The Start Menu
The Start Button
The Start Menu Button is located on the Task Bar, which is most commonly found on the bottom half of the screen. The Start Button launches the Start Menu, which is the main access point to both the user programs that are installed on the system, and the system resources which control the behavior of the OS. If you are looking for a program or a system setting, this is the best place to start.
The Start Menu
There are two different version of the Start Menu, a "Classic" and a "XP" version. Unlike all of the other differences we have seen this thus far, the differences between these two versions extend beyond their look and feel. The "Classic" Start Menu is similar to those found in the previous version of Windows, and is thus probably more comfortable to use for those who have upgraded from earlier versions. To switch between these two versions, right-click on the Taskbar, select properties, and then click on the "Start Menu" tab.
Regardless of the version you choose to use you will want to be familiar with the Programs tab. The Programs tab is the default location that installers place program execution shortcuts. You navigate the menu by moving your mouse over the appropriate icon or folder. The folders expand to reveal another sub menu, allowing you to navigate further into the hierarchy, and the icons launch programs when you click on them. You can place additional shortcuts by creating additional folders or shortcuts in the Start Menu folder in your user settings. I suggest only altering objects beneath the Programs level since the "XP" version of the Start Menu will reflect these items below the Programs level regardless.To get to the appropriate folder:
- Launch My Computer
- Select the volume in which Windows is installed on (C: by default)
- Navigate to Windows Volume:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Start Menu\
Windows Volume:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\You should note that any changes that you make in this folder will affect all of the other users on the system.
Two other options on either Start Menu are Help and Support and Run. Help and Support is the first place to go if you are looking for information on how to do something in the OS; if you are looking for information on how to do something within a program you should consult the program's help file, which can usually be found on the toolbar at top. Run is a tool that can be used to execute programs, specifically system programs such as msconfig, or cmd. msconfig allows you to configure windows startup options, and cmd launches a command line interface similar to an old OS known as DOS.
There are many of options that can make your Start Menu fit your personal style. To look at these options right-click on the Taskbar, select properties, click on Start Menu, and then click on customize.
Classic Start Menu
The Classic Start Menu, is a far simpler design than the version found in the XP theme. This version is much more tree-like, with very few options at the base level; most everything found here is a branch that expands into other areas. A few components that any Windows user should be familiar with are:
- Settings - Contains the Control Panel, which will be discussed in detail on the next page, and other individual settings that you can choose from in the customization options such as Printers and Network Connection; these items themselves are components of the Control Panel
- Search - This is the fastest way to find files on your computer. It can also be used to search the internet, and 3rd party programs often install other options in here that are program specific.
- Windows Update - This option is a quick link to the Microsoft web site that is used to keep your Windows Operating System up-to-date with all of the latest patches and upgrades. It is always a good idea to make sure that you check for updates since security updates are released constantly.
One particular customization option that you should take a look at is the "Personalized Menus" option. With this option on, programs you don't use that often are not displayed immediately when you browse through Programs, and you have to click on the double arrows located at the bottom of the menu to display all of the programs. This option is on by default, but can often hide programs that you installed on your computer.
The XP Start Menu
The XP Start Menu may look very different than the Classic Start Menu, but it is very similar in many ways; many of the features have just been moved around. The XP Start Menu is very flat in the sense that it has no layers by default except for the Programs tab. On the right side of the Start Menu are the programs and system controls that would normally either be found on the Desktop or in the Settings tab. You can, by editing the Taskbar and Start Menu control panel, make these icons expand into sub components. The left side of this Start Menu is much more interesting. The top two components are whatever shortcut is registered with Windows as your default Internet Browser and Email Application. Although there are none pictured on the Start Menu below the rest of that space would be dedicated to the programs that you use most frequently; the number of which can be altered through the Taskbar and Start Menu control panel. The last item found is your full listing of programs.