aNewDomain.net —I understand why Microsoft wants us to use its new, brightly colored tile interface in Windows 8. After all, it wants us to get familiar with using the interface it considers the interface of the future. Even though it has given us a Windows-7 type desktop, by removing the Start button and Start menu, it has made that interface more difficult to access on a consistent basis.
Of course, to solve that problem, you can install a third-party software program to add a Start button and Start menu. (See Windows 8: Three Ways to Get Back the Start Menu and Start Button). But why not beat Microsoft at its own game? Why not use the built-in Windows tools to give yourself access to the things you used every day from the Start menu?
This is not as difficult as you might think. Although it is not often used, Windows has a built-in function that lets you create toolbars that show the contents of a folder with a single click.
Go to the Windows 8 desktop and right-click the taskbar. If the taskbar is locked, you will see a checkmark in front of Lock the taskbar. You can remove it by simply clicking on that choice. Once the taskbar is unlocked, choose Toolbars, and then select “New toolbar.”
A Choose Folder window will pop up. In the Folder box, enter %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs. Then click on the Select Folder button.
It may seem like nothing has happened, but if you look at the bottom right of the screen you will see your new toolbar marked “Programs.” You can drag that toolbar over to the left, if you like, to put it in the more traditional place. When you add new programs to your computer this new toolbar will auto populate.
When you open this program toolbar, the list of programs which includes many, but not all of your programs shows up. That is because Windows also has an individual-user Program folder. You can drag any missing shortcuts into the above mentioned folder. Even better, now that you know how to create a toolbar, you can create your own toolbar with a customized set of links.
To do that, just right-click on a blank area of the desktop and create a new folder. I called mine “Sandy’s Start Menu”. Then drag in shortcuts to the programs of your choice. You can simply open the folder and drag items from the explorer pane on the left into the new folder on the right.
Then create a toolbar just as we did above. The result will be a customized toolbar with the name you gave it and shortcuts to all the programs you need. As you can see, you can also create shortcuts to folders, libraries, and locations like the Control Panel, My Computer, My Pictures, and My Music.
Voila! You are ready to go with easy access to all your most-used items and you can update it or change it at any time.
Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior editor at aNewDomain.net covering tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at Sandy@aNewDomain.net. Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger, +SandyBerger on Google+, and www.facebook.com/sandyberger on Facebook.