Software

Access the Apps screen with a self-made Start button

As you type the shortcut, beware of typos

This gallery is also available as a post in the Windows and Office Blog.

After my You don't really need a Start Menu in Windows 8 article was published, the ensuing discussion really took off sprouting points from both sides of the issue. It seems that a lot of people are really ticked off that the Start menu is no longer a part of the operating system. While my guess is that a lot of those folks will opt for a Start menu replacement, such as StartW8, Classic Shell, or Start8, I heard from plenty of others who stated that they were willing to give the new Start screen and Apps screen a shot even though they lamented the passing of the Start menu.

As you probably know by now, my method of choice for launching applications in Windows 8 it to press the [Windows] on my keyboard, which immediately brings up the Apps screen along with the Search panel into which I just type the first few letters of the application that I want to launch. While some folks like that technique, others detested the thought of typing anything into a GUI in order to launch an application. They'd much rather just click with the mouse. Thinking that was a reasonable request, I began investigating a way to create a shortcut that would allow you to directly access the Apps screen with a simple click of the mouse.

It took a while but I finally unearthed a CLSID key in the Windows 8 registry that can be used to construct a shortcut that will instantly access the Apps screen. I then pinned that shortcut to the taskbar, changed its icon, moved it to the left edge of the taskbar, and Voila! I had a Start button to access the Apps screen.

So using this technique, you can just click a Start button to bring up the Apps screen and then click the icon of the application you want to launch. No keyboard, no shortcut keystrokes, just mouse clicks. And, best of all, if you implement the technique I showed you in the article Make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop, you'll basically have a Windows 7 style interface in Windows 8 without having to use any third-party utilities.

In this post, I'll show you how to create the CLSID shortcut to the Apps screen and set it up like a Start button.

The CLSID

While you won't have to go traipsing around the registry in order to implement this technique - I already did that - you may be curious as to where the CLSID came from. Essentially, a CLSID key is a part of the registry that contains code that provides access to specific system objects in the operating system, such as system folders. The CLSID keys can be found in two places in the Registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\CLSID and HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID.

Now, under normal circumstances, you would never need to use a CLSID because it is specifically designed to be used by developers and the operating system. In fact, a CLSID is a 128 bit Hexadecimal number enclosed in braces, so it's not very user friendly.

In any case, the CLSID that provides access to the Apps screen is

{2559a1f8-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0}

The shortcut

To use the CLSID to launch the Apps screen, you'll use the Shell command. In order to launch a Shell command from a shortcut, you need to use the explorer.exe command. As such, the shortcut to launch the Apps screen consists of the following command line. (Take note that there are three colons between the word shell and the left brace. Also keep in mind that there is only one space in the whole command line between the .exe file extension and the word shell.)

explorer.exe shell:::{2559a1f8-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0}

To create the shortcut, just open the Documents folder, right-click on the background, and choose the New | Shortcut command. When you see the first screen in the Create Shortcut wizard, type the shortcut in the text box, as shown in Figure A. Then, click Next.

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic

About Greg Shultz

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.