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The Start menu is a graphical user interface feature that has been included in Microsoft Windows since version 95, as well as in a few other operating systems. It serves as a central hub for running computer applications and carrying out other duties. Kickoff Application Launcher in KDE, Dash in GNOME and Unity, and Start screen in Windows 8 are some of the names it goes by in different operating systems and window managers.
The Start menu used to give a user with a customisable hierarchical list of applications to run, as well as a list of recently opened documents, a mechanism to discover files and get help, and access to system settings. Access to specific folders such as “My Documents” and “Favorites” was added later via Windows Desktop Update (browser bookmarks). The Start menu in Windows XP was enlarged to include numerous My Documents folders (including My Music and My Pictures), as well as things from the Windows desktop such as My Computer and My Network Places. The Start menu was continually enlarged across the screen as the user went through its cascading sub-menus until Windows Vista.
The Start menu debuted in Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0, but it had been under development at Microsoft since 1992, when it was dubbed “System” by early testers. It was created to address the flaws in prior operating systems’ Program Manager. Program Manager was a basic multiple document interface (MDI) that enabled users to open different “program groups” and subsequently run the shortcuts to the applications included inside them. It didn’t support nesting groups within other groups.
Program Manager was superseded by the desktop and the Start menu in Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0. The latter was similar to the Apple menu in Mac OS operating systems in certain ways, but did not have the constraints of Program Manager: Because it was a menu, it allowed for nested grouping despite only having one open at a time. The menu also gave them the option to log off and shut off their machine.
Beyond versions of Internet Explorer and future Windows releases allow you to personalize the Start menu and access and extend Internet Explorer Favorites, My Documents, and Administrative Tools from the Start menu (Windows 2000 and later). Alternatively, items might be dragged and dropped into the Start menu.
Although Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 brought a new version of the Start menu, they also included the option to revert to the previous form. This Start menu version is also included in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. It is, however, missing from Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and subsequent Windows editions.
The Start menu had its first major makeover in Windows XP, and it was later incorporated in Windows Server 2003. The Start menu has been split into two columns: the left column contains installed applications, while the right column contains My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, and other unique folders. This column also has shortcuts for Computer and Network (Network Neighborhood in Windows 95 and 98), which were formerly located on the Desktop. This column’s content can be changed. The left-hand menu automatically displays often used programs. Users can “pin” programs to this side of the Start menu to keep them available at all times. All items in the Start menu are accessible through a sub-menu item at the bottom of this column. When this menu item is chosen, the user/recent list is replaced with a scrolling list of Start menu programs.