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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Customizing the New Menu

One of Windows XP’s handiest features is the New menu, which enables you to create a new file without working within an application. In Windows Explorer, select File, New, or right-click inside the Contents pane and select New. In the submenu that appears, you’ll see items that create new documents of various file types, including a folder, shortcut, bitmap image, WordPad document, text document, compressed folder, and possibly many others, depending on your system configuration and the applications you have installed.

What mechanism determines whether a file type appears on the New menu? The Registry, of course. To see how this works, start the Registry Editor and open the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT key. As you’ve seen, most of the extension subkeys have only a Default setting that’s either blank (if the extension isn’t associated with a registered file type) or a string file that points to the extension’s associated file type.

However, lots of these extension keys also have subkeys and a few of them have a subkey named ShellNew, in particular. For example, open the .bmp key and you see that it has a subkey named ShellNew. This subkey is what determines whether a file type appears on the New menu. Specifically, if the extension is registered with Windows XP and it has a ShellNew subkey, the New menu sprouts a command for the associated file type.

The ShellNew subkey always contains a setting that determines how Windows XP creates the new file. Four settings are possible:


This setting, the value of which is always set to a null string (""), tells Windows XP to create an empty file of the associated type. Of the file types that appear on the default New menu, three use the NullFile setting: Text Document (.txt), Bitmap Image (.bmp), and WordPad Document (.doc).


This setting tells Windows XP to create the new file by making a copy of another file. Windows XP has special hidden folders to hold these template files. These folders are user-specific, so you'll find them in %USERPROFILE%\Templates. On the default New menu, only the Wave Sound (.wav) file type uses the FileName setting, and its value is sndrec.wav. To see this value, you need to open the following key:



This setting tells Windows XP to create the new file by executing a specific command. This command usually invokes an executable file with a few parameters. Two of the New menu's commands use this setting:

  • Shortcut—The .lnk\ShellNew key contains the following value for the Command setting:

  • rundll32.exe appwiz.cpl,NewLinkHere %1

  • Briefcase—In the .bfc\ShellNew key, you'll see the following value for the Command setting:

    %SystemRoot%\system32\rundll32.exe %SystemRoot%\system32\syncui.dll,Briefcase_Create %2!d! %1


This setting contains a binary value, and when Windows XP creates the new file, it copies this binary value into the file. The New menu's Compressed (Zipped) Folder command uses this setting, which you can find here:


Adding File Types to the New Menu

To make the New menu even more convenient, you can add new file types for documents you work with regularly. For any file type that’s registered with Windows XP, you follow a simple three-step process:

  1. Add a ShellNew subkey to the appropriate extension key in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.

  2. Add one of the four settings discussed in the preceding section (NullFile, FileName, Command, or Data).

  3. Type a value for the setting.

In most cases, the easiest way to go is to use NullFile to create an empty file. However, the FileName setting can be quite powerful because you can set up a template file containing text and other data.

Deleting File Types from the New Menu

Many Windows XP applications (such as Microsoft Office) like to add their file types to the New menu. If you find that your New menu is getting overcrowded, you can delete some commands to keep things manageable. To do this, you need to find the appropriate extension in the Registry and delete its ShellNew subkey.

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