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In Windows the Programs menu often compresses to the most often used and you have to hit a little arrow to get it to show all choices. How do I turn this off? I want to always see the entire menu.

Well, I think I get what you're asking about. But even if I'm a little off, what I'm about to explain actually covers several things.

In fact, most people don't realize that there's a plethora of customization options related to the Start menu.

Right click on the Start button, and you'll see a popup context menu, much like this:

Start Context menu

Click on Properties and you should get this:

Start Properties Dialog

"...there's a plethora of customization options related to the Start menu."

You can see I've clicked on the Start Menu tab, since that's what we want to customize, but you can also see the Taskbar tab, for customizing that.

There are a couple of ways we can go here, and I'll show you both. With Start Menu selected, click on the Customize for this dialog:

Start Properties Advanced Tab

Again, you can see I've clicked on the Advanced tab. Here you'll find several options you can customize to your heart's content. What we want is further down the list of Start menu items, so scroll down in that list:

Start Properties Advanced Tab Scroll Programs item

Look for Scroll Programs. The help for this item states "Specifies whether to display the items on the Programs menu as one long scrolling menu, or as horizontal pages. Depending on your screen resolution ..." you may or may not see arrows at each end of the list that you would use to scroll that list.

That was all for the "newer", Windows XP style start menu. OK or Cancel your way all the way back to the original Properties dialog that we started with. This time, click on Classic Start menu (which is more like Windows 2000 and Windows 9x), and then click Customize, for a slightly different Customize dialog:

Start Properties Classic Advanced Tab

Once again there are several things that can be customized here. And once again what we need is near the bottom of the Advanced Start menu options list:

Start Properties Classic Advanced Tab Personalized Menus item

You can see that Scroll Programs is present as before, but so is something labeled Use Personalized Menus. That's documented as ".. keeps the Programs menu clean by hiding items you haven't used recently...".

This sounds closer to what the original request described, so I'm guessing that you have Classic Start Menu turned on.

In any case, the options here allow a fair amount of customization of the start menu. Have fun playing with it.

Article C2538 - January 31, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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17 Comments
David
February 4, 2006 11:29 AM

I have the clssic start menu and two monitors. When I move the cursor over "programs", I get the program list spread over the two monitors but only up as the first couple starting with the letter "O" on approximately a third of the area of the second monitor. I would add that I do have rather a lot of programs that I like to experiment with and some do certain things better than others, which is why I keep them. I wonder why the others later on in the order aren`t displayed? I can get them to scroll, but I would rather have them all on view at once.

RICK
February 20, 2006 7:37 PM

HOW DO I STOP A PROGRAM FROM STARTING UP WHEN I START UP MY SYSTEM, I USE XP. THANKS RICK

Leo
February 20, 2006 9:07 PM

msconfig, or one of the tools listed in this article: http://ask-leo.com/whats_all_this_stuff_running_after_i_boot_windows.html - I prefer autoruns, myself.

Liz Myhre
June 1, 2006 9:35 PM

Thanks Leo, the hiding of unused start menu items has been driving me NUTS! "Use Personalized Menus" sure doesn't read as "hide unused programs" to me! Fixed now.

Bill Savage
July 23, 2006 5:40 AM

I use the "classic start menu" in Windows XP Pro, and have "scroll programs" unchecked and "use personalized menus" checked. However, starting several months ago, all of my programs are listed, even those I have not used in months. My guess is that a registry entry got deleted by a registry cleaner program. Can you help me get back to hiding the unused programs? Thanks.

JD
August 25, 2006 4:35 PM

how can I get my programs to display on my desktop when I click on the icons. It shows up in the task bar but the desktop is still showing. I can see a splash the immediatly goes to the top left of the screen but I can't see the running program. I'm using XP-Pro w/sp2

Mrs. Church
January 27, 2007 12:44 PM

Thank you so much! It's been a couple of years since I got a new computer and for the life of me I couldn't remember how to fix the display issue of all programs. I feel so much more complete now.

Super thanks! ~ Mrs. Church

Rick
April 6, 2007 11:03 AM

I think the original question was the same one I have - not in the Start menu, but in Office programs, such as Excel, a user has to click an arrow to get all the menu choices. How do I turn that feature off so that, when I select an Excel menu, the whole menu shows at once?

Leo A. Notenboom
April 8, 2007 9:39 AM

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Well, the original question does say "In Windows", however...

Take Word, for example: right click on your menu bar, and click on
"Customize...". Then click on the "Options" tab, and therein click on "Always
show full menus".

Excel and other Office apps work similarly.

Leo
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james
April 30, 2007 3:45 PM

thanks!!! sooo.. annoying!!

brian
November 3, 2007 4:21 PM

thank you so very much! that's one of winxp features i really really hate! i wanted to always see the items in Programs menu now it's fixed. the phrase "use personalized menus" sounds so obscure it seems like winxp is trying to prevent people from disabling the feature! heehee!

Kasper
March 7, 2008 8:48 AM

I've got a very similar question. Under the classic start menu, you have the ability to use 'personalized menus' which, if I understand correctly, hides the least commonly used programs in the programs list. Here's the question, is there any way to do that in the XP styled start menu?

keka
April 4, 2008 7:36 PM

hi leo. thanks for the great help. i adjusted various settings on your advice and they made my desktop even more user friendly.

banzemanga
May 22, 2008 6:59 PM

Thanks. That was one of the best tutorials ever.

Vic Meuer
August 8, 2008 4:27 PM

Thanks. Makes my start menu useable again.

Damian
October 7, 2009 3:07 PM

To think, i was so close to solving this myself. Anyway your article helped Leo, thanks.

JOHN DICKSON
October 23, 2010 5:06 PM

Thanks Leo. This really helped my with the classic start menu

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