Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > Microsoft Windows Vista & Home Server

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Customizing Your Start Menu

You can change the behavior and look of your Start menu so that it works best for your specific needs. To change Vista's Start menu, right-click on the Start button and select Properties. When the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears, click the Start Menu tab (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5

Figure 3.5 Vista enables you to customize your Start menu to perform the way you want.

Selecting the Start Menu Type and Recently Displayed Programs and Documents

The primary options on the Start menu dialog box let you select between the Start menu option and the Classic Start menu option. Unless you or someone else has changed it, the Start menu option will be selected. This allows Vista to display its Start menu to operate in the Vista style of a one-column set of programs, as explained earlier in this chapter. The Classic Start menu changes your Vista menu to perform more like the Windows XP Start menu that cascaded out to the right as you selected from submenus.

The Privacy section provides two options that determine whether recent documents and programs will appear on your Start menu. The default option displays the programs you've recently run on the Start menu's left pane. The programs you run in the future or the submenus of other programs as you select them from the Start menu will replace the displayed programs.

The Store and Display a List of Recently Opened Files option determines whether the Recent Items entry on the Start menu's right pane (from Table 3.1) appears on your Start menu.

Customize the Start Menu's Right Pane

When you click the Customize button to the right of the Start menu, the Customize Start menu shown in Figure 3.6 appears.

Figure 3.6

Figure 3.6 You control just about every element that appears on your Start menu.

The top half of the Customize Start Menu dialog box determines how menus look and behave on the Start menu. You determine whether most of the items on the Start menu's right pane display (from Table 3.1) by selecting the appropriate option next to each entry. For example, if you click Don't Display This Item under the Control Panel entry, the Control Panel disappears from your Start menu's right pane until you again open this Customize Start Menu dialog box and select either Display as a Link or Display as a Menu.

The difference between the two display options—Display as a Link or Display as a Menu—becomes apparent when you display the Start menu. If you selected the Display as a Menu option for any item on your Start menu's right pane, such as the Control Panel, the Control Panel appears with a small arrow to the right of its entry. This indicates that when you point to Control Panel, a cascading menu showing the Control Panel options flies out to the right of the Start menu—not unlike the Start menu in previous versions of Windows.

Figure 3.7 shows a Start menu with several of the right pane's entries set to display as a menu. Notice the arrows next to them that indicate a submenu will cascade out to the right when a user clicks that item (or rests the mouse pointer over the option). When the user selects an item that appears without an arrow, a folder window opens instead of a submenu flying out to the right of the entry.

Figure 3.7

Figure 3.7 You can change the Start menu's right pane to display submenus or to open the submenu's contents in a folder view when you select the entry.

Modifying Additional Start Menu Settings

The list of options in the Customize Start Menu dialog box doesn't just support changes to the right pane's display. Other options are useful for making your Start menu look and behave according to your preferences. Additional Start menu options in the Customize Start Menu dialog box include the following:

  • Enable Context Menus and Dragging and Dropping—When selected, you can right-click a menu option to display a menu known as a context menu (sometimes called a shortcut menu or a pop-up menu). In addition, you can drag any menu or submenu option to another location on the Start menu. If you don't like the default alphabetical order of your Start menu, drag any entry to another location by clicking and holding that option down with your mouse, and then dragging that item to another Start menu location before releasing your mouse.
  • Highlight Newly Installed Programs—Highlights new entries that represent programs on your Start menu. After you install a new program, that program's menu will be highlighted for several days until you use the program a few times or turn off the highlighting by clicking to uncheck this option.
  • Open Submenus When I Pause on Them with the Mouse Pointer—Opens submenus when you pause your mouse pointer over them instead of requiring that you click your mouse to open the submenu. Some users prefer that Windows not open submenus automatically because they want more time to look at the Start menu before it changes to show the submenu. By clicking to uncheck this option, you must click a menu item before a submenu will open. This is also true of the right pane when you have set its entries to display menus instead of displaying in folder views.
  • Sort All Programs Menu by Name—Ensures that all new programs and entries added to your Start menu appear alphabetically (with submenu folders on the bottom, as opposed to the default on Windows XP where the folders appeared at the top). If you uncheck this option, Vista adds new entries to the bottom of your Start menu.
  • Use Large Icons—Determines whether Vista uses large or small icons to represent Start menu entries. Small icons enable you to see more items, but some displays don't easily lend themselves to adequate viewing of the small icons.

By default, the Run command does not appear on your Start menu, but you can add it by selecting the Run Command option from the Customize Start Menu dialog box. As stated earlier in this chapter, the Run command is less necessary in Vista than in previous Windows versions because of the powerful search box that resides at the bottom of the Start menu.

The Number of Recent Programs to Display option determines how many recently run program icons Vista tacks to the Start menu's left pane. Some users feel that the default value of eight is too many. If you routinely run only three or four programs, you might want to decrease this value to a lower number. If you increase the option's value to a higher number, you probably will have to uncheck the Use Large Icons option to see the recent programs without having to scroll to see them all.

Returning Your Start Menu to Its Default State

At any time, you can click the Use Default Settings button to return your Start menu settings back to their original, newly installed state. You won't be able to put back your customizations after you click the Use Default Settings button unless you've backed up your computer or set a restore point (see Chapters 31, "Restoring Your Windows System to a Previous State," and Chapter 35, "Protecting Your Data and Programs").

Determining Your Start Menu's Internet Browser and Mail Programs

By default, Windows Vista reserves the two top entries in its left pane for your Internet browser and email programs. For example, the user in Figure 3.8 uses Internet Explorer for Internet browsing and Windows Mail for email. You can elect not to display one or both of these and you can change the program your Start menu uses for each of these items.

Figure 3.8

Figure 3.8 You determine which browser and email programs, if any, appear at the top of your Start menu.

The reason the Start menu reserves the top spots for these two entries is because Internet browsing and email are the two most-used applications today. By putting them in the top spots, Vista ensures that they are never more than two clicks away at any time.

Keep the checks next to Internet Link and E-mail Link at the bottom of the Customize Start Menu dialog box if you want to keep these entries. To change the programs Vista uses for these entries, click the down arrow and select a different program. For example, if you want to use Windows Mail instead of Microsoft Office Outlook, you can click the down arrow to open the list of available email programs on your computer and select Windows Mail.

After changing any Start menu settings, click the OK button and then click it again to close the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box to put your new settings into effect.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020