Oh No: Windows 7 Start Menu Search Still Different From Vista’s

Edit 2009-05-02: After a bit more fiddling around, things look a bit different now. Edits are inline and at the bottom of this post.

When I tried the Beta of Windows 7 a few months ago, the changed behavior of the Start Menu Search caught my eye immediately:

  • Imagine you just installed Paint.NET on your machine
  • You press the Windows key, and start typing “paint”.
  • The start menu will present you “Paint” (for the Paint.exe that comes with Windows) and “Paint.NET”.
  • In Vista, if you choose Paint.NET and start it, the next time you press the Windows key and type “paint”, the entry “Paint.NET” will be at the top. A nice feature, that even my dad picked up immediately. In his case the paint program he wants to start is “Corel Paint Shop Pro”. He doesn’t care about the company name or the exact name of the program – it’s the “paint thingy” he wants to start, and Windows key, “paint”, Enter does the job.
  • Windows 7 knows better, though. Search results are always shown in the same order (Edit: things are a bit more complicated than that. search results are in fact handled like in Vista with the exception of shortcuts pointing to Windows programs. These are always shown at the top of the results. That’s why Paint.Net couldn’t move up in the result list). Maybe it’s about consistency and avoiding mistakes by people who don’t look at the result list before they press Enter. But frankly I don’t care. Giving me a wonderful feature in Windows Vista and taking it away in Windows 7 is plain cruel.

I posted a feedback (see note regarding the link) to the Connect website regarding this, but didn’t get any reaction from Microsoft (not surprising, considering the amount of feedback they must have gotten).

Now I’ve just installed Windows 7 RC and unfortunately the behavior still is different from Vista. So if there isn’t some setting which I didn’t see at first glance to restore the old behavior, if the code was even ripped out or disabled completely, then chances are pretty slim to see the Vista behavior back again (it’s an RC after all). This is so frustrating. Please somebody tell me that there’s a registry hack…

Edit 2009-05-01: It may be that you have to be a member of the Connect program to be able to view the feedback when clicking the link.

Edit 2009-05-02: I’ve now experimented some more with the Start Menu Search. I created 4 shortcuts in the start menu named “Company Product (A)”, “Company Product (B)”, “Company Product (C)” and “Company Product (D)”, with the last pointing to “C:\Windows\Notepad.exe” (the others pointing to programs somewhere below “C:\Program Files”).

After typing “product” in the search box, the default order of the entries was D, A, B, C. Entry D took first place because it pointed to Notepad.exe, a Windows program.

Then I started the program with the shortcut ““Company Product (C)” a couple of times and the resulting order of the entries was D, C, A, B. So entry C moved up, but couldn’t beat entry A.

Now comes the strange part: I created a shortcut named “Network” and typed “net” in the search box. The result: Paint.NET at the top of the list (from my previous experiments), then the shortcut I just created, followed by Windows’ “Connect to a Network Projector” and at last position “Network” (the Windows one). Strange. Next I typed “Network” in the search box, chose the Windows Network, and repeated this a couple of times. The result: My own “Network” shortcut still stayed at the top, the “Network” of Windows stayed at last position. There may be certain hidden logic behind this, but for a user it’s way too confusing.


  • Sure, over the years I have tried and used various tools - including Launchy. But it's a bit sad to be forced to install 3rd party tools on all of my physical and virtual machines, knowing a built-in solution existed (but was "improved")

  • Feedback hyperlink link is broken.

  • Hmm, I just could access the site by clicking on the link (after logging on).
    Are you part of the Microsoft Connect program?

  • You don't need Launchy or something: It just works as expected.

    I tried it with "Adobe Photoshop CS4" and "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom". At first "Adobe Photoshop CS4" is ranked on 1st place. After calling "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom" for two times that's the 1st entry and "Adobe Photoshop CS4" will be ranked 2nd.

  • Jens, your comment made me play around with the Start Menu Search some more - I've added my findings to the blog post.

Comments have been disabled for this content.