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How to Reorganize the All Programs Section on the Windows 7 Start Menu

00_start_menu_before_organizing

Is your Start menu getting so cluttered you can’t find anything? The All Programs section of the Start menu may be in alphabetical order (sometimes by company names rather than program names), but would you rather have it categorized?

There is an easy way to organize the All Programs section of the Start menu without using third-party software. To manually organize your Start menu, click on the Start orb, right-click on All Programs and select Open from the popup menu. This opens the folder containing program shortcuts for the currently logged in user only.

If you want to open the folder containing program shortcuts for all users, select Open All Users from the popup menu. We recommend you open both folders because the All Programs section of the Start menu is created from the shortcuts in both folders.

01_opening_start_menu_folder_current_user

The Programs folder contains all the shortcuts listed when you select All Programs on the Start menu. Open the Programs folder for both the current user and for all users. To organize the shortcuts, copy and move existing shortcuts, delete shortcuts and folders and add new shortcuts as desired. You can create new folders in the Programs folder for categories, such as Office, Graphics, Browsers, etc. and put your shortcuts into these folders.

02_opening_programs_folder_current_user

Here’s our Start menu categorized and sorted alphabetically automatically within each category (or folder).

03_manually_organized_all_programs

It’s much easier to find programs on an organized Start menu. As you install programs, just repeat this process to categorize the new programs and keep your Start menu clean and organized.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 09/7/11

Comments (18)

  1. trm96

    In XP I was a fan of keeping the start menu neat and clean as you illustrate above, but now with the start search I don’t even care how messy it is. If I can’t find it I just type in a few letters if the name into the search box and presto!

  2. MarkM

    Excellent article! However, I have questions:

    How do you get the items to sort alphabetically in the All Programs listing? Is that done by sorting them in the Explorer window you said to open up?

    I’m confused by why I need to open the current user and the All Users folders. Actually, I’m getting a bit baffled as to how to make them both line up so that I get one unified Start menu (I’m the only user of this laptop so All Users has no use for me). Another thing that’s confusing me a bit is that there are shortcut listings and folders shown in All Users that aren’t shown in current user, so sorting everything still messes me up. Tips?

  3. parry

    I’m slightly confused. I’ve opened both folders but was wondering…couldn’t they just all be in one of them? I’m the only user on this PC so having 2 folders doesn’t make much sense.

  4. MJ

    I always use the instant search, so I configured it to search only for programs and Control Panel items. I just keep all shortcuts in the start menu with no folders.

  5. Peter

    I’m with trm96, who cares what it looks like, just search for what you want. I can’t really remember the last time I scrolled through the start menu looking for something.

  6. Bobro

    well i have my menu all nice and neat, but i do have 3 accounts and for some reason what i do to one account is sometimes mirrored in all accounts sometimes its not… I wish the start menus had nothing to do with each user, I install a program on one user and its in everyone start menu! i can see how sometimes thats usefull but other times you get the girlfriend clicking on things!!!

  7. Thane

    Nice tip!

    I actually have set up several folders as quicklaunch toolbars on the taskbar. I have a toolbar for each application category and drop shortcuts to the programs I use most often into them. As a result I almost never need to go into the start menu to launch what I need. The how-to on that would probably be a good article, too.

  8. herval

    great !

  9. webdev

    There’s a huge downside to the proposed method: On uninstallation programs won’t be able to locate the installed shortcuts anymore. Therefore (everytime you uninstall something) you will have to manually clean all the shortcuts or you’ll end up with a lot of garbage in your start menu. It would be best to completely ignore the start menu’s programs section and use the built-in search (many already said so) or switch to a third party solution like 8start. I admit that 8start adds more complexity to the whole shortcut organization but the result will still be more accessible than an (even reorganized) start menu.

  10. robert stevens

    WebDev

    Simply use Ccleaner or a similar program that will delete your invalid shortcuts for you

  11. DBigWoo

    I have been doing this for years. One thing that I do is to start each of my sorted folders with an underscore. This pops them to the top and helps me know which are my sorted folders and which are ones that just look good that another program created.

