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.
ShellMenuViewOnce 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.
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.
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.
Disabled items are instantly removed from the context menu.
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.
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.
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.
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.