Windows 11: Customize the start menu – manually and with tools

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Microsoft is now doing it for the third time: The group is making a change in the operating system in terms of the start button. The provider introduced it with Windows 95 (Release: 1995). Windows 8 appeared in 2012 and the unpopular tile system removed the control element from the taskbar. In Windows 11, which was released in 2021, the start button is included again, similar to Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, but it moves: The button is now centered in the taskbar – as are all other symbols of (started and / or pinned) programs there.
The central display looks modern and should find its friends, as does the new start menu. You can do this by clicking on the start button that has been redesigned to look blue. The start menu can be customized to a limited extent and you should be aware of that. We deliver instructions. You will also find alternative tools for the start menu that bring the Windows 7 counterpart to Windows 11. Because not everyone or everyone sympathizes with the new. If you struggle with it, it makes sense, permanently or in a transitional period Open Shell Menu or Classic Shell to use.
Download Open Shell Menu

Windows 11: Bring back the old start menu

That Open Shell Menu is the successor to Classic Shell, in which the further development has come to a standstill. After installation, when you press the Windows key, an Open Shell Menu start menu appears. It is modeled on that of Windows 7 and can be individually adapted.
The tool, which was popular in Windows 8 (.1) times, is similar Classic Shell. The handling and the design are almost identical to the sibling program. Classic Shell worked perfectly in our tests under Windows 11. In perspective, however, you should be more likely to Open Shell Menu take action, because it should work better in the long term: Windows 11 receives a major new update (feature update, major release) annually (Windows 10: every six months), which may bring modifications that Open Shell Menu can use thanks to further development copes better.
In practice, Classic Shell has also worked perfectly under Windows 10 so far – even though Windows 10 has received a lot of further development and Classic Shell has not. If you want to stay loyal to the latter program, you can’t go wrong with Windows 11 at the moment.
Download Classic Shell
The tips in the following overview of the Open Shell Menu have been researched with Windows 10, but also work with Windows 11:
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Using the Windows 11 start menu: Basics

The search field at the top of the start menu (“Enter search term here”) is obsolete: Even if you omit a mouse click in it, the start menu searches for content in the most important locations on your PC when you enter it on the keyboard. Click on “All Apps” at the top of the start menu to get an alphabetical list of the installed applications. If you wish, you can drag and drop entries onto the desktop. This is how LNK call links are created there.
Windows 11: Customize the start menu with the best tips and tools The Windows 11 function "All apps" is known from Windows 10.  In Windows 7 it was called "All programs".
The Windows 11 function “All Apps” is known from Windows 10 and works in the same way.
Enter a search term in the start menu, for example “Firefox”, call up the content with a click or with the enter key. Since Windows 10 1809, further functions appear in the right start menu area. You can also call this up by right-clicking on the Firefox search find in the example. For example, select “Run as administrator”, “Open file location” or “Pin to start” if you want to set up a start menu link (not a tile). The shortcut menu option “Pin to Taskbar” is no less useful for quick access facilities. As with Windows 10, the context command “Uninstall” only works halfway: With x86 programs it only calls up the Uninstall Manager (appwiz.cpl) in the control panel. There you carry out a removal with a double click.
If you would like to log off your Windows user account, click on your user name at the bottom left. It continues with “Logout”. The “Lock” option corresponds to the Windows-L key combination. Windows 11 can be closed using the button at the bottom right in the start menu: After selecting this power button, go to “Shut down”.
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Windows 11: Customize the start menu – Modding with manual tweaks

Should the start button and other system tray symbols appear left-justified? You can do this by right-clicking on the taskbar; in the menu, call up the “Taskbar settings”. In the Settings app that pops up, navigate to “Taskbar behavior” and use the drop-down menu to set the “Left” display under “Taskbar orientation”. The advantage: You can now reach the start button blindly. Without looking at the monitor, move the mouse pointer to the bottom left and click.
At the top, the Windows 11 start menu lists some programs under “Pinned”, below that under “Recommended” app impressions and files are added. Use drag & drop to move the thumbnails in the upper area to make them easy to find. By scrolling down, you bring out program icons in a previously invisible layer. Alternatively, you can scroll using the point symbol on the right: If you move your mouse pointer there, an arrow appears, which is also suitable for scrolling downwards. Whether it is a start menu search find or a desktop EXE / shortcut: Programs that you would like to have in the start menu can be added to the “Pinned” area. All you have to do is right-click on a software call element and select “Pin to start”. The new object is at the bottom of “Pinned”. If an application is to appear in the top of the three visible “pinned” rows, you can move it by right-clicking on it and clicking “all the way up”. The option “Detach from start” removes an entry. This comes in handy with factory advertising apps – but also if you were too overzealous with “Pin to Start”. With the context command “Uninstall” you not only remove the pinned, but also delete the software itself. This works with apps, with x86 software this only causes appwiz.cpl (see paragraph above).
Windows 11: Customize the start menu with the best tips and tools You can rearrange the start menu icons using drag & drop, alternatively using the context menu.
You can rearrange the start menu symbols using drag & drop, or alternatively using the context menu.
Renaming and changing the icons of pinned programs requires a trick. In essence, our instructions for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 still apply in this regard: see the advice on icon swapping and name modifications. If you would like to see more “Recommended” suggestions, click on the “More” button in the “Recommended” line.
App folders, as is usual with Windows 10, cannot be created in Windows 11 in the Start menu. In the past, it was enough to drag one app onto another to create a directory. An alternative under Windows 11: Use Ctrl-Shift-N to create a new folder on the desktop, put your desired programs in it and anchor the folder in the start menu under “Pinned” (right click on the folder and “Pin to Start”) call). Incidentally, EXE files, folders and shortcuts can be pinned to the start menu, but not TXT files. You circumvent the problem by tricking it with an explorer.exe shortcut file in which the file path of the desired element is used as a parameter.
You can give the start menu a boost in productivity by activating symbols in the lower right corner. Open the Settings app with Windows-i and mark “Personalization” in the category tree on the left, go to “Start> Folder” on the right. Now move the toggle switch as you like so that the associated quick access icons move to the start menu: “Settings”, “File Explorer”, “Documents”, “Downloads”, “Music”, “Pictures”, “Videos”) , “Network”, “Personal Folder”. If you cannot find out which new icon is good for what in the start menu, just mouse-over. Then a tooltip informs you about the meaning and purpose.
Windows 11: Customize the start menu with the best tips and tools You can activate all or some of the symbols framed in red below.
You can add all or some of the symbols framed in red below.
If no “Recommended” area should appear in the start menu, deactivate it: with Win-i and click on “Personalization> Start” and flipping the toggle switch behind “Show recently added apps”. If you want to revise this, change the slider position again. In the start menu you can access the required settings app dialog by clicking on “Start settings” (only visible if the recommended elements are hidden). Or you can work your way there by hand as described.
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