Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Clean Up the Most Frequently Used Programs List

Make this infrequently used tool useful. Ban programs from the Most Frequently Used Programs List, change the number of programs on the list, or do away with it altogether to make more room for the Pinned Programs List.

Windows keeps track of programs you use frequently and puts them on the Most Frequently Used Programs List, which appears on the new Windows XP-style Start menu (not the Classic-style Start menu) between the Pinned Items List at the top and the All Programs link at the bottom. The Most Frequently Used Programs List is a quick way to access programs you use often. But the rules for when programs appear on that list and disappear from the list are murky at best, and there appears to be no logic to what programs appear there.

There is some hidden logic, however. XP bans a variety of programs from the list. If any of the following words or phrases is included in the program's shortcut name, the program will be excluded from the list: Documentation, Help, Install, More Info, Readme, Read me, Read First, Setup, Support, and What's New.

Additionally, the following executables are excluded from the list: Setup.exe, Install.exe, Isuninst.exe, Unwise.exe, Unwise32.exe, St5unst.exe, Rundll32.exe, Explorer.exe, Icwconn1.exe, Inoculan.exe, Mobsync.exe, Navwnt.exe, Realmon.exe, and Sndvol32.exe.


2.5.1. Banning Programs from the List

You might want to ban other programs from the list, not just those that XP bans by default. Just because you use a program a time or two doesn't mean you want it on the Start menu's Most Frequently Used Programs List. You can ban programs from the list using a Registry hack.

Run the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications. Underneath this key, you'll find a series of subkeys, each representing an application. The primary purpose of these subkeys, as you'll see later in this hack, is to determine whether the program appears on the Open With dialog box that appears whenever you try to open an unknown file type. But you can also add a value to any of the subkeys which will ban programs from appearing on the Most Frequently Used Programs List.

Look for a subkey that is the executable name of the application you want to ban from the listfor example, visio.exe for the Visio business illustration program. Once you find the application's subkey, create a new String value for that subkey, named NoStartPage. Leave the value blank. Exit the Registry. You might have to reboot for the setting to take effect and the program to be banned from the list.

2.5.1.1 Another use for HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications
While you're rooting around in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications, you might want to hack the Open With dialog box (shown in Figure 2-6) that appears whenever you try to open an unknown file type. Each application's subkey in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications controls whether that particular application will show up on the dialog box.


Figure 2-6. Hacking the Open With dialog box




If you want to ban a particular program from the Open With dialog box, look for the application's subkey underneath HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications, add a String value named NoOpenWith, and leave the value blank.

2.5.1.2 Ban programs from the Most Frequently Used Programs List with Tweak UI
If you don't want to muck around in the Registry, you can ban programs from the Most Frequently Used Programs List using Tweak UI. Run Tweak UI, and choose Taskbar XP Start Menu. You'll see the screen shown in Figure 2-7, with a list of programs and checks next to most or all of them.


Figure 2-7. Using Tweak UI to ban programs from the Most Frequently Used Programs List




Each program with a check next to it will be allowed to appear on the Most Frequently Used Programs List. To stop a program from appearing on the list, uncheck the box and click OK.


2.5.2. Change the Number of Programs That Appear on the List

By default, the Most Frequently Used Programs List has room for six programs, but you can change that default and have more or fewer programs appear. Right-click the Start button and choose Properties Customize General. The Customize Start Menu dialog box, shown in Figure 2-8, appears. To customize the number of programs to include on the list, edit the "Number of programs on Start menu" box. You can choose any number between 0 and 30. Be aware, though, that depending on your screen resolution and whether you're using large or small icons, the entire list might not appear if you choose a large number. No matter how high your resolution is, for example, don't expect there to be room for 30 programs.


Figure 2-8. Customizing the number of programs on the Most Frequently Used Programs List





2.5.3. Make Room for the Pinned Programs List
The Pinned Programs List, just above the Most Frequently Used Programs List on the XP-style Start menu, gives you instant access to any program you want. You, rather than the operating system, decide what programs go there. To add a program to it, drag the program's icon or filename to the Start menu, and when the menu pops up, drag it to the spot on the list where you want it to appear.

This list makes a lot more sense than the Most Frequently Used Programs List: after all, you know better than XP what programs you want within easy reach. So, do what I do: kill the Most Frequently Used Programs List as a way to make more room for the Pinned Programs List. When you kill the Most Frequently Used Programs List, there will be a big blank space between the Pinned Programs List and the All Programs button. Drag programs to fill that space; the shortcuts will stay there until you delete them.

You can kill the Most Frequently Used Programs List with a Registry hack. Run the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer. Create a new DWORD called NoStartMenuMFUprogramsList and give it a value of 1. You'll have to reboot or log off and back on for the setting to take effect. When it does, the nice big blank space will be left for you to fill with pinned programs.

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