If you pin a program, it doesn’t show up in the frequently-used programs list

After the initial explorations with the Windows XP Start menu, we had to add a rule that fine-tuned the results: If a program is pinned, then it is removed from consideration as a frequently-used program.

For example, if you right-click Lotus Notes and select "Pin to Start menu", then it goes into the pin list and will never show up in the dynamic portion of the front page of the Start menu. This tweak was added to avoid the ugly situation where you have two icons for the same program on the front page of the Start menu, when only one would do the job.

This is another manifestation of the "Don't show me something I already know" principle, which we saw earlier when we discussed why the All Programs list doesn't use Intellimenus. After all, you pinned the program to your Start menu because you run it often. There's no point in showing it again at the top of your "frequently-used" list; you knew that already! Use that scarce real estate to show the user something that is actually of value.

Next time, another fine-tuning rule that tries to filter the noise from the results.

Comments (18)
  1. andy says:

    (Please ignore if this will be written about later in your series!)

    Will a "pinned program" still get points, so if you unpin it & you’ve used it a lot it should then show up in the "frequently used list"?

    I just tried this, by removing my pinned shortcut to cmd.exe. After it was unpinned it did not show up in the "frequently used list". Is this by-design, a design-glitch, or…?

  2. Krenn says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong – the "Unpin from Start menu" command won’t change the number of ‘points’ that shortcut has accumulated, but "Remove from This List" does.

    I’ve noticed you can pin/unpin programs in the frequently used list and they just jump back to where they were, so that’s why I’m assuming this.

  3. andy says:

    Ops.. I see that my experiment was flawed. I chose "Remove from this list" instead of "Unpin" :/. Was  actually looking for "Unpin", but didn’t see it first.

    Perhaps you could do something to the context-menu so the "Start menu management menu items"(i.e., Remove/Unpin items) are placed for instance at the bottom of the list for easy access? Quite difficult currently since it’s just somewhere in the middle between the rest of the stuff from extensions++.

  4. Rutger says:


    if you remove it from your pinned list IMHO it should not show up in the frequently used list. You are probably done with the program and it should re-earn its place in The List. Althought that would have been the behaviour I would expect from the remove from list function also.

  5. dave says:

    Would having un-pin and remove both take away the program’s points be elephant-compliant?

  6. Alex says:

    On my home machine (running XP), Excel shows up in the pinned list and the frequently used list.  I tried removing the one from the frequently used list, and it it removed both shortcuts.  I then re-added it to the pin list, and it only showed up in the pin list for a while.  Recently it has appeared in the frequently used list again.  Is this a bug?  Can you think of any circumstances where this would happen?  I usually launch Excel either by opening a shortcut to a specific spreadsheet or by choosing the Excel shortcut from the start menu.

  7. Good Point says:

    Maybe you’ll touch on this later, but I had a particular annoyance with the frequently-used programs list.

    I had a program that I updated by running the latest installer (once or twice).  Each time I ran the installer I would delete the shortcut it placed on the desktop (and get the dialog ‘Uninstall this if you want to get rid of the program…’).

    The last time I did this, the program, that I use frequently, was taken off the frequently-used programs list.  And no matter what I do it won’t come back.  I always wondered if the program was ‘punished’ because I deleted the desktop shortcut.

  8. J says:

    "I then re-added it to the pin list, and it only showed up in the pin list for a while."

    That part sounds like a bug.  Everything I’ve ever added to the pin list has never gone away on any of my PCs in the years I’ve been using it.  You’re sure you’re really pinning it right (by right-clicking on the shortcut and selecting "Pin to Start menu").

  9. GregM says:

    J, you need to include the next sentence too, where it says that it then started showing up in the MRU too.

  10. Rick C says:

    I wonder if the two icons refer to different programs?  My shortcut for Excel doesn’t actually say c:Program filesetc, but "Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003" in the Target box.

  11. ac says:

    Rick C: Those are special icky MSI shortcuts probably (They often point to some weird exe inside %windir%installer%guid%, and is related to the "installer later" features of Office)

  12. Cheong says:

    And of course… Windows Installer won’t show in the list of a freshly install system, where and when I suspect the installer would be the "most frequently used application" at the time.

    It’s kind of pointless to show it there too. :P

  13. Nektar says:

    The same happens to me for Microsoft Word. It appears both on my pin list and the frequently used list.

  14. Drak says:

    As pointed out above, this seems to be because the Office applications use a different means of starting up.

    Same goes for WMP, Outlook and IE I think, because whenever you update those you get a new quicklaunch icon, even if you had an icon pointing to the exe already.

  15. Jonathan says:

    "icky MSI shortcuts" (great description!) can be disabled by setting DISABLEADVTSHORTCUTS=1 during app installation.

    For normal MSIs, that would be "msiexec.exe /i app.msi DISABLEADVTSHORTCUTS=1". Never tried it on Office though.

    BTW, %windir%installer%ProductId%name.exe are dummy EXEs that only include icons.

    Personally, I never cared much for this list. I like the XP-style menu mostly for its always-there "My Computer", "My Documents", etc. I prefer going to someone’s computer and finding them there, instead of looking for them among the other 50 desktop shortcuts.

    I do like the Vista instant-search thing much more – finally one can type "word" and get Word!

  16. AndyB says:

    I’m still getting used to vista’s start menu – it sems a backwards step, but maybe I’m not using it ‘properly’. Maybe its because I don’t want to type anything in there – I want to remember its location in the menu so I know where it is. Vista makes me search for it.

    So Raymond – at the end of this suite of articles can we have an explanation of how and why Vista does things with its start menu please.

  17. Marc K says:

    "If a program is pinned, then it is removed from consideration as a frequently-used program."

    This was a fantastic move, indeed.

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