One of the best things about XP’s new-style Start menu is the degree of flexibility you have in customizing it to better suit your needs and preferences. The XP-style Start menu allows you to control which programs shortcuts appear on the first level of the menu after clicking the Start button. Known as “pinning”, you can force program shortcut items to appear on the lefthand side of the menu by right-clicking on an executable file (or its shortcut) and then selecting the “Pin to Start menu” option, as shown below. This will ensure that the item always remains on the Start menu, saving you the trouble of trying to find it under the All Programs group each time you need to open it. If you’re diligent about pinning regularly used items to the Start menu, you can largely avoid having a desktop full of disorganized shortcuts, and make opening programs an absolutely straightforward and organized endeavor. The best part is that you can also change your mind and unpin an item at any time – simply right-click on the item in question and select the Unpin from Start menu option.
Determining which items have been pinned to the Start menu can be a little confusing to new users. In simple terms, XP separates pinned items from other program shortcuts on the left-hand side of the Start menu by locating them at the top of the list, as shown below. The items beneath the break are not pinned, and appear on the Start menu as a function of frequent usage. If a shortcut appears in the lower part of this list, you can simply drag it to the pinned area at top to pin it, or again right-click the shortcut and select the Pin to Start menu option. Make a point of pinning your 5 to 6 most common shortcuts in this manner and you’ll soon wonder how you ever got by without it. In the next section you’ll learn how to customize XP to display more or less shortcut icons on the Start menu rather than the six that will appear there by default.