What causes a program to be marked as "new" on the Start menu?


One of the features new in the Windows XP Start menu is that "newly-installed" programs are highlighted. Before discussing the rules, a quick backgrounder on why the feature exists at all.

Research revealed that one of the tasks people had trouble with was installing a new program and running it. The step that the "new programs" feature tries to assist with is the "running it" part. In our tests, we found that people who managed to muddle through a program's setup got stuck at the "Okay, why don't you play the game now that you've installed it?" step because they couldn't figure out how to get to that program. That's why there's a balloon that pops up saying "Psst. That program you just installed? It's over here." And then there's a "yellow brick road" leading you through the Start menu to the program launch point itself.

What are the rules that control whether a program counts as "newly-installed"? The basic idea is simple: The Start menu looks for shortcuts that were recently created and point to files that were recently created. If there are multiple shortcuts to the same program, only one of them is chosen. (No point highlighting two shortcuts to the same thing.) Once you've run a program, it is no longer marked as "new".

But then there are a bunch of rules, based on feedback from our research, that "tweak" the results by removing candidates from the list:

  • Things that aren't even programs. Example: A shortcut to a text file.
  • Shortcuts in the Startup group, since they are already run for you automatically.
  • Shortcuts more than a week old. Clearly you aren't interested in those any more.
  • Shortcuts that should be ignored because they aren't really programs. Some people felt that they had to run every single highlighted program "because the computer told me to", so we had to un-highlight the ones that either aren't really all that important or are downright dangerous.
    • Online help disguised as programs. Examples: "XYZ Read Me", "XYZ Documentation", "What's New in XYZ 2.0".
    • Product support disguised as programs. Example: "XYZ Support Center".
    • Application management disguised as programs. Examples: "Uninstall XYZ", "XYZ Feature Setup", "INSTALL.EXE".

    You can imagine the excitement that reigned when "Uninstall XYZ" was highlighted on the Start menu and one of those "the computer told me to" people was sitting at the computer.

  • Shortcuts to programs which are being used as file viewers rather than as programs in their own right. Examples: "explorer.exe", "rundll32.exe", "quikview.exe".
  • Shortcuts to programs which were already installed before you installed Windows. These programs are obviously not new, even though you may never have run them. Before this rule was put into effect, upgrading a computer resulted in every single old program being highlighted because the Windows XP Start menu said, "Well, I've never seen you run any of these programs; they all must be new."
  • Shortcuts to programs which were installed within one hour of installing Windows. Although these programs are "new" in the strict sense of the word, they were clearly installed by whoever set up the computer and not by the end user. Therefore, there is no need for a "yellow brick road" to find them. Before this rule was put into effect, a person who bought a computer with a dozen programs preinstalled would turn on their computer Christmas morning and be greeted with a wall of yellow programs.

Wow, that's a lot of tweaks. But each one was to address a real-world scenario that was found during research and testing.

A typographical note: The correct capitalization is "Start menu" with a capital S and a small m. (I got it wrong for the first several years as well until somebody corrected me.) Not that anybody pays any attention to what I say about how things should be called.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (50)
  1. Andreas Häber says:

    For me it would be great if you used these rules to delete shortcuts in the Start menu as well. I really hate applications adding shortcuts to readme-files, help-files and what not. I only want to find my applications at the Start menu.

    But some help-files should stay there, from SDKs etc. since that really is the installed program :) Such as Platform SDK docs, J2ME Reference docs, etc. But I’ll prefer to add those manually later instead, then heaving all these stupid shortcuts there.

    (Similar to the "Designed for Windows" logo requirement F1.1)

  2. John Topley says:

    I was going to post a comment about how all this convoluted logic wouldn’t be necessary if the UI was easier to use in the first place, but honestly! There’s a big friendly green button with "Start" written on it and you click on it and there’s something else that says "All Programs" that contains…all your programs.

    I don’t think Mac OS X is significantly better in this regard. Sure, you install programs by dragging their packages into the Applications folder (assuming you can find it) but then you’re on your own when it comes to adding them to the Dock etc.

    Perhaps the Start button should have "Click Me" written on it, or even "Don’t Click This" which has always been a reliable way to get people to click things! ;-)

  3. In reply to John T:

    Yes, John, what you say is obvious to you and me. But then, we read a technical blog about technical things. I would therefore assume you don’t have much "fear" of computers.

    I train beginners in the use of Windows and MS Office, and it always amazes me how afraid people are of what to you and me seem the simplest of things.

