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This chapter is from the book

The Classic Start Menu

The Classic Start Menu is the one that Windows has used since Windows 95 first appeared on the scene. Over the years, Microsoft has made slight changes to the Classic Start Menu, but it's essentially the same as that early version. Figure 3.3 shows the Classic Start Menu for Windows XP. The Windows 2000 version is the same except for color choices. Windows 2000 also has the chiseled 3D look that Windows XP lacks.

Figure 3.3 The Classic Start Menu provides full access to Windows XP features.

As you can see, the Classic Start Menu is quite a departure from the Start Menu described in Chapter 2. The following sections describe two important aspects of the Start Menu. I'll tell you how to use this important part of Windows, and then we'll look at methods for customizing it.


We have viewed several versions of the Windows XP interface and there are more to consider. However, the vast majority of this book will use the Windows XP theme and the classic Start Menu. An informal poll of users during the writing of this book shows that most Windows XP users prefer this combination. You might find that some of your dialog boxes differ slightly from the ones shown in the book if you use some other theme or the Windows XP Start Menu configuration. The appearance will definitely differ if you choose the Windows Classic theme.


The Classic Start Menu provides optimum access to Windows XP features for many power users. The cascading menus hide detail you don't want, yet allow full access to features you do want to use. In addition, the Classic Start Menu doesn't hide anything. The following sections discuss the standard Classic Start Menu entries. We'll discuss the special Time Check folder that appears in "Start Menu Customization" section of this chapter.


The following sections describe a basic setup. You can customize the Start Menu to include other settings. In addition, Start Menu configuration options and local security settings will affect the availability of certain items. You'll want to spend some time working with the configuration options that we discuss in this chapter to create a complete understanding of the Start Menu and learn how you can change it to meet your needs.

Windows Update

Windows XP is proactive about checking for operating system updates. It automatically checks for device driver and other updates for you on a regular basis. However, if you're having a problem with Windows XP, you might want to check for an update manually. That's where the Windows Update entry comes into play. Selecting this option will take you to the Microsoft Windows Update Web site, where you can check for new files. We'll discuss this feature in detail in the "Using Windows Update" section of Chapter 4.


Every application you install in Windows XP that provides application icons will place them under this menu. Windows XP also places under this menu the icons for the applications it provides. You'll use the program icons to start applications. Of course, most applications also provide file associations that automatically start the application when you double-click a file icon. The Programs folder is the one that users organize most often because you end up with an unwieldy list of icons otherwise.


You can save yourself some reorganization time by installing application icons in the correct location. Most modern applications ask where to place the application icons in the Start Menu. Many people accept the default location, which is normally under the Programs menu. This choice leads to the excessive number of program icons that most of us have to battle. You can always install the application icons in a custom folder with other icons of the same type. Of course, this means that the installation program lumps your application icons together, which still leads to clutter. Another alternative is to use the default name, but to prepend a common folder name. For example, if you're installing Corel Draw and you use Graphics as a common folder, the icon installation location might look like \Graphics\Corel Draw instead of Corel Draw alone. This little tip also ensures that the uninstall program can find the application icons later and remove them when you remove the application from your system.


This menu contains a list of the ten documents you've accessed most recently. Some people find that the Documents menu contains everything they need. It works well if you spend most of your time working on just a few documents. However, most of us are working on more than one project at a time and a list of ten files is pretty much useless. I'll show you how to get around this problem in the "Folders: A Real Organizational Tool" section of Chapter 6.


The Settings menu allows you to access most of the settings for your Windows setup. It contains a minimum of four entries, each of which appears in this list:

  • Control Panel Depending on how you set this entry up, you'll either create a separate window or see a menu of additional entries. Each entry is an applet that controls a particular element of your system. For example, one applet allows you to add or remove applications, and another applet allows you to add or remove hardware. We discuss the Control Panel in detail in the "Control Panel" section of Chapter 7.

  • Network Connections This menu contains a list of your network connections. It contains entries for not only the local area network (LAN), but also any dial-up connections you have. The Make New Connection applet allows you to add connections to your system as needed. We'll discuss dial-up connections in detail in the "Creating a Connection" section of Chapter 20. Network connectivity issues appear in Chapter 21, "Networks."

  • Printers and Faxes Every printer or fax you can access will appear on this menu. Interestingly enough, the menu often fails to show the fax support for a local modem. Both local and remote printers will appear, however, allowing you to change their configuration if you have sufficient rights. An Add Printer applet will allow you to add new printers, but not faxes. We'll discuss printer connectivity in the "Installing a Printer" section of Chapter 14.

