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IF01071

Start Button.

The Start Menu and Start Button are user interface elements in the Microsoft Windows product line, which serve as the central launching point for applications.

Traditionally, the Start Menu provided a customizable nested list of programs for the user to launch, as well as a list of most recently opened documents, a way to find files and get help, and access to the system settings. Later enhancements via Internet Explorer updates like access to special folders like "My Documents," "Favorites" (browser bookmarks), etc. Windows XP's Start Menu was expanded to encompass various My Documents folders (including My Music and My Pictures), and transplanted other items like My Computer and My Network Places from the Windows desktop.

Technically, the Start Menu is not needed at all, as any programs and files can be opened by navigating to them in the Windows Explorer interface. However, the Start Menu provides a much easier way to open programs, even for experienced users. Microsoft uses the Start Menu more in each version of Windows as a way to shield novice users from the complexities of the operating system. For example, in Windows XP, the root, Program Files and Windows folders are hidden from the user by default, and access to programs is expected to be achieved through the Start Menu.

Ultimately, the Start Menu is a single point of access to programs, documents and settings, unlike other operating systems which use multiple GUI features to access programs (e.g. a Finder menu, or Program menu), files (e.g. a hard drive or file cabinet icon) and settings (a separate "Configuration" utility or set of utilities).

On Windows operating systems before Windows Vista, the Start Button consists of the word "Start" and the Windows Logo. In Windows Vista, the word "Start" has been replaced by a blue Windows "pearl" logo

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