Everything You Need to Know About It – Start Menu

When it comes to Microsoft’s Start menu, it is definitely a big deal. It is one of the few things people think about when they talk about Windows or Microsoft. The Start menu has been present for over 20 years now. When the Start Menu was first introduced, it was done with the purpose of making it easier for the users to work their way through Windows.

However, with each new development, it has become an essential tool for how users interact with Windows on a regular basis. Whether you are launching apps, searching for the saved documents, or just closing off your computer, Start Menu offers a lot more than you think.

The Start menu is a GUI or Graphical User Interface element which is being used in Microsoft Windows since Windows 95 version and in some workstation operating systems as well. It delivers a chief launching platform for various computer programs and also performs many other tasks.

It has been named differently in different operating systems, for instance, ‘Kickoff Application Launcher’ in KDE, or ‘Start screen’ in Windows 8.

Usually, the Start menu used to provide a personalized built-in list of programs for the user to launch and use, a list of recently opened documents, a mode to find files, and get assistance and access to the settings of the system.

After that, the enhancements via Windows Desktop Update encompassed access to special folders, for example, My Documents and Favorites.

Start Menu by Microsoft made its first entrance with Windows 95 in 24 August 1995. It quickly became popular and users started preferring it more and more for finding everything they needed from their PC, and there wasn’t much change with Start Menu up until the blue-and-green theme of Windows XP.

Windows XP‘s Start menu was extended to incorporate several ‘My Document’ folders together with ‘My Music’ and ‘My Pictures’ and moved other things like ‘My Computer’ and ‘My Network Places’ from the Windows desktop.

Up until Windows Vista, the Start menu was continuously stretched out through the screen as the user steered through its dropping sub-menus. The Start menu became such an important part of the whole Windows OS that users actually kind of blew a gasket when Start Menu was not present in Windows 8;

As a result, Windows didn’t take much time bringing Start Menu back into the fold with Windows RT 8.1.

Over the years, Microsoft has tried different versions of Start Menu, however, Windows 10 version is perhaps the best possible combination of the innovative ideas with the classic features of Start Menu. Given that, Microsoft doesn’t try anything as they did with Windows 8, Start Menu is going to stay with its users for many more years to come.

Before Start Menu came along, Microsoft was looking for assistance with user-friendly features. In 1994, the Windows 3.5 version was in use and it had a reputation of being difficult to use. When users couldn’t figure out where to go in Windows to find what they were looking for, it was being considered as a design failure. Windows 3.5 users could access the required apps using Program Manager, which was mostly a simple list of apps but had no real arrangement. Windows required a renovation and the Start menu was just the thing for it.

Windows 95’s Start menu entered along with the taskbar. The taskbar provided quick access to volume choices, the time and date, and a sign of network activity. Any apps that you were using would show on the taskbar.

Microsoft retained the concept of a list of apps in its new menu, but it was kept into categories and deftly organized, and you could simply drag and drop the apps where you wanted them. The Start menu turned into the default way to launch apps with just a click of the Start button.

It began a trend in Windows that has been going on now for more than 20 years and it has made it very easy for users to navigate their way around Windows without feeling lost.

#How was first Windows Start Menu looks like?

Windows 95 signified a vivid shift in Microsoft’s desktop operating system approach. Even though at that time, it was less developed as compared to modern standards, the Windows 95 Start Menu presented access to the most essential items that a Windows 95 user might have needed such as Applications, Documents, System Settings, Search option, Windows help option, command prompt, and the power button options.

The Start Button on the taskbar in Windows 95 also employs a symbolic representation arrangement. The menu options on the Start Button can be added or removed as the user wants, and that too without upsetting the files and programs themselves.

