[Exclusive] Customize “Win+X” Menu in Windows 8 – Add, Remove, Rename or Move Shortcuts

We all know that Windows 8 has been RTMed and a free 90-day trial version of Windows 8 RTM can be downloaded using following link:

Download 90-Day Trial Version of Windows 8 RTM Absolutely Free

Microsoft has made many changes in Windows 8. A brand new Start Screen has been added which unfortunately has replaced the good old Start Menu.

Microsoft has also removed Start button (ORB) from Windows 8 Taskbar and has replaced it with a new Start Screen thumbnail which appears when you move your mouse cursor to bottom-left corner of screen.

To make Windows 8 users life easier, Microsoft has added a new context menu which appears when you right-click on extreme bottom-left corner of screen. I personally prefer to call it "Quick Access Menu" similar to Quick Access Toolbar present in Ribbon UI of Windows 8 Explorer or Microsoft Office 2010.

Windows_8_Consumer_Preview_Quick_Access_Menu.png

You can also use keyboard shortcut "Win+X" to access this new quick access menu. This new menu provides quick access to lots of useful Windows utilities such as Power Options, Command Prompt, Control Panel, etc.

But did you know you can customize this new menu in Windows 8? Yep, I accidentally found an interesting way to customize this new menu present in Windows 8.

In past, Microsoft used to put all menus, context menus, etc in system files such as Shell32.dll, Explorer.exe, etc. You can visit following article which will provide you a better idea:

[AIO] Complete Tutorial to Customize Desktop Context Menu in Windows XP Using Resource Hacker

Then Microsoft made use of Windows Registry to show items in Windows Vista and Windows 7 Desktop context menu:

[AIO] Ultimate Tutorial to Customize Desktop Context Menu in Windows Vista and 7

And now for the first time in history, Microsoft is using a very simple way to show context menus in Windows 8. I have not seen such kind of things in any previous Windows version.

In Windows 8, Microsoft is using a hidden folder which contains all those shortcuts which are shown in Quick Access Menu. Quite interesting, huh?

I was working on this tutorial since a few days but couldn't post it as I was trying to find out each and every thing which can be customized in this new menu present in Windows 8.

So without wasting time, let me share the hidden secret way to customize this new Quick Access Menu of Windows 8:

Customize Quick Access Menu in Windows 8:

I was looking into various system folders of Windows 8 to find out what's new and where are all new UI resources present in Windows 8. Then suddenly I found following hidden folder:

C:\Users\user_name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\WinX

As the name suggests "WinX" folder contains all shortcuts which are displayed in new Quick Access Menu (Win+X) in Windows 8.

To access above mentioned folder, press Win+R keys together to open RUN dialog box and then type appdata and press Enter.

Now you can easily go to "Local\Microsoft\Windows\WinX" folder. Once you open "WinX" folder, you'll notice 3 sub-folders under it:

  • Group1
  • Group2
  • Group3

Actually the new Quick Access Menu is divided into 3 groups as shown in following image:

Windows_8_Quick_Access_Menu_Groups.png

And the 3 folders Group1, Group2 and Group3 present in "WinX" folder contains those shortcuts respectively.

Following are screenshots of all these 3 folders content:

Group1 Folder:

Windows_8_Quick_Access_Menu_Group1.png

Group2 Folder:

Windows_8_Quick_Access_Menu_Group2.png

Group3 Folder:

Windows_8_Quick_Access_Menu_Group3.png

As you can see in the above images, all 3 group folders contain same shortcuts which are shown in Quick Access Menu in Windows 8.

Removing Shortcuts from Quick Access Menu in Windows 8:

First thing which you can customize in this Quick Access Menu is removal of unwanted shortcuts.

Quick Access Menu contains lots of shortcuts and you might not use a few of them. So you can delete unwanted shortcuts to make the context menu short and to easily find the shortcuts which you want to use.

1. To remove a shortcut, simply go to that Group folder and delete the shortcut.

For example, if you want to delete "Command Prompt" shortcut, go to "Group3" folder and delete "Command Prompt" shortcut.

