Thursday, June 28, 2007

Start Hacking

If you use WindowsXP the way most people do, you use the Start Menu a lot. If you've got the itch to take some control over Windows, the Start Menu is a good place to, well, start. Why? Cause you can't hurt anything and you might make a busy button a little more convenient.

Start by right clicking on the Start Button and then left clicking on Properties. The first box gives you two options: Start menu and Classic Start menu. Classic Start just goes back to the squarish look of previous Windows versions. Try it if you want, it can't hurt anything and it's just a couple of clicks to restore the New, More Rounded, Modern Start menu.

Once you're past that thrill, you can try something useful. Click on Customize. (I'm going to talk about Start, not Classic Start, but you can customize either -- the options are just a little different).

Large icons or Small icons just saves a little space -- or eyestrain -- depending on what you choose.

Number of programs on Start menu is a little more interesting. You've probably noticed that the Start menu keeps a list of programs on the left side of the menu. It's actually two lists.

The top list doesn't change -- it's programs that you -- or some program -- have decided to keep handy. You can easily add a program to the list: just right click on the program's icon (or its shortcut icon), then left click on Pin to Start menu. It will stay there until you get rid of it. How do you do that? Click on the Start menu, move the cursor up the program you want to delete, right click it and then left click on Unpin from Start menu.

The list of programs on the bottom left side of the Start menu does change. It tries to keep handy the programs you use most. The more you use a program, and the more recently, the more likely it is to be on the list.

Number of programs on the Start menu lets you decide how many programs to keep handy. Just click on the up or down arrow to set the number. You can go up to 30 or down to zero. You can also type the number in the box if you find the little arrows irritating.

Just to the right and a little below the Number of programs box is a button that says Clear list. If you click it, it clears the list -- but you guessed that. Why would you want to clear the list of programs you use most often? How would I know? One possibility is that you had a flurry of activity involving programs that you generally don't use very much. They took over the list and now you don't need them anymore. They'd go away eventually, cut clearing the list can speed up the process.

Last two options: Internet and E-mail. The words have little check boxes to the left of them. If you check the boxes, you get to use the drop-down boxes on the right to choose a web browser and e-mail program to pin to the upper left list on the Start menu.

Of course you could do almost the same thing by right clicking on the browser or e-mail program icon and choosing Pin to Start menu. What's the difference? Brace yourself.

If you pin the program the regular way, it will show up on the list with its name. "Mozilla Firefox," or "Outlook Express," for example. If you select the program using the check box and drop-down menu, the program shows up on the list as "Internet" or "E-mail." The name of the actual program you chose is written underneath in a smaller, lighter font.

If the difference isn't obvious, I'll try to explain it. By having it labeled "Internet" or "E-mail" you're making that particular program the official browser or e-mail client. Any other browsers or e-mail clients you pin to the start menu are just programs you could use to do the same thing, not the programs you chose to be the official doers of browsing or email.

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