    They are so afraid of "breaking" their machine that every operation beyond typing and Saving becomes fraught with worry.

    These "afraid" people don’t read the buttons. Or if they do, they don’t interpret them correctly.

    As power users it is incredibly difficult to empathise with beginners. I recommend you go to a beginner’s class once in a while to understand how the rest of the world cope with Windows!

  4. Daniel says:

    This looks as another case of trying too hard to get 100% at usability tests. This feature generates more trouble than value.

    I’m really curious how those tweaks were implemented and how well they work in other cultures. It also looks like a lot of processing, maybe it is one of the reasons why a 2+ GHz computer is so slow…

    As for highlighting non-programs, a better strategy would be to highlight the Friendly Manual and only highlight the executable program after the Friendly Manual was "executed" once. (Better hide this suggestion from the Product Manager).

    The only good thing is that this feature can be turned off (rigth click on the Start button, Properties, Customized, Advanced).

  5. "a better strategy would be to highlight the Friendly Manual and only highlight the executable program after the Friendly Manual was "executed" once"

    And how does one programmatically detect which shortcut is the Friendly Manual? and which executable that Friendly Manual is for? what if there is no shortcut to the Friendly Manual? (most programs don’t come with one)

  6. John Topley says:

    Andy,

    Oh, I wasn’t disputing that beginners struggle with these things and I have seen it with my own eyes. I was just wondering what scope is left for making GUIs even easier to use.

    I guess the ultimate in ease of use would be being able to speak naturally to the computer, Star Trek style. That explains why Microsoft invest serious $ in speech recognition then.

  7. Centaur says:

    If the user does not know how to start programs, how did s/he manage to install them?

  8. PatriotB says:

    I’m currently at my parents’ home using their computer. Last night I installed a game to play with my mom (on her account) and then wanted to go and log dad’s account off before playing. The "New programs were installed" balloon blocked the "log off" button, and for the life of me I couldn’t get the balloon to go away. It doesn’t help that the computer was churning away at 100% for some reason (probably because of all the junk that Dad has installed), and I ended up misclicking and opening up some folder from the Start menu.

    Also, the yellow highlighting is completely undetectable on their LCD monitor (at least with the brightness/contrast they have selected). It looks white to me. :)

  9. Rikard says:

    Centaur: Autorun.

  10. Mike says:

    I might be an old fart, perhaps even sometimes giving the impression I’m against "progress". I’m not. I’ve been at this game of writing Windows programs since around 3.11, and the NewShell was IMO the most important and best interface update ever. Sure, it’s got quirks, but it works. Heck, I ran 3.51 with the (completely unsupported!) NewShell for quite some time until we switched over to NT 4.

    The last 4-5 years I’ve been using Windows 2000 exclusively for development. XP is IMO in most areas a step back (disregarding a small amount of core, kernel changes, that are unfortunately dwarfed by the rest). Using XP as an appliance OS it might be better as it apparently support UPnP and creates many more attack-vectors than NT5 ever did, but for serious work I think it’s a step back.

    To tie in to the start menu behaviour, I recently was called in for an "emergency" thing by a company needing my expertise. I showed up, again smiled at how "childish" the XP UI looks, installed the required toolset, popped up the Start menu, and then just sat there staring like a deer in headlights. It took me over 15 seconds, and someone used to XP in the end pointing out to me where the "Programs" submenu item was. In the second-to-last place I’d ever considered to look. At the bottom-left of a "menu" (more like an over-cluttered window if you ask me) filled with colorful graphics and lots of text. Text, that the vast majority of english-reading people on the planet read line-by-line, left-to-right.

    Was there even something displaying or pointing to the newly installed program(s)? Uh, no. Not something I found at least.

  11. cooperpx says:

    I use just seven software packages on a daily basis. My "All Programs" is HUGE and I cringe everytime I have to install something new on my box.

    I dislike the "All programs" paradigm, but I hate the "hide options from the menu" paradigm more.

    The highlighting isn’t so bad, in fact I appreciate it. If it weren’t for the QuickLaunch toolbar, I would go mad.

  12. Vince says:

    it’s not only for beginner, sometimes i find myself trying some new freewares/sharewares and when i installed one i dont know where it went because it was under its compagny name and i obviously skipped reading who made this prog.

  13. It sounds like the Italian translators didn’t do a good job with the list of phrases that are used to detect "probably not useful" shortcuts.

