If you have moved from Windows XP to Windows 7, it might take some time to get used to the new Start menu and Taskbar. Here is a list of useful tips to help you make the most of each.
Start Menu Tips and Tricks
Add “My Dropbox” to the Start Menu in Windows 7
If you’re a fan of Dropbox, there is a way to get quick and easy access to it on your Start menu. The following article describes how to hack the Libraries feature to rename the Recorded TV library to a different name.
It’s not a perfect solution, but if you use Dropbox a lot, it’s worth it.
Get the Classic Start Menu and Explorer Features in Windows 7
Have you switched to Windows 7 and just can’t get used to the new Start menu? Well, there is a tool, called ClassicShell, that allows you to get the classic Start menu from Windows XP in Windows 7. You can also choose to get the features from the classic version of Windows Explorer.
A nice side benefit of ClassicShell is when you shut down or restart your computer, you get the classic shut down screen.
Add the Recycle Bin to the Start Menu in Windows 7
Have you ever tried searching for the Recycle Bin in the Windows 7 Start menu Search box only to find you get no results? You can easily find files, folders, programs and more using the Start menu search in both Windows 7 and Vista. However, if you enter “recycle bin” in the Start menu Search box, you will not find it.
The following article describes how to add the Recycle Bin to the Start menu search so you can use the Search box to easily find it.
Find Your Applications Faster Using the Windows 7 Start Menu Search
When you first install Windows 7 and use the Search box on the Start menu to find files, folders, programs, etc., the results come up quickly. However, after using the system for a while, your collection of files, folders, and programs grows and the Search feature becomes slower.
There are two ways to speed up the Search feature. If you mostly use the Search box for finding applications, you can change the settings for the Start menu Search box so it only searches through the applications on the Start menu, and not through all your many documents, pictures, emails, etc. You can also clean up the locations you are indexing so less files are included in the index. The following article explains both methods.
Change the Number of Recent Items Displayed on the Windows 7 Start Menu
If you use the Recent Items list on the Start menu, you may have been wondering how to change the number of items it lists. Maybe you don’t want the list to be that long, or maybe you use the list a lot and want more items to be available in it.
The default number of items shown in the Recent Items list is 10. You can increase or decrease this amount with a registry tweak. The following article shows you how.
Change the Default Action for the Power Button on the Windows Start Menu
By default, the Power button on the Start menu in Windows 7 is the Shutdown button, and in Windows Vista it’s Sleep.
If you use the Restart, Sleep, Log Off, or Hibernate more often, you can make one of these actions the default action that happens when you click the Power button. The following article explains how to do this for both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
Open the Start Menu Folder in Windows 7
Do you edit your Start menu every time you install a program to keep it neat and tidy? In Windows XP, all you had to do to access the Start menu folder was right-click on the Start button. However, that is not the case in Windows 7.
Now, right-clicking on the Start Orb in Windows 7 displays the Open Windows Explorer option, which only takes you to the Libraries view. The following article shows you how to easily open the Start menu folder in Windows 7 so you can customize your Start menu shortcuts.
Add Administrative Tools to the Start Menu in Windows 7
You might need to access the Administrative Tools in Windows quite often if you are a system administrator or a power user. Usually, you have to go into the Control Panel to access the Administrative Tools. Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to quickly access them from the Start menu?
The following article shows you how to add a link to the Administrative Tools on the Start menu for faster access.
Enable the Run Command on the Start Menu in Windows 7
You may think the Run dialog box has been removed from Windows 7 and Vista. It’s still available; it’s only been removed from the Start menu. You can access the Run dialog box by pressing Win + R on the keyboard, which is the simplest way to access it.
However, if you prefer using the mouse over the keyboard, you can add the Run command back to the Start menu. The following article explains the simple way to do so.
Show the Start Menu Items in Expanded View in Windows 7
The links to items such as Computer, Control Panel, and Documents, normally open to a separate window when you click them. You then, have to hunt for what you want on that window. However, you can expand these items on the Start menu to display a popup menu containing the items that would display on the window.
The following article shows you the quick and easy tip for changing this Start menu behavior.
