Windows XP Tip

Pat Asks About Her Start Menu
I have a lot of programs on my computer (probably too many!) and my "Start- Programs" can't show them all.  XP suggests I make the icons smaller.  I have, but it still can't show them all.  Any suggestions to remedy this (besides removing programs - I use them all!)? Thanks, Pat

The Windows XP Start Menu is much improved over the start menu which came with previous versions of Windows. Still, it's not very good, to be frank. Windows Vista's start menu is good and those of you who will be upgrading to it will notice that finally, after all these years, they've finally made it work like Web page with scrolling. And it's much easier to organize and use too. But Vista is not here yet, and with the pricing Microsoft has set for it, it may not be in your "near" future either. We'll see.

Now to the task at hand. First of all you can adjust how many programs the start menu can display by doing this:

Right-click on the "Start" button and select "Properties"

Click on the "Customize" button. In the center of the dialog box you'll see a place to adjust the number of programs that will be displayed on your start menu. You can increase or decrease the number of programs which will be displayed on the start menu by clicking up/down arrow next to the selection. There's a limit, of course, to how many program can be displayed. You'll need to play around with this to find out what works best for you.

Of course, that is only part of the solution. For those like us (and apparently you) who have a lot of programs that are used often, the only way to really organize your start menu is by grouping similar programs into folders. For example, if you have several programs which you use to work with photos and digital pictures, you could create one folder called "Image Editors" and drag all image editing programs and image viewers into that folder. You can create several folders with categories, like "chat programs", "web browsers", "email tools" and so on. Drag programs which fit into these categories into their respective folders.

Here's where it gets sticky. The Windows Start Menu is not easily organized. There are several locations you must edit to get your start menu organized. It's not particularly difficult if you're familiar with dragging and dropping, moving files around and creating new folders. This assumes you are familiar with those basic Windows skills.

Assuming you're the only user on your computer (and if you're not be careful, because you can really mess up another user's start menu by fiddling around in that user's Start Menu folders), all of your start menu items are stored in the following locations:

1. C:\ Documents and Settings \ All Users \ Start Menu \ Programs

2. C:\ Documents and Settings \ Default User \ Start Menu \ Programs

3. C:\ Documents and Settings \ YOUR user name \ Start Menu \ Programs

The easiest way to organize your Start Menu/All Programs is to move all the program from locations #1 and #2 above into #3. Some may be duplicates, and if so it won't matter, move them anyway. Another hint, it will be easier for you to move folders around if you open two or three Windows Explorer or My Computer windows. You can drag and drop across the Windows. Or, if your prefer you can "Cut" from one and "Paste" to the other. After you get all the programs moved from #1 and #2 you're going to have to start creating folders in C:\ Documents and Settings\Your User Name\Programs based on logical categories. We can't tell you which categories to created, since that pretty much depends on what kinds of programs you have installed. We gave you some examples earlier.

It's best to create the empty folders to represent the categories you're going to consolidate programs into. Let's say you have decided on five categories. 1. Email Programs & Tools. 2. Browsers and Internet Tools. 3. Office Programs  4. Graphic & Image Editing  5. Windows Utilities. Create these five folders first and then drag the relevant program shortcuts into their respective folders. If you find that when you're done with this you need another category and hence folder to hold several other program shortcuts, create it now and drag those program shortcuts into it. Whatever programs are leftover you can either leave alone, or you can create a folder called "Miscellaneous" and drag the remaining shortcuts into it.

After you're satisfied that you've categorized as much as you can, close your Windows Explorer windows and click on your Start Menu. If you've done it right, you'll see your Start Menu/All Programs is amazingly small and compact. And after you use it for awhile you might find you can refine your categories further by going into some of the folders you created above and creating sub-categories. This makes things even easier to find and to access. For example, let's say you have Registry Mechanic and LookInMyPC in the "Windows Utilities" folder. You might want to make a subfolder called "Registry Tools" and put Registry Mechanic into it. That way if down the road you download and install another registry utility you can drag it into that folder. The less categories you create and the more programs you can make fit into each category the smaller your Start Menu will be. But if you over-generalize then you have a problem, because you won't be able to find the program you're looking for. If you under-generalize and have too many folders you're almost right back to where you started from. So try to plan your organization so you have enough folders and categories so you can easily find what you're looking for but not so many you've done all this work for nothing and end up with almost as many folders as you have programs.

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