  14. Reinder says:

    "Wow, that’s a lot of tweaks. But each one was to address a real-world scenario that was found during research and testing"

    I bet almost all of them also introduced another, but rarer, real-world problem. Users encountering such problems will have much more trouble getting someone to help them with it. I think the world would be better off if Microsoft did not go through the trouble of ‘fixing’ these problems. Instead, I think:

    1) application developers should do some usability testing with their installs (examples: a) why are there ‘uninstall X’, and ‘X read me’ links in the start menu at all? Uninstall has its own control panel, the read me could easily be programmed to pop up the first time one starts the application, and be available from its help file afterwards. b) why does everybody have a zillion icons named ‘Microsoft <whatever>?)

    2) users should learn something about their system (yes, I know you can not make that happen, but I do not think the current hacks make this any easier for users). I think Mac OS X is much better in this respect. The rule ‘if you want something extra or less in your dock, you will have to add/remove it yourself by dragging’ is relatively easy to learn. I think the fraction of Mac users that know about it, and uses the functionality, is much higher than the fraction of Windows users that knows they can modify the Start menu (example: most Windows users I know start Word by navigating into the Programs submenu of the Start Menu)

    The situation now more or less is that third party developers and users do not care what the neighbourhood looks like, and Microsoft tries hard to clean up for them, with limited success.

  15. Andy Peace says:

    Frankly I’m not surprised people have difficulties installing programs; most installers are so bad they’re a work of art.

    Things that annoy me about installers;

    1) They’re wizards; why? This is acceptable as an ‘advanced mode’, but why not just have one button that says "install me"?

    2) The MSI engine’s progress bar is crazy – it tells the user nothing because it restarts from 0 about three times during a typical installation, rather than being a simple "overall" progress bar (it doesn’t even say how many stages there are).

    3) Why do programs on CD media compress their install engine? You always get the "preparing to install X" message whilst the installer decompresses itself, but this must save a whole 200K at most on a 700MB (at least) disk. THe only time I can see a point in this is when it’s a downloaded installation package.

    I could go on… :)

  16. Naadir says:

    Only an hour to install your programs. It’ll take that long just to run Windows Update.

    Maybe increasing that time period is in order.

    Or perhaps I’m just too obsessive about configuration.

  17. Anonymous Coward says:

    What is worse is programs that hide themselves. I’ll pick on Microsoft, but many vendors do this. So you go ahead and install the Rise of Nations update (Thrones & Patriots).

    After the install you won’t find this game in your Start menu. You can look in the Games entry and it won’t be there either. If you look under Microsoft Games you finally find both the old and new Rise of Nations. Of course you have to know it is Microsoft who published this, ignoring that it was Big Huge Games who actually wrote it and have their name everywhere.

    Quite frankly I think Microsoft should stop trying to help software people who like to shoot themselves in the foot. Let them. That way the better ones survive and the rising tide will lift all boats rather than have everyone mired in the mud.

  18. vsz says:

    The install/uninstall usability nightmare could be avoided using a straighforward install method like the one in OS X, where you just have to drag and drop one application icon anywhere (either in a global folder if you’re admin, or one of your local ones, like the desktop). This avoids "dll hell" and quite a few other problems as well.

  19. william says:

    I always turn off the highlight together with personalized menu which are both found to be useless to me. Just wonder would it speed up Windows a little bit? :)

  20. mb says:

    In the italian version of Windows XP uninstall programs are *always* highlighted and real programs are *never* highlighted.

  21. Ulric says:

    Actually, to answer the second poster I believe OS X is better at this, although to a less extent than Mac OS 9 was.

    The reason is that it’s in the culture of the Mac to force people to decide where they want to install things, they have fewer installed software, and each of them have much fewer subdirectories than software that comes from Windows. MacOS users also get early on in touch with their hard drive structures, which Windows tries to hide.

    In OS X it is IMHO not as good as OS 9 because there is an Application folder and several other folders, while most simple users of OS 9 would find everything either on the desktop or the root of the drive. The Home folder is an added place to look that adds complexity.

    OS X however has added Bundles, which allow hiding a complete application tree in a single icon, which massivly helps reducing information overload. Example, XEmacs is a single icon on my desktop!! This is great because it acommodates the engineer (it works like a file system) and the moron user at once.

    Back on Windows, the problem is that the Start menu is a different beast than the structure on disk, so one of the these two ways to find things is bound to fail sometime. Sometimes the software is not in the Start menu, sometime it’s there but you can’t guess where it ended up.