Clicking on the Start Button, and a menu would appear with 7 or more different options. Some of these options have arrows at their right, which indicates that another list of menus will appear. Given below are 7 options that appear on Start Menu:

  • Programs – In this option, you will find programs or applications such as Word, Internet Explorer, Accessories, Netscape, etc. 
  • Documents – It contains the list of recently used files. When you select one of them, it will start the program associated with the file you clicked so as to open and view the file.
  • Settings – In this, Windows keep information about everything, from the control panel to printer settings to the color scheme, it covers everything and it would be better not to make any changes unless you know what you are doing.
  • Find – Here, you can search for any file by entering its name in case you don’t know what the location of the concerned file is.
  • Help – Here Windows Help options could be found that covers the topic regarding various issues you might face in your Windows OS.
  • Run – Using this option, you can start programs by entering their location.
  • Shut Down – If you want to shut down the computer or restart it, or want to log off of the Windows OS, you can click on Shut Down and the options will appear.

Windows 95 is where it all started. The Start Menu was nowhere is existence before Windows 95 and before that, people just used to go for the program manager to work their way through Windows operating systems.

Windows 95 could all standard tasks. The new Windows 95 desktop system could store any user file, together with shortcuts for applications, documents, and many other files, and the new Start Menu offered quick access to regular functions and a wide-ranging list of user-related programs.

So, the bar was set pretty low with 95. And at the time, that was fine! The original Start Menu made it far easier to pull up programs, and it represented Microsoft’s forward thinking. However, Windows 95 Start Menu went mostly unchanged on Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Windows ME, and Windows 2000.

Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 substituted Program Manager with desktop and Start menu. The latter did not consist of the limitations of the Program Manager. Users can add the items to the Start Menu by dragging and dropping them.

The Windows 98 Start Menu developed a bit as compared to its predecessor. It offered the capability to swiftly log out of the user account you were currently working on. The menu also had Windows Update feature in its own section accessible at the top and a newly added ‘Favorites’ folder for shortcuts for files and applications defined by users.

In Windows ME, ME stood for Millennium Edition and perhaps no other version of Windows was given as much censure as Windows ME. When it comes to the Start Menu of Windows ME, there were no major changes between Windows 98 and Windows ME. Users could see the ‘Windows ME’ marking on the left side of the menu and other than that, the Windows 98 users who were unlucky enough to upgrade their OS to Windows ME were expected to at least have no difficulty comprehending and steering through the Start Menu.

As for Windows 2000, the Start Menu was almost same as the previous versions with one change that there was a quick shortcut to ‘Program Access and Defaults’, where users could place the default programs for each type of file or activity, add or take out Windows constituents, and uninstall already installed programs.

#Next Big Thing – Windows XP

Windows XP is an operating system that allows you to use a variety of applications or software. It is popular because it’s logical, exciting, and user-friendly. This OS has multitasking abilities, and it can run many applications at once and its Start Menu has certainly brought on some nice changes for the users.

Start Menu in XP was the first major refurbishment to the previous versions of Start menu and it was later included in Windows Server 2003. The Start menu was stretched into two columns, left and right. The left-hand column comprises the installed programs and the right column gives My Documents, My Pictures, My Music and other special folders. This column also contains shortcuts for Computer and Network, which were positioned on the Desktop in previous versions of Windows.

You can customize the items present in the right column. Frequently used programs automatically get displayed in the left-hand menu. In addition, users can choose to ‘pin’ programs to this side of the Start menu so that they can get easy access whenever they want. You will also find a sub-menu item at the bottom of the left column which provides easy access to all the items of Start Menu.

#Start Menu in Windows Vista & 7

Before Windows Vista, the Start menu comprises of a group of menus and sub-menus that cascaded and extended, concealing the firstly visible portions of the screen underneath them. In Windows Vista, nevertheless, the cascading menus were swapped with a sliding window on the left side of the Start menu.

Every time ‘All Programs’ menu item is clicked, the items on the left pane slide off the left side of the Start menu and the ‘All Programs’ menu slides back in from the right edge of the left side column. A search box is also added in Windows Vista that allows users to search for the Start menu shortcuts for the file or folder they are looking for.

On the other hand, Windows 7 represents another development, but the changes are more understated. There are a few new features and several resolutions for the less enthused changes introduced by Windows Vista.

