Windows 7 Classic Start Menu

The classic start menu doesn’t exist in Windows 7 anymore, but you can get the primary piece of functionality that everyone misses.

For those that don’t know:  In Windows XP, Microsoft introduced an alternative start menu layout and made it the default.  It was funky and didn’t make a lot of sense to advanced users.  But, the “classic” start menu (which is much more productive) was always an option.  In Windows 7, Microsoft decided they wanted to force their preferences on everyone and took away the classic start menu, forcing everyone to be less productive by requiring more mouse clicks, and sometimes adding unnecessary scrolling, to get to a program icon to start a program.  The programs menu is now forced into a constrained, tiny space on the screen.  For amateurs that have very little software installed, this may not be a big deal, but to those of us with dozens of programs installed, it’s a pain in the ass and a reduction in productivity.

Specifically, what we’ll be restoring in this article is the fully expanded programs menu, so you aren’t constrained to that newbie, tiny area for all your programs, like this:


We can actually get our fully expanded program files menu back so that it looks like this:


I’ll describe 2 methods of accomplishing this.  One method is a simple configuration change, the other is a free program you can install which provides full classic start menu capability.

First, the free program.  It’s called “Classic Shell” and can be downloaded from here.  Not only is it FREE, but it’s OPEN SOURCE too!  Install this program and you’ll get not just your classic start menu back, but options to get features added back to Windows Explorer that Microsoft ripped out when they dumbed it down for Windows 7.

Here’s an example of one of the skins you can use and of course, it’s an example of the features you get… expanding submenus that aren’t constrained to the tiny newb start menu area.



Now, for the non-program solution:

It won’t actually be in the start menu though.  But, since it’s not in the start menu, it actually means you’ll have one less click than what you needed in XP.  Here’s how:

  1. Open your start menu.
  2. Right-click on “All Programs”.image
  3. Choose “Open All Users”.  This opens a Windows Explorer window to your folder that contains all of your installed program icons and folders. image
  4. In the address bar, click in the blank area to the right of “Start Menu”, which will select the full path.
  5. Hit [Ctrl]+[C] to copy the path.
  6. Right-click your task bar, choose “Toolbars”, then “New Toolbar”. image
  7. Click in the empty “Folder:” text entry field and hit [Ctrl]+[V] to paste the path you copied from your start menu window.
  8. Click “Select Folder”.

Now you’ve got a new toolbar on your start menu.  Resize it to its smallest size.  Now, when you click it, viola!  You’ve got your old, fully expandable, programs menu back… the primary, missing, more productive piece of functionality that the Microsoft UI Nerds took away from us.

You’re welcome!

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