Windows 8 awkwardly forces the Start menu programs list into a flat “All Apps” list. Many programs haven’t been properly updated for this new reality and fill your All Apps list with useless shortcuts to help files, websites, and uninstallers.

On Windows 8.1, you’ll be able to have the Start button open the All Apps list directly, so having a nicely organized All Apps list will be very helpful. The list pulls its shortcuts from the traditional Start menu folders.

Remove a Shortcut

To remove a shortcut, simply right-click that shortcut in the All Apps list and select Open File Location on the app bar that appears.

Windows will automatically open the Start menu folder that contains that shortcut. Simply delete the shortcuts as you’d delete any other type of file.

Windows pulls shortcuts from two different folders. One is system-wide, while one is specific to just your user account. If the shortcut is located in the system-wide Start menu folder, you’ll have to pass a UAC prompt before you can delete it. Deleting such a shortcut will also delete it from the Start menus of any other Windows user accounts you have on the computer.

When you go back to your Start screen, you’ll see that the deleted shortcuts have vanished from your apps list. Repeat this process enough times and you can make your All Apps list much more concise.

Feel free to delete shortcuts to websites and help files you won’t open, as well as uninstaller shortcuts.

You can typically right-click any application in the All Apps list and select Uninstall to uninstall it on Windows 8. If you can’t, you can always uninstall that program later from the standard Control Panel.

Organize Desktop App Shortcuts

As Windows stores Start menu shortcuts in two different places, you’ll have to modify two different folders to organize your Start menu.

You can open these folders by right-clicking any shortcut that lives inside them and selecting Open File Location. You’ll also find these two folders at the following locations:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

C:\Users\NAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Just manage these folders like you would any other file structure. For example, you may want to put all your utilities into a single Utilities category. To do so, you’d create a new folder named Utilities, place the shortcuts you wanted into it, and delete the existing shortcuts.

Shortcuts you place in a folder will appear categorized together under a heading with the folder’s title.

If you place shortcuts in the top-level Start menu folder, they’ll appear mixed in with the modern apps you have installed.

Shortcuts can be renamed like any other file, so you can simply right-click a shortcut, rename it, and its name will change in your All Apps list.

Add Custom Shortcuts

Adding a shortcut to another application — perhaps a portable app or any other type of program that doesn’t install a Start menu shortcut — is also simple.

First, open your All apps list, right-click a shortcut, and select Open File Location.

You’ll see a Start menu folder appear. You can now add any shortcut you like to this folder. If you have an .exe file, right-click the .exe file and select Copy. Right-click in the Start menu folder and select Paste Shortcut and you’ll get a shortcut.

Place the shortcut anywhere you like — for example, you may want to create a new folder and place it in there. The shortcut will then be categorized in its own section, like other desktop application shortcuts are.

Removing Modern Apps

There’s no way to remove Windows Store apps from the all apps list without uninstalling them completely. The All Apps page just lists all the Modern apps you have installed.

To remove a Modern app from the list, you’ll have to right-click it and uninstall it.

Activate Your Changes

Our changes sometimes took effect immediately, but sometimes did not. Even restarting the Explorer.exe process didn’t force an update. To fix this, we logged out and logged back in again — you may have to do this if your changes don’t take effect immediately.

Of course, just as users who customized their Start menus on previous versions of Windows had to keep customizing them as they installed new software, you’ll have to keep organizing your shortcuts as you continue to install new software.

With any luck, software developers will stop including so many extraneous shortcuts in their Start menu folders and give everyone a less cluttered All Apps list.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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