Lesson 01| 05 of 10

Start Menu

The Start Menu and Start Button are user interface elements in the Microsoft Windows product line, which serve as the central launching point for applications. By default, the Start Button is visible at all times in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. It features the Windows logo and the word "start". Clicking the Start Button activates the Start Menu.

Traditionally, the Start Menu provided a customizable nested list of programs for the user to launch, as well as a list of most recently opened documents, a way to find files and get help, and access to the system settings. Windows XP's Start Menu was expanded to include access to the My Documents folders, and a readily-accessible list of the most used programs.

Technically, the Start Menu is not needed at all, as any programs and files can be opened by navigating to them in the Windows Explorer interface. However, the Start Menu provides a much easier way to open programs, even for experienced users. Microsoft uses the Start Menu more in each version of Windows as a way to shield novice users from the complexities of the operating system. For example, in Windows XP, the root, Program Files and Windows folders are hidden from the user by default, and access to programs is expected to be achieved through the Start Menu.

In Windows Vista, the word "Start" has been replaced by a blue Windows logo "orb

The most significant revision to the Start menu since its inception came in Windows XP. To help the user access a wider range of common destinations more easily, and to promote a greater sense of "personality", the Start menu was expanded to two columns; the left-hand column focuses on the user's installed applications, while the right-hand column provides access to the user's documents, and system functionality. Links to My Documents, My Pictures and other Special Folders are brought to the fore. The My Computer and My Network Places (Network Neighborhood in Windows 95 and 98) icons were also moved off the Desktop and into the Start menu, making it easier to access these icons while a number of applications are open. Commonly used programs are automatically displayed in the left-hand menu, and the user may opt to "pin" programs to the start menu so that they are always accessible without having to navigate through the Programs folders.