Windows – Search behavior of Windows 7 start menu

start-menuwindows 7windows-search

I'm coming to Windows 7 from Windows XP, and there are aspects of the start menu search that I like. However, there are some behaviors that seem either inconsistent or surprising to me. For example:

  • If I type "Pa" into the search bar, Paint is the first result (under the "Programs" heading), and it is selected for me. I can just hit Enter to start the program

  • If I have a standalone EXE file "testing" on my desktop, and I type "test", the program comes up as the first item (under the "Files" heading), but it is not selected for me. I have to hit <down> + <down> + <down> + Enter to open it from the keyboard. The same appears to be true for shortcuts and folders.

What classifies something as a "program" versus a "file"? Is there a way to configure the start menu so that the first search result is always selected? As a heavy keyboard user, it seems insane for the behavior to be inconsistent, and to require so many keypresses to select the top result.

Also, are there resources that document the details, limitations, and tricks of the start menu search? (For example, a "Proc Exp" search will match "Process Explorer", but not "ProcessExplorer".)

I've found that instead of hitting <down> + <down> + <down> to select the first item (when no programs are in the list), you can just hit Tab. This helps a bit, but the inconsistent behavior still makes this search feature more awkward and frustrating than necessary.

Best Answer

  • Programs are classified as such because they have an actual shortcut in the start menu programs (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs).

    Your exe is found under the secondary search for files because it is on your desktop. If you were to create a shortcut to your exe in the start menu, then it would appear under the Programs section. Or right click the exe and select Pin to Start Menu or Taskbar.

    I am sure there are some good resources of the inner workings of the start menu, but I tend to try and figure out why things work the way they do thru trial and error, so I do not know of any off hand. Regarding your specific Proc Exp example, it appears that it searches individual words, and if there is no space in ProcessExplorer, it would be considered one word and would not be a match for Proc Exp.