settings app displays the Personalization window.
  3. Click the Start tab.
  4. If you don’t want see the list of oft-used apps, click the Store and Display Recently Opened Programs in Start switch to Off.
  5. Click Customize List. Settings displays a list of system icons that you can add to the Start menu.
  6. For each icon you want to add to the Start menu, click its switch to On.

Customizing the Start Menu Background

If you’re getting tired of the same old, same old on your Start menu, you can tweak the background and color scheme, as described here:

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings to display the Settings app. (You can also press Windows Logo+I.)
  2. Click Personalization. The Settings app displays the Personalization window.
  3. Click the Colors tab to display the controls shown in Figure 4.16.

    Figure 4.16

    Figure 4.16 Use the Colors tab to customize the Start menu background and colors.

  4. If you want Windows 10 to assign a color to the Start menu background automatically based on the desktop background, click the Automatically Pick a Color from My Background switch to On. If you click this switch to Off, Settings displays a collection of color swatches and you click a swatch to assign that color to the Start menu background.

  5. Use the Show Color on Taskbar, Start, and Action Center switch to toggle the color from step 4 on and off.
  6. By default, the backgrounds of the Start menu, taskbar, and Action Center pane have a slight transparency effect. If you want to disable that effect, click the Make Start, Taskbar, and Action Center Transparent switch to Off.
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