Taskbar Tips and Tricks
Add the Quick Launch Bar to the Taskbar in Windows 7
The Windows 7 Taskbar, or Superbar, combines the features of the normal taskbar with the features of Quick Launch by allowing you to dock items to the Taskbar. However, if you want access to the Quick Launch bar as well, it’s fairly easy to make available on the Taskbar. The following article explains the steps to do this.
Add the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar in Windows 7
In the tips for the Start menu above, we listed an article that describes how to add the Recycle Bin to the Start menu so you can find it using Windows 7 Search. You can also add the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar. The following article discusses a couple of different methods for adding the Recycle Bin to your Taskbar for easier access. It also shows you how to add the fully functional Recycle Bin to the Quick Launch bar.
Add “My Computer” to the Windows 7 Taskbar
If you access “My Computer” often, it would be helpful to have a link to it on the Taskbar for one click access. The following article shows you how to add the Computer menu as a folder on the Taskbar for easy access to your all your drives. This tip can be applied to add other folders to your Taskbar as well.
Make the Windows 7 Taskbar Work Like Windows Vista or XP
The Windows 7 Taskbar was redesigned as a “dock style” Taskbar with the windows for each application available on a single combined button on the Taskbar for that application. If you are not comfortable using the “dock style” Taskbar in Windows 7, there is a way to make the Taskbar work like it did in Windows XP and Vista. The following article shows you how.
Customize the Windows 7 Taskbar Icon for any Application
As you pin programs to the Taskbar in Windows 7, you’ll notice you end up with a mixed bag of random candy-colored icons that all look different and clash with each other. Would you like to use icons on your Taskbar that all go together in a matching style? The following article shows you how to put a beautiful set of matching icons on your Taskbar.
Turn Your Taskbar into a System Resource Monitor
If you like to monitor your system resources but don’t want to clutter up your desktop with a lot of icons, you will like Taskbar Meters. It’s an open source, lightweight, portable set of three applications. There is a tool for monitoring memory use, one for CPU use, and one for disk activity. Simply run the specific application for the type of monitoring you want and adjust the slider to set the update frequency and the percent utilization at which the meters turn from green, to yellow, to red. Taskbar Meters does not offer a fine-tooth-comb view into your system performance, but for simple monitoring, it’s unobtrusive and effective.
Change the Windows 7 Taskbar Color Without Using Extra Software
If you want to change the color of the Windows 7 Taskbar, you don’t need to install a custom theme or pay for extra software to do it for you. There is a simple, silly trick that allows you to change the color of the taskbar with no added software, and without changing your window color. The following article shows you how to do this using a beginning method and a more advanced, geeky method.
Fix the Problem Where the Windows Taskbar Refuses to Auto-Hide Correctly
If you’ve had a problem where the Windows Taskbar refuses to auto-hide, even though you’ve set the option in the Control Panel, we have a few tips that might get the Taskbar to hide automatically again. The following article shows you how to fix this problem in Windows 7, but some of the tips apply to Windows Vista or Windows XP, as well.
Organize the Programs on the Windows 7 Taskbar
The Windows 7 Taskbar provides quick and easy access to your favorite programs. However, it can get cluttered and disorganized as you pin more and more programs to it. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sort the programs you use most into groups so it’s easy to find what you are looking for? The following article discusses a quick trick, using spacer shortcuts, that can help you organize your messy Taskbar.
Make the Taskbar Buttons Switch to the Last Active Windows in Windows 7
The Aero Peek feature on the Windows 7 Taskbar allows you to view live thumbnails of every window for each application. This is a cool feature, but what if you want to be able to just click a program icon on the Taskbar to access the last window you had open in that application? You can hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on a Taskbar button, but it is quicker and easier to be able to just click the icon without pressing a key as well. The following article describes a hack to make the icons on the Taskbar open the last active window for each application with one click. Once you apply this hack, if you still want to see the thumbnail list for an application, just hover your mouse over that’ application’s Taskbar button for half a second to see the full list.
The article shows you how to apply the registry hack manually, but also provides a link to download a file that easily applies the hack.
We hope these tips and tricks help you make the most of the Start menu and Taskbar.
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 10/23/11