    Another thing I do is to create a “_Help” folder. In there, I create 3 sub-folders “Help A-M”, “Help N-Z”, and “Uninstalls”. Then I take all of the help, readme, and uninstall files, rename them as needed so that the program name comes at the beginning, and file them in the respective folder. This way, I have help and uninstalls handy, yet out of the way of the main use of the program.

  12. LoriKaufman

    MarkM: The shortcuts and folders you put in your folder get sorted alphabetically automatically.

    The All Users folder contains shortcuts and folders that are placed in the All Programs section of the Start menu for every user on the machine. When you select Open to open the Start menu folder, that opens a folder that contains shortcuts and folders for only the currently logged in user. The shortcuts and folders from both of these folders are combined to create the All Programs section of the Start menu. If you are the only user on your computer, you can move all the shortcuts and folders from the All Users folder to the folder that opens when right-click and select Open on the Start menu. Organize your shortcuts into categories in this folder and don’t worry about the All Users folder. When you install programs, the shortcuts might be placed in the All Users folder (every installation is different). You can just move the shortcuts to the other Start menu folder after you install the program.

    Hope this helps.

  13. Wayne

    I hardly even use my Start Menu these days. For the applications I use the most, I pin them to the task bar and/or objectdock. I also have 7 folders on my desktop (Internet, Office, Development, Graphics, Media, Games, Utilities). Put the desktop as a toolbar on my taskbar and I can navigate those folders as needed.

    However most of my interaction is done through Windows Explorer and Libraries. Need to edit a document, double click on the document and it opens in Libre Office. Need to edit a PHP file, double-click and it opens in NetBeans. Etc… I find it a lot easier to work with documents than digging out applications on the Start menu. 90% of my work is done in a Web Browser or Email Client anyway.

  14. GeorgiaCowboy

    That’s Great.
    NOW make them “Fly Out” when you hoover over the folders.

    That’s kindda’ what I’m getting with “TidyStartMenu”.

  15. Costa K

    Awesome. Really helpful. Thanks.

  16. mikmik

    When installing programs, it sometimes asks if you want it installed for all users or just current user. This is one way of controlling where the shortcuts go (all users or user). I like to keep or create a new folder for each app because many uninstalls are just labeled uninstall.exe and help.chm. I’ve tried all kinds of systems of organization, and it is so much easier(the way I think and work, anyways) to just keep everything to do with an app all together.
    When installing, you can create folders (like Security, Graphics, Video editing, browsers, etc) to hold your install shortcuts. I often find myself not sure what category to put eg mapping software.
    But really, just right click on all programs and select all users. You can customize icons for folders in explorer, and this is another visual I add to categorize similar programs. Right click on a folder, select properties, and then customize – change icon..
    Also for win7, R click start button, select properties, then toolbars, and select Quick Launch. I pile my most used programs and folders in there and it opens up displaying everything when you click on the arrow, just like XP.

  17. Lin D

    Thank You! I always have to tweak the start menu “all programs” list .Going from XP to Win7, finding the Start Menu list was a pain. Now, to remap the damned keys on this laptop. Whoever designed this one has six fingers on each hand, and the outer finder is prehensile.

  18. HTG Reader

    I also recommend the free, open-source app Classic Shell, at classicshell.sourceforge.net. Very customizable, it allows you to revert to the “old-style” Classic Start Menu a la Windows 2K-XP. I use it on my Windows 7 PC, and my start menu is a lot more organized. M$ took the classic menu feature out of 7 (and Vista, AFAIK), but Classic Shell is an Explorer extension that brings it back.

    It also has an extension called Classic IE9, which makes IE look and function more like older versions. Haven’t made much use of this one because I don’t use IE. Classic Shell comes in 32- and 64-bit editions; make sure to download the correct one for your PC’s architecture, since 64-bit Windows uses 64-bit Explorer, and “extensions” (such as right-click menus and shell modifications) have to correspond with the same architecture of Windows and therefore Explorer.

    @ mikmik: Quick Launch can also be customized by using Free Launch Bar (free) or its paid upgrade True Launch Bar (freelaunchbar.com), both of which also work with XP as a standard Quick Launch replacement. I don’t work for either of these developers; I just thought I’d pass along a couple suggestions for utilities I find useful :)

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