The left panel of the Start menu consists entirely of a divided list of programs that Microsoft Windows XP thinks will come in handy for you: the pinned items list above the separator line, and the most frequently used programs list, displayed below the line.

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By default, Windows XP places links to your Internet browser and your e-mail application in the pinned items list and will place as many as 30 shortcuts to the programs that you’ve recently used in the most frequently used programs list. (The most frequently used programs list is, by default, six shortcuts long.)

In order to really take advantage of the Start menu as a launching area for all the programs you use most often, you can configure the entire left panel as a pinned items list. Here’s how:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select the Properties command to display the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box.
  2. Click the Customize button adjacent to the Start Menu radio button to display the Customize Start Menu dialog box.
  3. In the Programs panel, use the Spin button to set the Number Of Programs On The Start Menu setting to 0. Click the Clear List button.
  4. In the Show On Start Menu panel, you can clear the Internet check box, because the Internet Explorer icon already appears in the Quick Launch menu by default, and maybe even the e-mail check box, depending on how you launch your e-mail application.
  5. Click OK twice — once to close the Customize Start Menu dialog box and once to close the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog boxes.
  6. Click the Start button and access the All Programs submenu.
  7. Locate and right-click on a shortcut to a program you use most often and select the Pin To Start Menu command.

You can pin as many as 30 of your most often used programs to the Start menu, depending on your screen resolution setting. With your actual favorite programs on the pinned items list, you can now really take advantage of the Start menu.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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