    I’m a Windows programmer since 1993 and I myself loose programs all the time, sometimes because the program is in a Program Group in the start menu named company name which frankly I can’t remember since it’s unrelated to task I do. It’s sometimes easier to do a Find in Files in C:Program Files.

  22. Stu says:

    All these useless features come down to this:

    WINDOWS XP WAS DESIGNED FOR BEGINNERS

    Nevermind that most Windows XP users are not beginners and just find these sorts of things annoying, its all to do with Microsoft’s "usability testing", which is of course just another study for marketing purposes.

    It sounds good when they can say that their new OS is so easy to use that a new user can do x within 30 seconds of seeing the computer, but this basically means that the OS will wave a "do you want to do x?" notice in front of the user (such as this "feature" or all those common task pains (mis-spelling intended) all over XP), in short its simply a way to cheat the usability tests at the expense of the user experiance of the majority of users. Let’s hope they can do better with Vista (I’m not holding my breath.)

  23. Stu: Hate to break it to you: Most Windows XP users are beginners and will always be beginners.

  24. Daniel says:

    "And how does one programmatically detect which shortcut is the Friendly Manual?"

    Well, on the one hand I was (partially) joking. On the other hand, Windows is already guessing what aren’t really programs. The gripping hand is that trying to second-guess applications and users is a tricky business.

    "In the italian version of Windows XP uninstall programs are *always* highlighted and real programs are *never* highlighted."

    That is what I meant as working under other cultures. It probably works as bad here in Brazil but, like I said, I turn this feature off.

  25. Anonymous Coward says:

    I don’t know if you really mean beginners or if you mean the term Alan Cooper invented: perpetual intermediates

    Anyone who has read his books will understand. A Google search also brings up various references. It refers to the bulk of the user population who go beyond being beginners but never become experts.

  26. Kosi2801 says:

    Well, I don’t know if this has already been asked before but:

    How does Windows determine its installation date and time? I’ve never seen an API call or else returning something which can be used for such a problem. (Well, but I haven’t looked actively for such a call either)

    Perhaps getting the oldest create-date of some system-files? Wouldn’t work with updates I guess. Should I better think in the direction of the registry?

  27. What annoys me about the "New programs has been installed …" is that every user gets the message next time they log in.

    If I install SomeFileViewer 1.1 my wife will get a message that "New programs has been installed …" next time she logs on and press the Start button.

    If it somehow could be optional whether the message should been shown to all users or not it would be great.

  28. Simon Cooke says:

    Daniel wrote:

    > I’m really curious how those tweaks were

    > implemented and how well they work in other

    > cultures. It also looks like a lot of

    > processing, maybe it is one of the reasons

    > why a 2+ GHz computer is so slow…

    Of course. I mean, something that only happens when you install a new application just *has* to slow down a machine all the time. Rather than just when you install the new application. You see, normally you would need a 2 Terahertz system to do such things, but because it’s amortized over the entire run time of the computer, stealing clock cycles from the future, it just slows your 2GHz machine down a lot instead.

    *sheesh*

  29. Brian says:

    Wow, I had no idea the "new" XP Start menu did all that. I am that much more thankful that I have always used the "Classic" Start menu and never had to put up with any of that, for it would infuriate me without question.

  30. Michael Moulton says:

    In XP, the button says "start" in all small letters. Is "Start menu" still correct?

  31. Daniel says:

    "maybe it is one of the reasons why a 2+ GHz computer is so slow…"

    "something that only happens when you install a new application"

    Fist of all, I am not sure if this only happens when you install a new application. As far as I know, the highlighting can be generated on-the-fly each time you click on the Start button. Perhaps Raymond can enlight us on this point.

    Second, I’m trying (again without success) to be funny. Sorry about that.

    Last, I still remember the original 4.7MHz PC with 256K of Ram. Todays machines have a clock nearly 1000x faster and have more than 1000x memory. Does the computer work 1000x faster? Obviously not. Part of that is because today’s software do a lot more than yesterday’s. Each of the little features and eye-candy is eating clock cycles.

    Daniel

  32. Stu says:

    Hate to break it to you: Most Windows XP users are beginners and will always be beginners.

    I very much doubt that, by beginners, I mean those who have spent less than a month using a computer. This "feature" for instance is only useful to those people. After they realise that new programs go into the "All Programs" section of the Start "menu", this "hint" becomes immediately useless. Especially the fact that it covers the "Log Off" button with no obvious way to get rid of it. Highlighting newly installed programs may be a good idea, but a colour that doen’t get washed out so easily with bad contrast settings and making it go away much sooner (I suggest the next day or maybe 24 hours after install), would be vast improvements.

