Using the Start Menu

A stereo is a machine that lets you play CDs. A VCR is a machine that lets you play VCR. A computer is a machine that lets you run programs. Just because you own a stereo or VCR doesn't mean you own every CD and video tape ever created. The same is true of computers. Different people have different programs on their computers. And you buy programs in much the same way you buy CDs and videotapes. (But you can't "rent" programs).

All the programs that are on your computer are accessible from the Windows Start menu. When you first click the Start button, the left side of the Start menu shows icons for some (but not all) of the programs on your computer. The right side of the menu displays options for "places" like the Help and Support Center, and folders where you store documents, pictures, and music.Figure 1 shows a sample Start menu. Everyone's looks different though, because not everybody has the same programs.

Figure 1

Icons on the left side of the Start menu represent only a few of the programs on your computer. To see icons for all the programs on your computer, you need to click on (you guessed it), All Programs. When you point to (or click on) All Programs, a much larger menu opens, giving you access to all your programs. Some of the items on the Start menu actually represent groups of programs. You can tell which one represent groups by the ► at the right side of the menu option. When you point to, or click on one of those menu items, you see still more programs, as in the example in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Most beginners have no idea how many programs they have, or what the names of those programs are. If you fall into that category, you may want to take a minute now to look around. That is, click the Start button then click on All Programs. Then, any time you see a menu option with a ► on it, point to it or click on it to see the name of programs in that group. Read some of the program names, and look at their icons, just to start getting familiar with what you have on your computer.

Personalizing your Start Menu

The All Programs menu will probably be intimidating for a newbie (beginner). But we don't need to worry about that right now. More importantly, you' want to have at least the options shown in Figure 3 on the right side of your Start menu.

Figure 3

If you click the Start button, and don't see all of the options shown in the right side of that menu, you can follow the steps below to customize your Start menu so its right side does display those options:

  1. Right-click the Start button and then choose (click on) the Properties option, as in Figure 2.

Figure 4

  1. A dialog box titled Taskbar and Start Menu Properties opens. Make sure the "Start Menu" option is selected, then click on the Customize button next to that option as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

  1. In the Customize Start Menu dialog box that opens, click on the Advanced tab. You'll see a list of a bunch of option in the dialog box.

  2. If you want your Start menu to look and act like the one you see in the figures here, select options in your own dialog box to match those shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6

  1. The center of of the dialog box shows a long list of Start Menu Items. There's no rule that says you must set up your Start menu a particular way. (If there were, there wouldn't be options for changing them). But if you want your Start menu to resemble the one shown in the figures here, I suggest you choose the options indicated by red arrows in Figure 7.


Figure 7

Tip: In reference to Figure 7, items with an icon next to them (like Control Panel, My Computer, etc.) might hide their options. If you come across one of those, double-click the icon to reveal the options beneath it, as in the example shown here in this tip.

  1. After making your changes, click the OK button in the each of the two open dialog boxes to save your changes and close the dialog boxes.

Click the Start button now. You'll see that the right side of your Start menu now contains the options you specified in the steps above. Of course, you haven't made any lifelong commitments here. You can open up those same dialog boxes and make any changes you want, at any time in the future.


Alan Simpson