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Customizing the Windows 7 Interface

Contents
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  1. Boosting Your Desktop IQ
  2. Making the Start Menu Work for You
  3. Making the Taskbar Dance

Making the Start Menu Work for You

The Start button provides access to your computer’s menu system. Clicking the Start button displays the Start menu. You also can display the Start menu by pressing the Windows logo key on your keyboard or by pressing Control+Esc.

As you probably know, and as Figure 1-4 shows, the Start menu allows you to run programs, open folders, search your computer, get help, and more. What you may not know is how to customize the Start menu so that it works the way you want it to.

Figure 1-4

Figure 1-4 Getting the most from the Start menu

Customizing the Programs List

The left pane of the Start menu displays pinned programs and recently used programs. You can customize the programs list by pinning items to the Start menu and by changing the number of recently used programs to display.

Programs pinned to the Start menu are listed in the uppermost section of the programs list for quick access to your favorite programs. You can pin a program to the Start menu by following these steps:

  1. Click Start, click All Programs, and then locate the program’s menu entry.

  2. Right-click the program’s menu entry and click Pin To Start Menu.

By default, pinned items are listed in the order in which they are added. You can rearrange pinned items by clicking them and dragging up or down until the desired list position is reached. If you no longer want a program to be pinned to the Start menu, you can unpin it by right-clicking its entry on the Start menu and selecting Unpin From Start Menu.

On the Start menu, recently used programs are listed in the lower portion of the programs list. You can remove a program from the recently used list by right-clicking it and then selecting Remove From This List. However, this won’t prevent the program from being added to the list in the future.

You can customize the recent programs list by completing the following steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button, and then select Properties.

  2. In the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, click Customize on the Start Menu tab. Set the Number Of Recent Programs To Display option to the desired value.

  3. By using small icons instead of large icons, you can display more programs on the list. Scroll down the list of options and clear the Use Large Icons check box.

  4. Save your changes by clicking OK twice.

You can remove the recent programs list and make this extra space available for pinned programs by completing the following steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button and then select Properties.

  2. Clear the Store And Display Recently Opened Programs In The Start Menu check box, and then click OK.

Customizing the Important Folders and Tools List

The right pane of the Start menu provides quick access to important folders and tools, such as Documents, Pictures, Music, and Control Panel. If you upgraded from an earlier version of Windows, you’ll notice that some of the familiar folders don’t exist in Windows 7 or have been renamed.

In Windows 7, your documents are stored by default in personal folders under %HomeDrive%\%HomePath%. You can quickly open your personal folder by clicking the entry on the Start menu that shows your user name.

Opening your personal folder gives you direct access to its subfolders, such as Documents, Pictures, and Music, so you don’t need related entries on the Start menu. Therefore, one way to clean up Start menu clutter is to remove these unnecessary options. If you don’t play the built-in Windows games, you can remove the Games options as well.

You can remove features from the Start menu’s right pane by using the Customize Start Menu dialog box. Right-click the Start button, and then select Properties. In the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, click Customize on the Start Menu tab. In the Customize Start Menu dialog box, you can remove unwanted items in two ways:

  • Clear the related check box, such as the Default Programs option.

  • Set their related list option to Don’t Display This Item.

While you are working with the Customize Start Menu dialog box you may want to optimize other options as well. Here are some suggestions:

  • Computer Display this as a menu so that you can more quickly open specific drives and removable media.

  • Control Panel If you’re not a fan of Category Control Panel, display this as a menu so that you can more quickly access specific Control Panel utilities.

  • Devices And Printers Make sure you select this option, because it is the quickest way to get to your devices and printers.

  • Default Programs Clear this option, because you’ll hardly ever use it (and if you need it, it is in Control Panel).

  • Help Select this option, because it may come in handy in a pinch.

  • Search Programs And Control Panel Make sure you select this option, because the Search box is the quickest way to find programs and tools.

  • System Administrative Tools If you have appropriate permissions, select Display On The All Programs Menu And The Start Menu so you have quicker access to system tools.

Below the common folder and feature buttons in the right pane of the Start menu, you’ll find your computer’s Shut Down button. When you click the Shut Down options button (the arrow to the right of “Shut down”), the available options include:

  • Switch user Switches users so another user can log on

  • Log off Logs off the computer and ends your user session

  • Lock Locks the computer so that a logon screen is displayed

  • Restart Shuts down and then restarts the computer

  • Sleep Puts the computer in sleep mode, if possible given the system configuration and state

Your computer’s power configuration determines whether and how sleep mode works. When working with sleep mode, it is important to remember that the computer is still drawing power and that you should never install hardware inside the computer when it is in the sleep state.