Reorganizing the Start Menu

Normally when you install programs you get yet another entry attached to the Programs menu off of the Start button. As you gradually install more and more programs on your system this menu gets longer and longer and less and less convenient to use. Depending on which version of Windows that you are using you will either get multiple columns of entries across your screen or you will have to scroll the list looking for the entry that you want. Either way finding a particular entry gets more difficult as you add more programs.

How much better would it be if you could categorize your programs and reduce the program menu to a half dozen or so entries? Admittedly you would then have an extra layer of menu to go through to get to the entry that you are looking for but the entries themselves will be much easier to locate and an extra layer of menus will be no more involved than the multi column or scrollable menu anyway.

Actually it is quite easy to do this. Not only that but it is also easy to get the subsequent programs that you install to go directly into the appropriate category sub-menus as part of the install process.

Let's start with reorganizing the existing entries in the menu. To do this you first right click on the start button and select Explore. This will open explorer showing the contents of the start menu. Select the Programs entry to bring up the list of all of the entries in the programs menu.

The next thing to do is to create a new folder here for each of the categories that you intend to divide your menu into. To create a folder select File then New then Folder and then type in the name for your new category.

You need about half a dozen categories that describe general groups of functions performed by the programs on your computer. These categories may include Utilities to contain all of the utility programs that you have on your computer such as backup programs, compression software, antivirus, fire wall, and software to administer your hardware, Internet to contain your browser and other online tools, Business to contain your office suite and other business software, Games, Multimedia to contain your video and sound playing/authoring software, or whatever other organisation of categories makes sense for your computer usage. If you are a software developer you will have one or two categories for development software of various types, if you are a desktop publisher you will have separate categories for text and graphics software, and so on.

Once you have created your new folders, move the other entries in the programs menu into the appropriate category entries by dragging their entries onto the appropriate folder. Once you are finished, the programs folder that you have open in explorer will only have the half a dozen or so folders that you created for your categories and maybe one or two of the previously existing entries that don't fit any of your categories. If you have more than this then think up a new category or two that the remaining entries can be moved into. You can then close the explorer window.

The next time that you go into the programs menu you will find that only those entries that you had in the explorer window now appear in the menu. To actually access the program entries that were in your program menu before you need to go into the appropriate category. Assuming that you picked suitable category names and moved all of the program entries into the appropriate category, finding the program entry you are looking for should now be a much easier task.

So we have now finished reorganizing our existing program entries. What about when we install a new program?

Well most program installations as the last question that they ask before starting the install ask you to confirm the name to be used for the entry to be used in the start menu. Let's say we are installing XYZ Office 2003, then you will probably be asked to confirm that you want the program to be added to the start menu as "XYZ Office". To maintain our category structure we need to change this name slightly. Assuming that we have a business category that we want this entry to appear in we would change the entry to read "Business\XYZ Office" i.e. the category name followed by a backslash (or slosh as some people call it) followed by the appropriate name for the entry which you probably will not want to change. This will then ensure that the new entry for the program menu gets inserted into the appropriate category rather than being in the program menu itself.

This will just leave you with an occasional program that you are installing that is not polite enough to ask you to confirm the name for the program menu. In this instance you will need to once again reorganize the start menu after the install so as to move the entry into the appropriate category.

 

This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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