  • Taskbar and Start Menu Displays the Taskbar and Start Menu dialog box, shown in Figure 3.1. We'll discuss the Start Menu features of this dialog box in the "Start Menu Customization" section of this chapter. Taskbar customization tips appear in the "Using Toolbars" and "Customizing Your Desktop" sections, later in this chapter.


Windows XP makes it easy for you to find what you need. Not only does it provide the Search buttons in both Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, but you can also use the options on this Search menu. The following list tells about each option:

  • For Files or Folders Select this option to display a copy of Windows Explorer with the Search Explorer Bar selected. In this case, Explorer optimizes the Search Explorer Bar for local searches using the Index Server when available. We'll discuss the Search Explorer Bar in the section "Using the Explorer Bars" of this chapter.

  • On the Internet Select this option to display a copy of Internet Explorer with the Search Explorer Bar selected. In this case, Explorer optimizes the Search Explorer Bar for Internet searches using the online search engines you select. We'll discuss some ways to get around limitations of this search feature in the "Using the Explorer Bars" section of this chapter.

  • For People Select this option to display the special Find People dialog box, shown in Figure 3.4. We'll discuss this dialog box later in this section.

Figure 3.4 Use the Find People dialog box to locate someone locally or remotely.

When you first start using Windows, you'll see the Search Companion display. You can also set Windows to use the Search dialog box that appeared in Windows 2000. All you need to do is use the Tools | Folder Options command in Windows Explorer to display the Folder Options dialog box. Select the View tab and clear the Use Search Companion for Searching option (found in the Advanced Settings list). Click OK, and Windows will use the Search dialog box found in Windows 2000. Unfortunate as it may seem, there isn't any way to access the Search dialog box found in Windows 9x.

The only dialog box not affected by the Use Search Companion for Searching option is the For People menu entry. You'll always see the dialog box shown in Figure 3.4. Notice that you can use a number of criteria to find people, including their name, e-mail address, street address, telephone number, or other criteria when working with your address book.

The number of entries on the People tab of the Find People dialog box will change when you select other locations. For example, when you select Yahoo! People Search, the People tab contains only the Name and E-mail fields. However, this online search option exposes the Advanced tab shown in Figure 3.5. As you can see, the Find People dialog box now allows you to specify a freeform search to reduce online search time.

Figure 3.5 Certain Look In field options activate the Advanced tab that allows you to perform freeform searches.

Notice that the Web Site button is no longer grayed out in Figure 3.5, as it was in Figure 3.4. Click Web Site if you want to open a copy of Internet Explorer. Search will send you directly to the Web site listed in the Look In field. The Web site will often support more search options than the Find People dialog box does, allowing you to extend your search in other ways.

After you enter the search criteria, click Find Now. The Find People dialog box will extend, as shown in Figure 3.6. Highlight any of the names, and select Properties to find out more about the person you've selected. The Properties dialog box contains all of the same entries that you'd find in the Address Book Properties dialog box. You may also see a General tab containing search-site-specific information about the person. The Add to Address Book button allows you to add to your Address book someone found on a Web site or within Active Directory, and the Delete button allows you to remove the person's name from your Address Book.


The screen shot shown in Figure 3.6 purposely has the names found during the search blanked out for privacy reasons. Normally, you'd see a list of names in the dialog box.

Figure 3.6 Finding a person's name allows you to contact him via e-mail or perform other tasks.

Help and Support

Selecting this menu option displays the general Help and Support Services dialog box, shown in Figure 3.7. This is a new approach to an age-old problem for Windows XP. Help and Support Services provides access to all of the latest information about Windows XP. It also provides access to support tools you use to repair or maintain your system. We'll discuss this feature in detail in the "A Look at Help and Support " section of Chapter 25.

Figure 3.7 Help and Support Services is the centralized location to find out more about Windows XP.


You'll use the Run menu entry to start applications without using the Programs menu on the Start Menu. Not every utility provided with Windows has an icon in the Start Menu. Microsoft doesn't provide direct icon access for some utilities because it feels that average users won't need to use the utilities or that they are too dangerous to expose to novice users. For example, if you want to use the Registry Editor (RegEdit), you'll need to know how to access it outside the normal Start Menu entries.

The Run option displays a Run dialog box, where you can type of the name of an application to run. You can also use the Browse button in this dialog box to find utilities on your hard drive. The Run option works best for GUI- (graphical user interface) based applications, such as the Registry Editor. Some character-mode applications, such as Telnet, will also work using the Run dialog box. You need to create a command prompt for character mode applications, such as IPConfig.