  • Reformed Shutdown Menu – Windows 7 has an enhanced, redesigned shutdown menu. To shut down your computer, just click on the Shutdown button. To opt for a different action, click on the small arrow accessible right next to the Shutdown button and choose the action you want to accomplish.
  • Jump Lists – You can see the jump lists on the left side of the Start Menu only for the programs that support this feature. They are used for applications like Getting Started, Internet Explorer, Notepad, Word and other applications.
  • Enhanced Instant Search feature – The results from a search will cover the complete Start Menu and will include the results from your libraries, user files, Control Panel, shortcuts, offline files, and e-mail messages and offline files. The quality and speed are faster than Windows Vista.

#The One, Which We Hated the Most – Windows 8 Start Screen

You can imagine the importance of Start Menu in Windows OS, and what would have happened when it was removed from Windows 8. Instead of having a Start Button, Windows 8 came out with a Start screen, which was considered just as easy to use as Start Button menu if you knew how. The Start screen allows the users to pin websites and application for easier access (which is not, really that helpful).

However, with the removal of Start Menu and addition of Start screen in Windows 8, the Start screen no longer provides any support to several features that were available previously. Whether it is a list of recently opened programs or shortcuts to a folder, they no longer can be seen on the Start screen.

In addition, the Start screen does not support more than one level of nesting for groups in All Programs menu. Also, the ease of dragging and dropping new items on the menu and regrouping the contents of All Programs view is not available anymore.

As for what Start screen can do in Windows 8, it covers the whole screen and no longer has the right column. It displays much larger tiles representing access to programs and, when possible, it displays dynamic content provided by the program directly on the tile itself, working in the same way as a widget.

The Start screen also allows its users to uninstall their programs by making a right-click on them and choosing the option of ‘Uninstall’. The pinned apps can be positioned in groups and the search box stays hidden and it can be seen by clicking the search button on the charms bar. When users log in to Windows 8 OS, the first screen they see is the Start screen.

To get access to the Start Screen while you are working on the desktop, swipe the right edge of your screen, or touch on ‘Start, or by pressing the Windows button on your keyboard. If you are using a mouse, you can simply move the cursor from the top-right edge of the screen to downward. You can also keep the cursor over the bottom left corner of the screen which will show a thumbnail of the Start screen and clicking on it; you can get access to start Screen.

#Start Menu in Windows 8.1

In Windows 8, Microsoft removed the Start button from the Desktop and it did create some displeasure amongst the users. A lot of users were complaining about the unavailability of the Start button, so Microsoft decided to add it back on the Desktop of Windows RT 8.1 to launch the Start Screen on our Windows RT 8.1 OS, you can click on the Start button on the Desktop. Then you can use the Start screen to get access to installed programs and also search for files or folders on your PC. Some people may still have found it confusing to use Windows without its Start menu.

In Windows RT 8.1, you are allowed to see a number of different Start screen apps and move them to different parts of the screen. The customary desktop apps will still operate in the way they used to do in previous versions of Windows. You will be able to see them in individual windows that you can move and resize.

The Start screen will show all of your apps installed on the system in the form of tiles. You can personalize your Start screen based on how you want it to look like. You can change the color scheme, select a background image, and rearrange your tiles as per your convenience.

#The King of All – Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 brought back the Start menu in a revised form. It comprises a two-column design which is quite similar to the version of Windows 7, except for the fact that the right side is inhabited by tiles, in the same way as the Start Screen of Windows 8, but in a better way. You can pin the applications to the right-side column, and the tiles representing those applications can be resized and assembled into different categories based on what the user chooses.

The left column of the Start Menu shows a list in vertical format and it contains the regularly used programs or applications, and also links to the ‘All apps’ menu, Settings options, File Explorer, and Power options. You can add some of these links, and added links to folders, for instance, Pictures, Downloads, and Music using the ‘Choose which folders appear on Start’ from the Settings.

You can resize the Start menu or place it in a full-screen display which bears a resemblance to the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Start screen.

“That’s all for now, thanks for sticking with the article. It is always good to let me know about your views, in the comments below.” 🙂 


  1. This is something which is important for the user to undersatnd the function of windows start menu which will be valuable for them.


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