Windows 7: Customizing Menus and the Control Panel (part 1) - Navigating and Customizing Your Computer’s Menus

1/17/2011 11:31:54 AM
As you’ve seen, the desktop has many customizable features. You also can customize your computer’s menus and Control Panel, and this section shows you how to do it.

1. Navigating and Customizing Your Computer’s Menus

When you want to work with programs installed on a computer, you’ll use the All Programs menu, as with earlier releases of Windows. When you click the Start button and then click All Programs, you’ll see a list of programs installed on the computer, followed by a list of folders.

Depending on the system configuration, the programs you’ll see include:

Default Programs

Opens the Default Programs dialog box, which you can use to configure default programs and features.

Internet Explorer

Opens Internet Explorer, which you can use to browse the Web.

Desktop Gadget Gallery

Opens the Gadget Gallery dialog box, which you can use to add gadgets to the desktop.

Windows DVD Maker

Opens Windows DVD Maker, which you can use to burn DVDs.

Windows Media Center

Opens Windows Media Center, which you can use to manage home entertainment options for pictures, videos, movies, TV, and music.

Windows Media Player

Opens Windows Media Player, which you can use to view pictures, play music, and play videos.

Windows Update

Opens Windows Update, which you can use to keep your operating system up-to-date

.The folders under the All Programs menu have also changed. The changes to the menu may take a while to get used to. Still, once you get used to the changes, navigating the menus will be fairly painless. The top-level folders are:

All Programs→Accessories

Provides access to the most commonly used accessories, including the Calculator, Command Prompt, Connect to a Network Projector, Connect to a Projector, Getting Started, Math Input Panel, Notepad, Paint, Remote Desktop Connection, Run, Snipping Tool, Sound Recorder, Sticky Notes, Sync Center, Windows Explorer, and WordPad.

Many of the standard accessories have been enhanced for Windows 7. For example, the Calculator now has Standard, Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics modes. Using predefined templates, you can perform unit conversion and date conversion. Using predefined worksheets, you can calculate mortgages, vehicle leases and fuel economy.

Out of all the accessories, my favorite is the Snipping Tool. You can use it to capture portions of a screen and then save, annotate, or share the captured snippet. By default, the Snipping Tool always captures portions of the screen to the clipboard, making snippets available in other programs as well.

All Programs→Accessories→Ease of Access

Provides access to the accessibility tools, such as the Ease of Access Center, Magnifier, Narrator, On-Screen Keyboard, and Windows Speech Recognition. The Ease of Access Center provides a central console for managing accessibility options.

Windows Speech Recognition is one of the most powerful new accessories. With the help of a microphone, this accessory allows you to train your computer to recognize your voice. You can then dictate and control your computer by voice.

All Programs→Accessories→System Tools

Provides access to commonly used system tools, such as Character Map, Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, System Information, System Restore, Task Scheduler and Windows Easy Transfer. Windows Easy Transfer replaces the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP.

Also includes Internet Explorer (No Add-ons), which is a protected version of Internet Explorer without browser extensions or other add-ons. You can use this version of Internet Explorer to protect your computer from potentially malicious websites and programs.

All Programs→Accessories→Windows PowerShell

Provides access to the graphical and command-line interface for Windows PowerShell. Windows PowerShell is installed by default in most installations.

All Programs→Games

Provides access to Microsoft games installed with the operating system. The available games depend on the edition of Windows 7 you are using.

All Programs→Maintenance

Provides access to maintenance tools, including the Backup and Restore, Create a System Repair Disc, Help and Support, and Windows Remote Assistance.

Note that Windows 7 includes Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) automatically. As long as you do not remove or damage the related recovery partition, . As an extra precaution, you can create a system repair disc.

Also of note is that Windows 7 integrates Problem Reports and Solutions into the Action Center. The Action Center has many of the same options, and has been significantly enhanced.

All Programs→Startup

Lists programs that are set to start up automatically when you log on. This doesn’t mean these are the only startup programs for your computer. You may configure other programs for automatic startup.

All Programs→Windows Live

Lists programs that are available when you install the Live Essentials applications on your computer. These applications are available for free download by visiting and include Windows Live Call, Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Windows Live Writer. Windows Live Mail combines the features of the Windows Mail, Windows Calendar, and Windows Contacts programs that are included with most editions of Windows Vista.

Windows 7 manages menus in different ways than Windows XP and earlier Windows releases. By default, menus are sorted alphabetically automatically as you add, change, or remove menus and menu items. Windows 7 highlights newly installed menus and programs, and opens submenus when you pause on them with the mouse pointer. Windows 7 also allows you to view shortcut menus and use drag-and-drop on the desktop and within menus.

You use the settings in the Customize Start Menu dialog box to control how Windows 7 manages its menus. Knowing this, you can customize your computer’s menus by following these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Properties. This opens the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box.

  2. On the Start Menu tab, click Customize. This displays the Customize Start Menu dialog box.

  3. Click the Use Default Settings button to restore the operating system default settings. Or use the following options to customize your menus:

    Enable context menus and dragging and dropping

    Select this option to allow shortcut menus to be displayed and to allow dragging and dropping. Clear this option to prevent shortcut menus from being displayed and to prevent dragging and dropping.

    Highlight newly installed programs

    Select this option to highlight menus and menu items for newly installed programs. Clear this option to disable newly installed program highlighting.

    Open submenus when I pause on them with the mouse pointer

    Select this option to open submenus when you pause on them with the mouse pointer. Clear this option to require clicking a submenu to expand it and view its contents.

    Sort all programs menu by name

    Select this option to sort the menu automatically by name. Clear this option to show newly installed menus and menu items last.

  4. Click OK to save your settings.

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