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Many people don't bother to configure their systems even though this might save them precious time in the future. Making a few changes can increase your productivity dramatically. In this article we will try to show you how to configure the Taskbar and the Start Menu so that you will have all the important shortcuts in one place. This will definitely save you precious time which is normally wasted by making endless clicks trying to find an application you need to work with.
In the Start Menu search box type "start menu". You will see only one result named Taskbar and Start Menu Properties. Click on it, and the configuration window will open.
You can access it also if you right click on the taskbar and select Properties.
In Windows 10 you'll have to access it by right clicking on the taskbar and then selecting Properties.
The configuration window has four tabs: Taskbar, Start Menu, Notification Area and Toolbars. We will try to cover the most important options from each of these.
How to customize the Taskbar
The Taskbar has the following configuration options: you can lock it, keep it on top of other windows or you can set it on auto-hide. You will see that, when auto-hide is enabled, the transition from hidden to visible is really smooth, unlike Windows XP - where the animation was a bit annoying.
Other available options are: "Group similar taskbar buttons" which groups all the open windows from one application into one taskbar button, "Show Quick Launch" which displays shortcut items and "Show window preview (thumbnails)" which shows a preview of any window when you move the mouse above one of the taskbar buttons.
How to customize the Start Menu
The second tab contains Start Menu settings. You can switch to the classical Start Menu or keep the new style. You also have the option to enable/disable the display of the recently used files and programs lists in the Start Menu.
Both types of styles for the Start Menu can be customized to your liking.
How to configure the new Start Menu style
Let's start configuring the default Start Menu style. First, click on the Customize button shown in the above screenshot.
In the Customize Start Menu window, you can change the look and behavior of links, icons and menus. The scroll down list contains items which are shown in the right pane of the Start Menu. The rest of the available items are shown on the left pane.
First, scroll down the items list from the top of the window and enable/disable the items you want to have on the right side pane.
If you have a laptop and you need to connect to different networks during the week, you might want to enable the Connect To.
You can also enable or disable the highlighting of the newly installed programs.
If the icons from the Start Menu are too small for you, you can click on the Use large icons option and solve this problem.
Other useful shortcuts that you might want to enable are Printers (if you have printers installed) and the Run command.
Feel free to experiment and customize so the Start Menu will fit your needs.
Like we mentioned earlier, the options from the lower part of the Customize Start Menu window affect the left pane. You can type the number of recent programs which should be displayed and you can enable/disable the shortcuts for the default internet browser and e-mail client.
Generally, we prefer to reduce the number of recent programs which are displayed on the left pane and pin the most used applications to that list. We will show you how to do that later.
How to configure the classic Start Menu style
If you prefer the classic Start Menu style, select it and then click on Customize.
Customizing this menu might seem a bit complicated but it isn't. If you want to add an item, click on Add. A Create Shortcut wizard will start.
Click on Browse, select the item that you want to add and then click on Next.
Select a folder where you want to place the shortcut or click on the New Folder button and create a new one. Type the name of the folder and click on Next.
Type the name of the shortcut, click on Finish and the shortcut will be created in the location you specified.
If you want to Remove an item from the Start Menu, click on the Remove button.
Browse to the shortcut or folder that you want to remove, select it and then click on Remove. If that is all that you want to remove, click on Close. Otherwise repeat the procedure until you have removed all the items you want from the Start Menu.
In the lower part of the Customize Classic Start Menu window you will find more options. Go through the list of available options and enable the ones you need. After you have made all the selections click on OK.
How to customize the Notification Area
The next category is the Notification Area.
Here you can select to hide inactive icons and to hide/show system icons such as the clock, volume icon, network and power. You can also configure the icons for the applications that are currently running or which have ran in the past. To do this click on Customize.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the application list is split in two: Current Items and Past Items. Click on a program icon and on the right you should see a small scroll-down list with three options: Hide, Show and Hide when inactive. Choose the option you prefer and then press on OK. If you are not happy with the changes you made, you can always click on Default Settings and all settings will be restored.
How to configure the Toolbars
The last category is called Toolbars.
Here you can select the toolbars which you want to activate. The default list of available toolbars includes: Address, Windows Media Player, Links, Tablet PC Input Panel, Desktop, Quick Launch. Click on the ones you want to enable and they will appear in the taskbar.
How to pin items to the left pane of the Start Menu
Pinned items are shortcuts which appear on the left pane of the Start Menu until they are manually removed. You can pin shortcuts found anywhere on your Desktop or in the Start Menu and any executable file of any application.
To pin an a shortcut, right click on it and then select Pin to Start Menu.
The same procedure can be applied for executable files (with the extension ".exe"). When you click on "Pin to Start Menu", Windows Vista will automatically create a shortcut for it on the left pane of the Start Menu. The created shortcut will have the same name as the file. You can always rename it by right clicking on it, selecting Rename and typing the new shortcut name.
If you want to remove a pinned item, simply right click on it and select Unpin from Start Menu.
Switch back to the Classic Start Menu
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Put the Shut Down button back on your Start Menu
Put the Volume Mixer icon back on your taskbar
How to customize the Start Menu search box
Want larger Quick Launch icons in the Taskbar?
How to change Window Color and Appearance