The classic start menu is even more classic than it looks


In Windows 95, the Find option took its place on the Start menu between Settings and Help. In Windows 2000, the option was still there, but its name changed to Search, a name which persist today if you use the classic Start menu.

When the menu option changed its name, the keyboard accelerator changed accordingly. Whereas Find used F as its accelerator, Search uses C. Here's a secret: The classic Start menu still responds to F as the keyboard accelerator for Search. The work to make this happen was undertaken as a concession to people who imprinted on the old Start menu and whose "muscle memory" still wants to press F to open what used to be the Find menu.

The totally redesigned Start menu for Windows XP changed the keyboard model radically, but if you're still attached to your muscle memory, you can switch to the classic Start menu and keep using all the old keyboard shortcuts from Windows versions past.

Comments (22)
  1. John Topley says:

    What was the rationale behind the name change? Was it an acknowledgement that you may not find what you are searching for, or perhaps search is a more Internet-friendly term?

    [It was an acknowledgment that the Internet term had won the terminology battle. -Raymond]
  2. James Schend says:

    In addition to Raymond’s answer, Windows can’t guarantee you’ll "Find" what you’re looking for, it can just "Search" for it. Search makes more sense when you think about, at least to me.

    Now if only we could get everyone on the same page about using "Previous <-> Next" on slideshows instead of "Last <-> Next". Last has two meanings, people! Previous has only one! It’s obvious!!

  3. Joe Dietz says:

    One of the things I dislike most about vista is that the ‘classic’ start menu has drifted a bit further from the classics (expanding the administrative tools menu from the control panel is gone for instance).  Its not that I’m in love with the classic menu, its just that I develop and test on every windows release from NT4->Longhorn, I just want to work with a least common denominator.  So switching the menu to ‘classic’ is just about the first thing I do when I install a new OS.

  4. Cody says:

    James:  The obvious benefit of Last/Next over Previous/Next is the symmetry of the words, specifically with respect to length.

    Therefore, there’s a UI benefit to Last/Next that’s powerful enough the ambiguity of Last is irrelevant considering the benefit of context in deciphering which meaning of "last" is intended.

  5. Shuva says:

    @Cody If you dont like "Last" then you have "Back" which confirms to the beauty and has only one meaning in context.

    @James Its partially correct, that Windows search/find is not flawless. Thats because it only searches files with extensions it understands. You need to do advanced settings to make the engine behave non-intelligent, in which case, it does find what you are looking for. Some features in Windows are not meant for smart people like you and me—didn’t anybody tell you :-)

  6. SM says:

    Of course, I still use Ctrl-F to search in both Firefox and IE.  And in IE, as in many other apps,  it’s still called ‘find’ when referring to searching for text in a single file/page/document/etc.

  7. MS says:

    When I started using Vista, I would try to shut the machine down by using WinKey, U, Enter, which would bring up the shutdown dialog box and confirm it.  Vista of course had no idea what "u" was, since the typed character went into the neato search box.  The new start menu is still pretty cool.

  8. John Topley says:

    @James Schend:

    "In addition to Raymond’s answer, Windows can’t guarantee you’ll ‘Find’ what you’re looking for, it can just ‘Search’ for it"

    I thought I covered that when I wrote "Was it an acknowledgement that you may not find what you are searching for…"

  9. Even though the command in Spider Solitaire has changed from "Move" to "Hint", it can still be invoked by pressing M.

  10. Scoth says:

    I still usually do Winkey-F (together) to pull up the find stuff, but I also do Winkey, F sometimes (either because I miss the key, or whatever). Since I’m not interested in moving to Vista yet, I still use XP. I’ve been making myself switch to the "new" XP Start Menu over the Classic since I figure I really should get used to it. Since I go back to Win95 (Win31 even), it’s taken me a long time to get out of the habits I developed in the Win95/98 era. I still occasionally have a split second of confusion when I pull up the System control panel and can’t find the Device Manager tab.

  11. Ulric says:

    crazy stuff :)

    they sure didn’t think about my muscle memory when doing the File Open dialog in Vista though.

    here’s another guy’s opinion:

    http://www.stevetrefethen.com/blog/MicrosoftWindowsVistaBreaksCommonKeyboardUsagePatterns.aspx

  12.  The obvious benefit of Last/Next over Previous/Next is the symmetry of the words, specifically with respect to length.

    For that I always use Prev/Next.

  13. Michael says:

    And here I thought it might have just been "under the hood."  On XP, at least, the ‘F’ accelerator skips the ‘Search’ menu top level and drills straight to ‘For &Files and Folders…’

    I hadn’t wondered why that menu nagged at my subconscious until now, since Windows menus don’t usually jump menu levels like that.

    Awesome; thanks again for obscure Windows trivia.

  14. Mike Dunn says:

    On Vista, shut down is Win Right Right Right Enter :)

  15. MS says:

    "On Vista, shut down is Win Right Right Right Enter :)"

    Argh don’t tempt me!

  16. Dan says:

    I shutdown with "shutdown -s -t 0" from mIRC (with /run) or a command prompt if I have one open.

    Or I just click the appropriate Start > Shutdown stuff.  Usually depends where keyboard focus is and if I’m holding my mouse at the time I decide I need to shutdown/reboot.

  17. Centaur says:

    So why don’t you* care of our muscle memory when doing localizations? I imprinted on the US English version (of Windows 3.1) and memorized Alt+F A as the Save As shortcut. Nowadays, the only thing one can buy** in Russia is Russian, where the same command is (key-wise) on Alt+A R.

    * “You” as in Microsoft, not particularly Raymond Chen.

    ** Without having to put up with outrageous two-fold prices and long deliveries.

    [If your question isn’t directed at me, then don’t post it here. Why not ask a localizer? -Raymond]
  18. Anonymous says:

    Not that the new Vista Search is bad for indexed files, but at least on my comp, its slower for non-indexed files. Anyone know a Windows 2000-like classic search tool with a pleasant UI?

  19. Arend says:

    Unfortunately, in Vista the Favorites folder (when displayed in the classic start menu) also has the accelerator key F.

    I’m using the German version of Vista. I’m not sure, if this is a problem in the English version as well.

    In XP typing Windows-key -> F -> G would open Google Reader. But in Vista I’m stuck at Search.

    Maybe someone knows a way how to give the Favorites folder a unique accelerator key?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks. Decent UI too.

  21. Faramond says:

    Unfortunately, you can’t use the classic start menu with the new type to search functionality.

    I prefer the classic start menu because it’s more simpler and predictable–there are fewer options to scan visually and digest, and what options there are stay in a fixed location (they don’t move around.) This also endears it to inexperienced users I find, too (7 options are a lot less intimidating than twenty plus of the XP/Vista start menus.)

    It seems like Microsoft has been trying to copy Apple’s successes in UI design in recent years. Unfortunately, they seem to have taken the wrong lesson–lifting the bells and whistles and none of the simplicity.

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