Don't worry if this option doesn't make much sense to you right now. All you need to know is that it allows you to run certain types of applications. We'll explore both the Run dialog box and the command prompt in detail as this book progresses.

Log Off

Use this option to log off your system without shutting it down. You'll see a Log Off Windows dialog box with two buttons when you select this option. (Note that you might not see this button when using Windows XP Professional Edition; you must check the Display Log Off option in the Customize Classic Start Menu dialog box.)

The Switch Users button allows you to close your current session and open a new one under a different name. This option allows you to keep your application active while someone else works on your system for a few minutes.

The Log Off button allows you to log off without shutting down, but it closes all your applications. This option is the one to choose if you plan to leave your desk for a while or if you want to provide remote access without using any local resources.

Shut Down

Select the Shut Down menu option when you want to turn your computer off or restart it. You'll see a Turn Off Computer dialog box containing three buttons:

  • Stand By Places the system in a standby, or reduced power, state. The system still has power applied to it, but uses much less power. Just how much power the system uses depends on the system design, but it's in the neighborhood of 7 watts—the equivalent of burning a nightlight. The main advantage of using standby is that it increases system longevity by reducing the shock of turning the system completely off and on. However, this mode does bring more dust into some machines and does consume a small amount of power.

  • Shut Down Turns the system completely off. All of the fans stop running, and no power is applied to the system. This mode is the one to choose if you plan to leave for a while, when you need to maintain the inside of the machine, or if you need to move the machine to another location. This is also your only option for shutting the machine down if your system doesn't support the Advanced Power Control Interface (ACPI). We'll discuss ACPI in the "Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)" section of Chapter 9.

  • Restart Shuts Windows completely down and performs a soft boot of the system. Your machine will appear to turn itself on and then restart automatically. This is the option to use if you need to restart your system for some reason. For example, many application installation programs require that you restart the machine immediately after the installation completes.

Start Menu Customization

Customizing the Classic Start Menu is different from the simplified Start Menu described in Chapter 2. You'll begin the same way, by clicking Customize in the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box. (You access this dialog box by right clicking the Taskbar and choosing Properties from the context menu.) Windows will display the Customize Classic Start Menu dialog box, shown in Figure 3.8.

Figure 3.8 The Customize Classic Start Menu dialog box enables you to change your Start Menu appearance.

Notice that the list of advanced Start Menu options appears on the same dialog box as the other options. Along the right side of the dialog box, you'll see options for adding, removing, and sorting the Start Menu entries. Clicking the Advanced button displays a copy of Windows Explorer with the Start Menu directory selected. This allows you to perform tasks such as organizing your Start Menu for efficient use. Click the Clear button, and Windows XP will remove the entries from your Documents list, along with the application and Web site lists.

It pays to try the entries in the Advanced Start Menu options list. For example, I like to see the Control Panel applets displayed as a submenu below the Start | Settings | Control Panel menu, so I check the Expand Control Panel option. If you're an administrator, you might find it more convenient to display the Administrative Tools folder within the Programs menu. This allows you to select applications without searching for them in the Control Panel.

Customizing the Start Menu content is also something you should consider. For example, Figure 3.3 shows a Time Check entry. I have an application I use to track the time I spend on various projects. This application also tells me how many hours of "up time" the computer has had for maintenance purposes. It's an application I use all the time, but it's not important enough to place on the Quick Launch toolbar. Still, I don't want to spend time digging for it.

Adding new entries to the Start Menu is relatively easy, but you should take time to consider the placement of these new entries. I placed the Time Check folder at the root level because I use it so often. You may want to place other folders at other levels because they aren't as important. To see your current Start Menu structure, right-click Start and choose Explore from the context menu. Figure 3.9 shows a typical Windows Explorer view of the Start Menu.

Figure 3.9 Use this Windows Explorer view to modify your personal Start Menu entries.

The first thing you should notice is the Programs folder, which contains all of my private applications. The second thing you should notice is that the Time Check folder is missing. This brings up another issue. You need to consider whether you want everyone, or just one or two people, to access this folder. If you right-click Start and choose Explore All Users, you'll see a Windows Explorer view similar to the one shown in Figure 3.9, but this time it affects every user of your machine.

Figure 3.10 shows the All Users\Start Menu entry. Notice that this folder contains the Time Check folder. I placed the Time Check folder here because everyone who uses my machine will need to track the time they use. In short, because Time Check is a common application that everyone uses regularly, it appears above the Programs folder in the All Users\Start Menu folder. As you can see, changing the content of your Start Menu is easy, but deciding how to change it requires some amount of experimentation.

Figure 3.10 It's important to decide on common versus individual applications.

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