The Evolution of the Windows Start menu


In the early days of development of what would become the Windows 95 operating system, there were three buttons on the lower left part of the screen called System, Find, and Help. The System button had a Windows flag icon and was considered to be the main menu. The icon on the Find button was an eye looking into a magnifying glass, and the icon on the Help button was a question mark along with the letter I for information.

As I mentioned, the System menu was the central menu and it contained just 5 commands, of which two survived the next phase of development: Run and Shut Down Windows. Programs had its own icon on the desktop as did File Cabinet.

However, usability tests revealed that the word System wasn't very intuitive. The ultimate finding of those early tests was that people needed to know where to begin, or start, when they used the new operating system. As such, it was decided that labeling the button Start was the best solution. In subsequent usability tests, it was discovered that people immediately clicked the Start button and began using the menu as it was intended. As such, the menu became known as the Start menu.

Image created by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic, all rights reserved.

By 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.