  33. James Schend says:

    > 2) The MSI engine’s progress bar is crazy – it tells the user nothing because it restarts from 0 about three times during a typical installation, rather than being a simple "overall" progress bar (it doesn’t even say how many stages there are).

    YES! This is my biggest pet peeve EVER!!! If your progress bar doesn’t actually show the amount of progress, either turn it into a ‘barberpole’ type (I’m not sure if Windows has this; it’s basically a progress bar used when the program isn’t sure how long it’ll take) or don’t show one at all.

    Gruh. They covered this in Office Space, when Peter’s trying to shut down his computer so he can sneak out of the office before his boss comes around, but every time the progress bar finishes another, slower, one pops up.

    And Stu: You need to get out of your ivory tower and look at the real world. 95% of computer users don’t know how to copy a file from one folder to another, and I’m not even kidding there. (If you’re lucky, they’ll know how to open it in Word and Save As… to the new location.) This applies to people who have been using (Windows) computers for 5 years as well as people who have been using them for one month. I don’t even believe they’re perpetual intermediates, I think they’re perpetual beginners. (And I also agree that OS X is much better at ‘leading’ people to discover how to do file management and other tasks, but not nearly as good at it as OS 9 was.)

  34. Merle says:

    But, most importantly: is there any way to <b>disable</b> this feature? I’m sure it’s great for most users, but to me it’s just as annoying as adaptive menus…

  35. AnonyCow says:

    What pisses me off about this BS is that while it makes easy for the clueless n00b to find what the rather pathetical interface hides from him, he will be raped by spyware/malware/virus shortly thereafter. Not having to worry about that would be real ease of use, and Vista has promised that, but I know better than to believe this time around things will be different. This kind of stuff gives the false perception that using the OS is easy, people get careless and skip/ignore dialogs as fast as possible (because most of them *ARE* useless), and dissaster ensues. And then I have to come and fix it, working for free as tech support.

  36. Gabe says:

    I actually like that it tells me what’s recently been installed, because otherwise it can be difficult to figure out how to get to a program you just installed. It’s not always obvious what program group it will be in. The only problem is that the stupid balloon won’t go away even if you click on it!

    This contrasts greatly with OS X, where it is almost impossible to determine where an installed application might be. On Windows I can find any app by clicking on app and moving around the mouse. On a Mac, however, I have to scrub the dock (in hopes that the user of the computer has thought enough to put the app there), then do a depth-first search of the Applications folder.

    Perhaps most Windows users have more installed applications than most Mac users?

  37. Bill says:

    Anyone know how to disable this? I really hate this "feature".

  38. Sean W. says:

    > Once you’ve run a program, it is no longer marked as "new".

    I could comment on the usability (or lack thereof) of the highlighting feature overall, but I’m more curious about this bullet point: Why is it that on so very many XP computers that I’ve used, installed programs remain highlighted for the full week, even programs that are run very frequently? On this very computer, I have two programs that I installed four days ago that I have run quite frequently since — and the only links I use to launch them are those on the Start menu (big "S", little "m" :-) ), so Explorer should know quite well that I’ve been using them. And yet they’re still highlighted. I think if it weren’t for the one-week rule, dozens upon dozens of apps in my Start menu would still be highlighted. I’ll *presume* this behavior is a bug, one that (I hope) will be fixed in Vista, but it sure seems like one that you guys at Microsoft would’ve noticed and fixed by now.

  39. Clicking on the balloon should make it go away.

  40. PatriotB says:

    Regarding putting help files, readme, and uninstall links in the Start menu: I think they shouldn’t be there either. Unfortunately, for programs I’ve written, I put them in. Why? Some software sites (cough Tucows cough) give your software a lower rating if you don’t have those links. And with Tucows, you have to have a certain rating to even get your apps to be accepted at all.

    It sucks, but what are you gonna do?

  41. Adam T says:

    What I’m really missing from Windows is a function to remove dead shortcuts from the Start menu. I always work in the classic look of the Start menu (as well as in the "Windows 2000" optic of the system) since I hate the new UI (Windows Vista looks even more insulting, btw).

