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The 20 Best Windows 7 Start Menu and Taskbar Tips and Tricks

00_start_menu_and_taskbar

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

01_add_my_dropbox_to_start_menuAdd “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.

Add “My Dropbox” to Your Windows 7 Start Menu


02_classicshell_start_menuGet 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.

ClassicShell Adds Classic Start Menu and Explorer Features to Windows7


Add the Recycle Bin to the Start Menu in Windows 7

03_add_recycle_bin_to_start_menuHave 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.

Add the Recycle Bin to Start Menu in Windows 7


Find Your Applications Faster Using the Windows 7 Start Menu Search

04_dont_search_other_filesWhen 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.

Make Windows 7 Start Menu Search Find Your Applications Faster


Change the Number of Recent Items Displayed on the Windows 7 Start Menu

05_change_recent_items_list_sizeIf 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 Number of Recent Items Shown on the Windows 7 / Vista Start Menu


Change the Default Action for the Power Button on the Windows Start Menu

06_changing_power_button_actionBy 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.

Change the Windows 7 or Vista Power Buttons to Shut Down/Sleep/Hibernate


Open the Start Menu Folder in Windows 7

07_opening_start_menu_folderDo 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.

Stupid Geek Tricks: How to Open the Start Menu Folder in Windows 7


Add Administrative Tools to the Start Menu in Windows 7

08_admin_tools_on_start_menuYou 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.

How To Add Administrative Tools to Start Menu in Windows 7


Enable the Run Command on the Start Menu in Windows 7

09_run_command_on_start_menuYou 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.

Enable Run Command on Windows 7 or Vista Start Menu


Show the Start Menu Items in Expanded View in Windows 7

10_expanding_start_menu_itemsThe 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.

Beginner Geek: Show Start Menu Items in Expanded View in Windows 7


Taskbar Tips and Tricks

11_get_quick_launch_barAdd 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 Quick Launch Bar to the Taskbar in Windows 7


Add the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar in Windows 7

12_recycle_bin_on_taskbarIn 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 the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar in Windows 7


13_computer_on_taskbarAdd “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.

Add “My Computer” to Your Windows 7 / Vista Taskbar


Make the Windows 7 Taskbar Work Like Windows Vista or XP

14_vista_like_taskbarThe 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.

Make the Windows 7 Taskbar Work More Like Windows XP or Vista


Customize the Windows 7 Taskbar Icon for any Application

15_custom_icon_set_on_taskbarAs 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.

How to Customize Your Windows 7 Taskbar Icons for Any App


Turn Your Taskbar into a System Resource Monitor

16_taskbar_metersIf 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.

Taskbar Meters Turn Your Taskbar into a System Resource Monitor


Change the Windows 7 Taskbar Color Without Using Extra Software

17_changed_color_on_taskbarIf 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.

Change the Windows 7 Taskbar Color With No Extra Software (Stupid Geek Tricks)


18_auto_hide_taskbarFix 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.

Fixing When the Windows Taskbar Refuses to Auto-Hide Correctly


Organize the Programs on the Windows 7 Taskbar

19_grouped_icons_on_taskbarThe 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.

How to Organize Your Programs in the Windows 7 Taskbar


Make the Taskbar Buttons Switch to the Last Active Windows in Windows 7

20_taskbar_button_window_switchThe 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.

Make the Taskbar Buttons Switch to the Last Active Window in Windows 7


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

Comments (13)

  1. nt0xik8ed

    excellent

  2. Moonie

    *Yawn*

  3. Sterling

    To get a list of your downloads in the Start menu, add Downloads > display as menu.

  4. Veovis Muad'dib

    Two questions and a note on an above tip:

    Is there a way in Windows 7 to manually hide and show the taskbar. I hate autohide so much that I moved the taskbar to the left (Similar to Unity in Ubuntu), but in order to use http://lifehacker.com/5468581/turn-your-netbook-into-a-feature+rich-e+book-reader I rotate my screen, and if the taskbar takes up too much space when horizontal when you’re in landscape, it’s insane how much it takes up when you’re vertical in portrait. Mac has CMD+OPT+D, is there any alternative for Windows?

    Is there any way to line up the system tray icons when vertical so that remainders show above the rest instead of below? Imgur gallery to show what I mean: http://imgur.com/a/D3Sxi First image is how it does it, second is how it should.

    Also, on the Recycle Bin in the task bar, there is another thing you should worry about when the taskbar is vertical. It aligns to the left unless it has a name showing, so check the Show Text option in the right click menu to get it to center. If you name the shortcut Recycle Bin, you will have three columns of system tray icons, and a VERY wide space around each pinned icon. But if you name the shortcut Trash Can, you can have the taskbar at the minimum required width.

  5. Soufiane

    NICE post ;)
    Thanks for collecting the links

  6. Leonick

    Not sure why you’d spend time on workarounds to add dropbox, recycle bin and so on to your startmenu when you can just pin explorer to the taskbar, have it next to the start button and then pin all your most used folders to the explorer jump list.
    I use that explorer jumplist a lot more than the start menu :p the start menu is mostly just open for a short moment when I press the windows button (on keyboard) and type a few letters and press enter to launch something.

    As for opening the start menu folders, I actually did a library showing the two folders the start menu use, great for organizing the startmenu, only thing I actually use the libraries function for :p

  7. remisnyl

    Is there some kind of creatablw exe or geek trick I could use to toggle the performance options on Windows 7? Sometimes when I use heavy programs I want to reduce the Aero graphics. I do it manually by checking and unchecking the boxes, but it becomes a hassle everytime I want to switch between best performance and my own custom perfomance. Is there a way to toggle this with a simple click?

  8. Steve-O-Rama

    @remisnyl You could possibly accomplish this with a batch file, or a cmdlet (command-let) for the Windows PowerShell.

    Here’s Microsoft’s own Getting Started guide for PowerShell: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa973757(v=vs.85).aspx

    Here’s a site with some PowerShell code that might do exactly what you need: http://poshcode.org/2052

    I found both of those with a simple Google search.

    Your second option might be to upgrade your graphics card so this switching of video performance wouldn’t be necessary, depending upon your system type. Many of the latest cards will automatically scale their performance with system demand, or may rely on software for fan, voltage, and speed control, but the end result is the same. The best thing about most of the latest graphics cards is that even relatively low-end parts will usually work great, assuming you don’t use them to push a huge monitor at high resolution.

  9. Juan Diego

    Wonderful ;-) Nice work

  10. arshad

    good but guys i already know that you guys need to post something new i have been following u from last 6 month and i am fan of yours

  11. Bob Bowen

    Thank you Geek. Without doubt, an absolutely excellent article. Congratulations! I of course could have done this myself, but then again, I lack the motivation….. Please enter this in the fib of the year contest.

  12. john q

    GEEK TIPS REQUEST:

    What I would love to see is this: right-click my computer/properties/advanced system settings/settings (under performance)/Visual effects. On really old hardware that I install win7 to, I “Adjust for best performance”. It makes it look like Windows 98 but it is so responsive. I do it with netbooks alot. What I would love is for someone to go through all of those options and explain what is what.

  13. superfahd

    Best tip for the Start Menu (also works for win 8 metro ui)? Dont use it!

    Seriously I’ve tried so many variations of Launchy, Rocketdock, Rainmeter and a even plain old shortcuts on the desktop that I think the whole start menu thing is now obsolete. The new metro ui is better but its only a baby step in the right general direction and theres a huge gulf to cross!

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