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April 1, 1996

How to create quick folder access in the Start menu

The Start menu is a constant source of fascination in Windows 95. Although there are alternatives to using the Start menu -- for example, you can still run the old, 16-bit Progman.exe shell instead -- the convenience of the Start menu makes it a natural for most Windows 95 users.

The Start menu has its quirks, unfortunately. It's widely known that you can drag a file or folder from the Windows Explorer onto the Start button to create a shortcut on the Start menu to that object. But it's not as widely known how to get something off the list (you can't just drag it off the Start menu) or change its position (items don't allow drag and drop).

Reader Richard Anderson writes that sometimes users want to put a folder on the Start menu containing all their tools or all their documents on a certain project -- or even put the Start menu folder itself on the Start menu. Then, with one click of the Start menu, they can open that folder quickly, which makes it easier to edit item names, properties, etc.

One way to take advantage of this is to right-click the Start button, then click Explore. This opens an Explorer view, showing the hierarchical structure of the Start menu in the left pane and the individual shortcuts that make up the Start menu in the right pane.

With this window open, you can easily create a shortcut in the Start menu to open a window on the Start menu itself. Simply drag the Start menu folder (using your right mouse button) from the left pane to the right. Click "Create Shortcut Here" to make the shortcut appear in the window and on your Start menu.

For other folders, it may be more convenient for you to create a new folder within the Start menu, rather than a shortcut to a folder. The difference is that actual folders create cascading menus in the Start menu -- you can drop down within the menu to items or subfolders within the folder.

To do this while in the Explorer view of the Start menu folder, right-click a blank area of the right pane. Then click New and Folder. Type a name for your folder, press Enter, and it's ready to go. You can now right-drag the entire contents of any folder (executables, documents, etc.) into this new folder in the Start menu to create shortcuts. This makes them easy to pick from the Start menu.

One difference between creating a folder in the Start menu vs. creating a shortcut to a folder is that a folder containing shortcuts does not change when items in the actual folder change. A shortcut to a folder, by contrast, is dynamic and always remains up to date with the contents of that folder.

Richard Anderson receives a free copy of Windows 95 Secrets for sending me his ideas on this Start menu tip.

Network Install correction

In my March 18 column (see "How to make a handy Install tab in Control Panel"), I described how to create a Network Install tab within the Add/Remove Programs dialog box of the Windows 95 Control Panel. Square brackets were inadvertently left off the second line of the sample NETINST.REG file in that column. The instruction should read as follows (all on one line):


The original idea for this tip came from Patrick Marshall of Cinergy, who receives a free copy of Windows 95 Secrets for being the first to send me information about the network Install tip.

Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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Copyright © 1996 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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