    So, typically, I rearrange the Start menu manually by splitting the contents of the "Programs" subfolder into alphabetically sorted subfolders ("A", "B", "C" etc.) and place all the programs there. I also place the most popular programs I use into subfolders right in the Start menu folder (so they appear above the "Programs" subfolder within the Start menu). Of course when I uninstall an application after such rearrangement, the uninstaller will not remove the shortcuts (since they were moved since — a really poor feature of the shortcut concept in Windows). After I uninstalled a bunch of programs, I’m stuck with a bunch of dead .lnk files that point nowhere. I have not yet found a quick and easy method to get rid of them — while a function to delete invalid shortcuts should be part of Windows in general.

  42. j says:

    Aren’t all you "experts" who are using the Windows 95 classic start menu a little embarassed that you’re unable to adapt to the new menu structure in XP?

  43. ElBiggus says:

    "Aren’t all you "experts" who are using the Windows 95 classic start menu a little embarassed that you’re unable to adapt to the new menu structure in XP?"

    Due to GP restrictions at work I’m forced to use the "new" Start menu, so I’m well used to all its little foibles having had to bang my head against them for the past three years. At home, however, I still use the "classic" version because I find it easier to use, and I can’t "adapt" to the new version simply because it’s more complicated and intrusive than it needs to be. I keep the apps I use frequently in the QuickLaunch bar, the aps I use less frequently get "pinned" to the Start menu, and that’s all I need…

    Some of the other gripes mentioned here are also irritating; progress bars that bear no relation to actual progress (and XP does have a "barber pole" style progress bar, although it more closely resembles the car from Knight Rider — it’s just a bunch of filled in segments that travel from one end to the other), shortcuts that get left behind when you uninstall something because you moved or renamed them after installation (usually due to the installer not giving you any choice as to where they go — I think I may actually knock up a tool to fix that issue).

    My current "favourite" irritation is the "you have unused icons on the desktop" thing. What’s with that? I know I have unused icons on my desktop, but they’re there because I put them there and I’ll get rid of them when I please, thank you very much. (And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve clicked on the balloon to make it go away only to end up launching the desktop cleanup wizard…)

  44. whatever says:

    This is a pretty terrible feature. :(

  45. Randolpho says:

    It strikes me that many of the problems folks have been bringing up with the start menu in general, things like broken shortcuts, inappropriate mis-installs, the excess logic necessary for the "new programs" feature, etc. are due to the legacy-friendly nature of windows… they’re all due to the fact that items in the start menu programs list are just files in a folder somewhere, files that can be manipulated by pretty much anything, programs, users, viruses, whomever. It’s entirely unmanaged.

    However, all this can easily be fixed by going with a managed start menu system instead of flat files. Menu item command line calls could be maintained in well-known consolidated locations, say in XML files in the windows directory and user directories. All additions, changes, and subtractions would occur through this managed service, rather than by simply adding, moving, editing, or deleting a large number of operating system files. Each item potential menu item would be stored in a single location, and would be hard-linked to a particular installed program. Each user’s menu list would be stored in a user-specific file.

    The installation process would involve the installer registering suggested menu items and their suggested locations in the start menu for each suggested menu item, with the Administrator manually approving the location of each menu item or specifying an alternate; the key is that because each menu item is hard-linked to the installed program, they can easily be removed during uninstallation, no matter where they are in the actual menu hierarchy. There should never be an uninstall menu item; instead the current add/remove programs control panel would only be used for uninstallation, and could only be launched by an Administrator.

    Key to this is that the start menu could only be added to by the use of some consolidated installation system like MSI. Essentially, Microsoft needs to force all installation activity through a single managed path, rather than the current hodge-podge means of placing files and shortcuts in a half dozen locations (program files, registry keys, start menu, windows folder and sub-folders, user folders, etc.).

    I haven’t been able to find out if Windows Vista has a managed start menu or still uses shortcut files, or not, but thankfully, the Singularity project ( http://research.microsoft.com/os/singularity/ ) seems to at least be forcing installation through a single managed path. Hopefully future versions will incorporate this.

  46. J.Marsch says:

    Thank you.

    Your last bullet point answered one of life’s little mysteries for me: programs that are installed within 1 hour of installing Windows…

    Sometimes, I don’t get everything installed on a PC between windows setup and the end of an hour. I always wondered why some programs seemed to be highlighted some of the time (and with no apparent consistency) when I set up windows.

    Now I know why — sometimes I crossed the 1 hour barrier. I set up PC’s infrequently enough that I had never noticed the pattern.

    Anyway, thank you for the post, and thank you for your blog.

  47. Ever wonder why some programs are highlighted in the “All Programs” list of the Start menu? Start by

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