6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu
The Start Menu is back and has once again become the pivotal point of Windows. How could Microsoft ever remove the iconic Start Menu in the first place? It’s different though, with the classic design now integrating the tiles introduced with Windows 8’s Start Screen.
If used well, the tiles can add a lot of value to your Windows experience. In particular, visually-minded users will appreciate the creative freedom that tiles offer. Here we’ll show you the potential of tiles and along the way you’ll learn about their different features, as well as other ways to customize the Start Menu.
Manage Your Tiles
On a classic desktop PC, tiles may seem like a waste of space. Once you’re using Windows 10 on a hybrid or mobile device, however, where scrolling through menus can be tedious, tiles quickly become indispensable.
You can pin almost any item to the Start Menu (right-click > Pin to Start) and it will show up as a tile. We’ve previously shown you how you can manage your tiles, i.e. Unpin from Start, Resize, or re-arrange them. Just right-click or long-press a tile to see which options come up, drag-and-drop a tile to move it around, and don’t miss out on the option to give a group of tiles a descriptive name through the title bar.
Edit Name & Icon of Start Menu Tiles
Don’t like the name of a given tile in your Start Menu? Right-click the tile, select Open file location, then rename the respective file in Windows Explorer. While you’re at it, you can also change the icon used for the tile. In Windows Explorer, right click the file, select Properties, in the Shortcut tab click Change Icon…, and select a given icon or Browse… for an alternative one on your computer.
This will work for desktop programs and most shortcuts, but not for Universal Windows apps, unless…
Create Shortcuts to Universal Windows Apps
Shortcuts can help you access a file or app from various locations. Universal Windows apps don’t provide an obvious way to create a shortcut, but we know of two different methods. The first is almost too simple; try to drag an app from the Start Menu to the desktop. What you’ll get is a shortcut on the desktop and the app will still sit in your Start Menu.
Alternatively, you can open the Applications shell folder, which hosts all applications installed on your computer, including Universal Windows apps. Press Windows key + R to open the Run dialog (or long-press the Start Button and select Run from the Power Menu), type shell:AppsFolder, and select OK . From here you can create shortcuts to any of your applications.
Once you have created a shortcut, you can rename it, change its icon, and pin it to your Start Menu. That’s how you can create custom icons for Universal Windows Apps.
Add Fun Tiles
Now that you know what you can do with tiles, lets see how you can expand on that. These tips will help you put your creative energy to work and turn your Start Menu tiles into a piece of art.
Add Tiles for Steam Games
Since he didn’t like how Steam Tile launches games, he went and manually created shortcuts to individual Steam games.
The process is a little convoluted and not as visually pleasing as Steam Tile; unfortunately, shortcuts only support small or medium sized tiles.
Add Chrome Web Apps
Chrome lets you add any website to the Windows Taskbar. Although in Windows 10, it actually adds them to the Start Menu as a tile. Click the Hamburger icon in Chrome, go to More Tools > Add to taskbar…, and check Open as window.
The tile will now launch the website in an app-like window , without distracting toolbars or tabs. This is particularly neat for websites like Gmail, Facebook, or YouTube.
Manage the All Apps List
Compared to previous Windows versions, the All Apps list appears stale and is difficult to navigate. Moreover, you cannot easily remove items, unless you’re happy to uninstall them. With the file location trick already described above, however, you regain some flexibility.
Classic desktop software is added to the All Apps list with a folder, but you really just need the Dropbox application shortcut in that list. When you right-click and item and select Open file location, you will access the Programs directory, based on which the All Apps menu is created. This is where you can move shortcuts or create additional folders. For example, I could move the Dropbox shortcut from the Dropbox folder to the Programs directory, then delete the Dropbox folder.
You have to reboot for the latter to take effect.
Also note that you can quickly jump to a different location in the All Apps list by clicking or long-pressing a letter, then selecting your target from the menu that comes up.
Change Color & Transparency
Compared to the Windows 10 Preview, your options here are rather limited and none of them can be found in the Start Menu itself. Press Windows + I or launch the Settings app through the Start Menu and navigate to Personalization > Colors.
Per default, the Start Menu and Taskbar are dark grey, but you can make them adapt the Windows-wide accent color. This in turn can be picked based on your background or you can manually select one. Finally, you can make the Start Menu transparent, but you cannot customize this setting.
Switch Between Start Menu & Start Screen
You can change the size of the Start Menu by dragging it by its top or right edge or you can switch to a full screen Start Menu, better known as Start Screen. And you have two different options here: you can either switch between Desktop and Tablet mode, with the latter automatically maximizing all your windows and activating the Start Screen, or you can choose to permanently use the Start Screen via Windows Settings. Both methods will give you instant results, no reboot needed; it’s the smoothness of Continuum .
To toggle between display modes, open the Action Center from the notification area or press Windows key + A, then click or tab Tablet mode; one of the tiles at the bottom.
For the permanent solution, open the Settings app from the Start Menu or press Windows key + I, then head to Personalization > Start and set Use Start full screen to On.
Whether you choose Tablet Mode or a full screen Start menu, the Start Screen will look the same. What differs between the two modes is the behavior of the Taskbar. In Tablet Mode it’s hidden and when you hit the Windows key or swipe up from the bottom, you’ll notice it’s empty, save for the default icons. To switch between applications, you now have to tap the Task View button or swipe in from the left.
Use an Alternative Start Menu
Chances are that even once future updates roll around, you’re not satisfied with the new Windows 10 Start Menu. Fortunately, you can always install a third-party Start Menu, such as Classic Shell. These tools can either replace the default Windows 10 Start Menu or you can choose settings to allow access to both menus.
Into Windows recommends you pin the Start Screen option from Classic Shell to your Taskbar, so you have a separate button for each Start Menu and don’t have to recall special shortcuts.
As a side note, some alternative Start Menus, including Start Menu Reviver, also work for Windows 7.
How Did You Change Your Start Menu?
We would love to hear or see what you have done to your Start Menu! How are you using tiles? Have you applied an artistic design or have you organized your tiles in a specific way? What else have you done to make the Start Menu work for you? Have you tweaked it with any third-party tools designed to customize Windows ? Or are you using a completely different way to launch software and folders ? Tell or show us in the comments!