Windows

Take control of your Windows 7 context menus

Greg Shultz shows you how to clean up your Windows 7 context menus with the utility applications ShellMenuView and ShellExView.

Over the holidays I got a new Samsung 27-inch LED monitor for my Microsoft Windows 7 system and am extremely happy with the big view that it provides. This new way of looking at my system inspired me to clean up all sorts of things. First, I changed my desktop wallpaper and added a fancy screensaver to take advantage of my new view. Then, I archived a ton of old files, ran Disk Cleanup, emptied the Recycle Bin, defragged my hard disk, updated drivers, and then looked around for other things that I could tidy up.

One other thing I decided to clean up was my Windows context menus. They were pretty cluttered from all the applications that I have installed over time. Some of those shortcuts come in handy, but not all of them are particularly useful.

Knowing that these context menu shortcuts are added to the system in the registry, I launched the Registry Editor and began my search-and-destroy operation. However, very soon I realized that this was going to be a time-consuming approach as the shortcuts seem to be buried in a myriad of registry keys. While most are configured in the registry as standard context menu items, others are implemented as Shell Extensions.

Being very fond of scripting, I thought that I would be able to automate this task with VBScript. I got a fairly good start to the script, but then holidays and other family obligations took precedence and I never got the time to get back into it.

That's when a friend told me about some great tools from NirSoft called ShellMenuView and ShellExView that together make it very easy to take control of your context menus. (Keep in mind that there are separate versions of each program for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.)

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll examine ShellMenuView and ShellExView and show you how to use them.

The technique shown in this blog post involves the editing of the Windows Registry file. This file is vital to the proper operation of Windows. Be sure to back up the Windows Registry file before editing to avoid system failure.

ShellMenuView

Once you download ShellMenuView, you can run it right away as there is no installation procedure. As soon as you launch it, the program scans the registry and populates its window with all the context menu items that it finds. For example, I have installed GIMP, the free PhotoShop-like graphics tool, on my system and use it quite a bit. However, Gimp adds the Edit with GIMP command to the context menu, as shown in Figure A, that I really don't need.

Figure A

GIMP adds an item to the context menu that I don't need.
With ShellMenuView, I just locate the GIMP context menu items, select them, and click the Disable Selected Items button, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Using ShellMenuView, it's easy to disable unwanted items.
Then immediately, the Edit with Gimp command on the context menu is gone, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Disabled items are instantly removed from the context menu.

ShellExView

Just like ShellMenuView, once you download ShellExView, you can run it right away. On my example system I use AVG Anti-Virus, and as you can see in Figures A and C, AVG adds a command to the context menu that allows you to scan a particular file. I never use that feature and want to remove that item from the context menu.

After launching ShellExView, I used the Find command to search for and locate the AVG shell extension for the context menu, selected it, and clicked the Disable Selected Items button, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

I used ShellExView's Find command to locate the AVG shell extension and then I disabled it.
In this case, the Scan with AVG context menu item didn't disappear immediately. I had to restart the system and then it was gone, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

After a restart, the disabled item was removed from the context menu.

Other handy features

In addition to making it easy to remove commands from the context menus, both the ShellMenuView and ShellExView have several other handy features. As I mentioned, both have a Find command on the toolbar that allows you to easily search through the list of items to locate what you are looking for. If you remove an item from the context menu and then later decide that you'd like it back, just locate the item again and click the green Enable button. When you do, the command will be put right back on the context menu.

If you want to take a look at any item's registry key, just right-click on the item and select the Open CLSID in RegEdit command in ShellExView or the Open in RegEdit command in ShellMenuView. You can also create a very detailed HTML report of all the items displayed by ShellMenuView and ShellExView by pulling down the View menu and choosing either the HTML Report - All Items or the HTML Report - Selected Items command.

If you're in ShellExView and you find an item in the list that you're unfamiliar with or want more information on, you can select the item, pull down the File menu, and initiate a Google Search by selecting either Google Search - Filename or Google Search - Extension Name command.

What's your take?

Are you frustrated with the clutter on your context menus? If so, will you use ShellMenuView and ShellExView to clean up the mess? Do you use another program to control your context menus? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

19 comments
Seotop
Seotop

Hello. Nice review here. I prefer to use "Ultimate Windows Context Menu Customizer" - it has much more friendly GUI.

kengosse
kengosse

I use Windows 7 Home 64-bit and I've used ShellMenuView and ShellExView in the past to disable menu items. Your instructions are clear and simple on how to do this. I'm looking for a way to add menu items or to move them from sub-menus to the main menu. I would also like to include some but not all of the extended menu items on the basic menu, or have the extended menu open by default (then I could remove unwanted items using ShellMenuView). In earlier versions of Windows (XP perhaps, maybe earlier), menu apps published by PCMagazine allowed a lot of customizations. Thanks.

fishcad
fishcad

What I'd really like is a way to change the order of the items on the context menu to get the ones I use most at the top and to get "Rename" and "Delete" apart.

eryk81
eryk81

I have been using their software for years. I have found a lot of the programs on the site very useful. I think one of the best things about NirSoft is that most, if not all, of the software is standalone which makes it perfect for my USB toolbox. Defiantly check out all the software they have on the site but watch out for AV. A lot of AV's don't like some of their programs and they will rip them out of your USB toolbox.

k_d
k_d

I use a 3 handy context menu apps: SendTo toys FileMenu Tools XnView shell ex64 (win7) do Google search to find downloads...all free

gugafds
gugafds

This tools are great! I use ShellNewHandler tool to control the 'New' context menu. I never used the options New>Library Folder, New>WinRAR archive, New>Microsoft Word Document and others, only New>Folder and New>Text Document, so I find this tool and eliminate this not-used-by-me options. And now I will begin to use these new tools right away! Thanks!