2. Now you'll need to either log off or restart Explorer to take effect. You can restart Explorer using Task Manager. Check out following article:

Windows 8 Allows You to Restart Explorer Using Task Manager

3. That's it. Now you'll not see that removed shortcut in context menu.

Removing_Shortcuts_Quick_Access_Menu_Windows_8.png

As you can see in above image, "Command Prompt" shortcut is not present in Quick Access Menu.

Renaming Shortcuts in Quick Access Menu in Windows 8:

You can also change names of shortcuts shown in Quick Access Menu. For example, you can change name of "Command Prompt (Admin)" to some other name such as "Terminal", etc.

1. To rename a shortcut, first maximize the ribbon in Windows Explorer. Click on small arrow present below the Close button and it'll maximize the ribbon. You can also press "Ctrl+F1" keys together to toggle the ribbon.

2. Now go to "View" tab and enable "Hidden Items" checkbox.

3. Now open the Group folder which contains your desired shortcut and you'll see a hidden file "Desktop.ini".

4. Double-click on "Desktop.ini" file and it'll open in Notepad.

5. You'll see a list of all shortcuts present in Quick Access Menu along with some file names and random numbers. Actually this file defines the labels or names of shortcuts which you see in Quick Access Menu.

The first part of a line contains shortcut's file name such as "06 - System.lnk" and the second part after the equal sign (=) defines its label in context menu such as "@%SystemRoot%\system32\systemcpl.dll,-1". These labels are pre-defined in those system files.

6. To change the name of a shortcut, you just need to replace the label part given after the equal sign (=) with your desired name.

For example, we are going to change "System" shortcut name to "System Properties".

To do this, we'll just replace the whole "@%SystemRoot%\system32\systemcpl.dll,-1" string with "System Properties" string as shown in following screenshot:

Renaming_Shortcuts_Quick_Access_Menu_Windows_8.png

7. That's it. Once you replace the label and save the file, again restart Explorer or log off and you'll see new name in context menu:

Shortcuts_Renamed_Quick_Access_Menu_Windows_8.png

Moving Shortcuts in Quick Access Menu in Windows 8:

You can also ungroup all these shortcuts present in Quick Access Menu. For example you can move all shortcuts in a single group to remove separators between the groups or you can also create new groups for desired shortcuts.

1. To ungroup all shortcuts, simply move all shortcuts in a single folder.

For example, you can move all shortcuts present in "Group1" and "Group2" folders to "Group3" folder. Restart Explorer or log off and you'll see all shortcuts in a single group in Quick Access Menu. You'll not see any separator between shortcuts.

2. To create new group, simply create a new folder such as "Group4" in "WinX" folder and move the desired shortcuts from other group folders to this new folder.

Create_New_Shortcut_Group_Quick_Access_Menu_Windows_8.png

That's it. Restart Explorer or log off and you'll see a new group in context menu:

New_Shortcut_Group_Quick_Access_Menu_Windows_8.png

Adding New Shortcuts in Quick Access Menu in Windows 8:

UPDATE: Check out following tutorial to learn how to add new shortcuts in "Win+X" menu:

[Exclusive] How to Add New Shortcuts in Quick Access Menu (Win+X Menu) of Windows 8?

I'm yet to find a way to add new shortcuts in Quick Access Menu. I'm sure it can be done and I'm trying my best to find a way to do it.

I tried to place a new shortcut in those Group folders but didn't work. I also tried to add its entry in hidden Desktop.ini file but didn't work.

I tried to replace existing shortcuts with my new shortcuts having same names but again didn't work.

I have found something interesting in Windows Registry (regedit). Following Registry key contains references for all these shortcuts:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ShellCompatibility\InboxApp

If you look carefully in right-side pane of this key, you'll find entries of all these shortcuts there:

Registry_Keys_Quick_Access_Menu_Group_Shortcut_Windows_8.png

I'm trying to use this Registry key to add new shortcuts.

I have found a way to change existing shortcuts functionality. You can change an existing shortcut to open your desired program instead of built-in program shortcut. Simply right-click on a shortcut present in those Group folders and select Properties option. Now change the command present in Target text box to the full path of your desired program's EXE file. Once done, the shortcut present in Quick Access Menu will open your desired program instead of the previous built-in program shortcut. So using this method, you can change shortcut's target and open desired programs using those shortcuts in context menu.





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Posted in: Windows 8 / 8.1


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