Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

What’s on your Start Menu?

In Windows XP, Windows lists your most frequently/recently used programs on the left-hand side (assuming you’re using the new-style start menu). Ed Bott picked up the meme baton so I’m continuing it here:

  • Solitaire. Obviously.
  • Freecell. For a bit of variety.
  • Flickr Uploadr. My favourite way of uploading photos to my favourite way of sharing photos.
  • Irfanview. Phenominally useful little application.
  • Picasa2. Great for touching up photos before uploading them.
  • SpeedFan. My laptop’s cooling system ain’t what it used to be so this lets me monitor the processor temperature and cut back if necessary.
  • Sam Spade. Useful for DNS lookups and the like.
  • SpywareBlaster. I check for updates regularly.
  • Synergy. This moved up the list quite quickly because I was having a few problems with it initially.
  • VLC. My video player of choice.
  • Programmers Notepad. Text editor with syntax highlighting. I use version 2, which is open source.
  • Windows Media Player. There was a recent minor update that I downloaded.

Missing from that are Firefox and Thunderbird, since these are pinned to the top of my Start Menu, and Winamp, Trillian, Metapad, SmartFTP, Calculator, iTunes, Azureus and Shareaza which are on my Quick Launch bar and so are not counted.


  1. I have the classic menu and appearence. I love it.

  2. The only Windows computer I have at the moment is one I work remotely on, so the list’s rather skewed towards fixing networking stuff at work. It looks something like this at the moment though:
    Command Prompt – obviously
    Firewall client
    Excel 2003

  3. Hey! You’re a Mac guy now! Who cares what’s in your “Start Menu” — what’s in your DOCK?!?

  4. Neil,
    I’m amazed that you use the default settings. As computerjoe says, the classic interface is far more utile. It’s simple to set up groups of related shortcuts so that they are easy to find and know that they will always be there.
    Whenever I set up an XP box for a newbie I always get rid of all the XP “helpful features”. Having menu items that are here today, gone tomorrow, back again the day after, is confusing for users especially when they are trying to learn where features and programmes are and how the thing works.
    Sorry to use the inevitable car analogy but imagine if you got into your car in the autumn/winter and needed to use the heater for the first time in months only to discover that the car had hidden the controls behind the dashboard because you hadn’t used them for a while.
    This “useability” feature in Windows is the most arse-about-face logic I’ve ever seen. Burying features that one rarely uses and making them even harder to find when you do need them is daft. Sorry, rant over 🙂

  5. What's on my Start menu?

    I don't know why anyone would really care what the hell is on my Start menu in Windows XP, but Neil did it so I'm replicating the meme because I wanted to. This is listed in sequence from top to bottom minus the preset Firefox and Thunderb…

  6. Dave: A ‘What’s in My Dock’ post should be forthcoming for balance, I suppose 🙂
    Mahatma: I actually disagree. I find the new Start Menu much easier to use than than the old one; the recently sued programs is helpful, as are direct links to things like Control Panel. And it’s prettier 🙂

  7. Neil,
    The best interface is, of course, the one that works best for each of us 🙂
    I have sort of multi-layered approach to menu layout. For a start, my Task Bar is at the top of the screen (billg spent millions on useability testing to prove that application menus work best at the top but somehow came to the conclusion that the Task Bar was immune from this).
    The Quick Launch tray in the Task Bar holds 10 icons for the apps I use most – one click does the trick. Additionally I use DM2 to minimise apps not to the Task Bar but to the System Tray – less clutter.
    Next, on the first level of the Start menu I have links to all removable and fixed drives and also to directories that I access frequently (these change as jobs are started and completed). Other shortcuts point to Command Prompt and Recycle Bin and (currently) to two XUL apps that I’m testing.
    Lastly on the Start menu I have folders that contain apps that get used often but not as much as the “big 10” in the QL tray. These are grouped by function such as “games”, “utilities”, “site building”, and so on. These contain shortcuts to the appropriate apps and all of these are just two clicks away.
    Finally, as most apps install to Start/Programs I also categorise these as “games”, “utilities”, “site building”, etc., but they contain all the default extras such as links to uninstallers, readmes, etc.. If apps aren’t categorised in this way then Start/Program soon gets filled into a huge scrolling and date-sorted list – ugh!
    Apologies for the long post but many people have told me this method saves them much time locating shortcuts as the frequently-used apps are quick and easy to find but also the lesser used items are logically structured and don’t magically disappear. Add this layering technique to use of the classic menu and the benefit for those upgrading from W95/98 to XP is that things still look and work the same – and better :-P.

  8. I really don’t understand how this feature works. My Start Menu has things I almost never use and it doesn’t have things I use all the time. It does have Notepad and PSP9, which I use daily (and TextPad pinned to the top, but I only just downloaded that). But it also has There and Second Life, which I haven’t used in forever, and it doesn’t have GenoPro, which I’ve been using a lot lately. It doesn’t have SimpleMU either, but I think that’s because I usually run it from the Run menu rather than another way.
    So, yeah. I don’t get the Start Menu thing.