Thomas Moser
Thomas Moser

You say you "ran Disk Cleanup, emptied the Recycle Bin, defragged my hard disk, updated drivers" Most of this is useless or redundant. Disk CCleanup is slow and has, over the years, lured people into the horrid "compress drive" option - killing their performance. CCleaner is faster and better but why even bother.I have a 1TB drive and will probably never need to clean it. Empty the Recycle bin is done by disk cleanup. Windows 7 defrags automatically on a schedule. I never update drivers unless something is broken or I need new features.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...what if a context menu item turns up in neither of these? I have for example two instances of "RealPlayer" under the "Open with" context menu item, as well as "Play in RealPlayer" as its own context menu item, and none of these appear as an option to be disabled in either ShellMenuView or ShellExView.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I like little programs that give you so much power within your own system. I will definitely use them for sure :)

jvezina
jvezina

Not clear on whether we need both programs or just one of these.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do your Windows 7 context menus need some cleaning up? What application or methods do you use to tidy your context menus?

emgub
emgub

very interesting

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

"why ... bother. I have a 1TB drive and will probably never need to clean it" - (a). One of the industry's favourite (mis)quotes is Bill Gates' famous "no-one will ever need more than 640 KB of memory." Likewise there will come a time... (b) Anyway it's not likely to be the total volume of crud on your disk that causes problems, but the huge numbers of files that accumulate. More about that later... "Empty the Recycle bin is done by disk cleanup." - But you've just said Disk Cleanup isn't necessary! Make up your mind... :-) Frankly I *was* a bit surprised that Greg found it worthwhile mentioning this, though - I never leave anything in my Bin for more than a few minutes. Maybe that's just my OCD. However it is a lot easier to empty the trash than to go into Disk Cleanup (and wait for it to analyse for ages and come back with such a small set of recommendations - 48 KB here, 120 KB there, pah) "Windows 7 defrags automatically on a schedule" - Oh yah? I have yet to see any evidence of this. I run Piriform's Defraggler on a daily schedule and it finds *plenty* to do virtually every time - I'm quite busy on my 'puter - but I would be very very surprised if the Windows scheduled defrag, if indeed it really does anything at all, was even marginally effective. I know the built-it defraggers in previous versions of Windows were sadly short of adequate. "I never update drivers unless something is broken or I need new features" - I come across this approach quite often and honestly don't understand it. There was a time when driver updates *could* break things but I haven't seen it (except when there was something else fundamentally wrong elsewhere - no fault of the drivers). On the other hand, driver updates are often issued becaue there is something wrong with the driver, like security flaws, or functionality bugs. You would do better to make it a rule to update rather than not. Just my experience speaking. Your mileage may vary. I have lost count of the number of Windows computers I have rescued from imminent disposal - their owners are frustrated, cussing, and ready to commit suicide (or murder) because of how slow the machine is and as a rule I can spend an hour deleting temporary files (user, Windows, and Internet Explorer's [I have more than once found this folder containing more than 16,000 files. NTFS and FAT file systems do not deal well with huge numbers of directory entries and this slows the computer down more than you would believe possible]), as well as Windows Update's downloaded software folder; and defragging the drive - and made a dramatic difference to the computer's performance.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...RealPlayer addition to the context menu in more detail. However, the Open With menu is a different animal... it's not a standard context menu entry nor is it a context menu shell extension. I'll write a follow up article and show you how to clean up the Open With menu.

edglock21
edglock21

Try the freeware version of Glary Utilities. There is a context menu manager under "Optimize & Improve" that may pick up RealPlayer and allow you to remove it from the context menu. You also get a bunch of other handy utilities to help clean up your system.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

While most items that appear on the context menu are configured in the registry as standard context menu items, others are implemented as Shell Extensions. For those that are configured in the registry as standard context menu items, you will use ShellMenuView to remove them. For those that are configured in the registry as Shell Extensions, you will use ShellExView to remove them. Whether you will need to use both will depend on how the context menu items that appear on your system are configured in the registry.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

I thought it was interesting that Greg actually needed to do all of those system cleanup tasks at the same time. I will occasionally leave one or two unattended for a very short time, but never all of them. If I have drivers that need updating, it gets done immediately. I never use Disk Cleanup because I handle all its tasks personally on a regular basis, including emptying the Recycle Bin. I empty temporary files as soon as I start to notice a drop in performance, which happens more or less often, depending on the number of programs I have installed recently, and how much internet travel I do. I'd like to think Greg listed all of those cleanup tasks for dramatic effect, rather than admitting to being negligent with his system. Windows 7 DOES defrag regularly, but it's not "on a schedule" per se. As long as your computer is left running, Windows 7 (and I thought Vista did, too) runs Defrag while your computer is idle. I leave my computer on 24 hours a day, so I have almost no fragmentation. If you're one of those people who doesn't like that it does that behind your back, or if you prefer doing it yourself either with Windows Defrag or with a 3rd party program, you can go into the Management Console, and disable that scheduled task, but I have never felt the need. I kind of like that I don't have to do it manually. My brother just wasted (not really wasted, but it felt that way to him) several hours last night defragging his old XP dinosaur - that does NOT do it automatically. I suggested he add a scheduled task to do it, but he never leaves that machine running idle, so it wouldn't do any good. Of course, he doesn't always have that machine connected to the internet, either, so when he does connect, he usually spends a few hours waiting for Windows Update to finish. This was kind of a rough weekend for him :)

Thack
Thack

Thanks, Greg, that is an excellent explanation. But you really need to paste it, word for word, into the main article. Otherwise the reader is left with the obvious question: "Why both?"

trainingdept
trainingdept

Great article. Not sure why but I got why I would need both programs from reading the article.