Customizing the Start menu layout on Windows 11 devices

This week is all about customizing the Start menu layout on Windows 11. Customizing the Start menu layout enables organizations to create a standardized layout for theirs users by pinning apps, removing default apps, ordering apps and more. The configuration of such a standardized layout has changed from Windows 10 to Windows 11. To create a standardized layout for Windows 11, the IT administrator must use a JSON-file. In previous versions of Windows, that required a XML-file. That configuration change, justifies an explanation about the Start menu layout in Windows 11 and the different configuration options. This post breaks down the new Start menu layout in Windows 11 and the different configuration options that are available, per section. That breakdown is followed with a zoom-in on the newly introduced JSON-file for creating the standardized layout. This post ends with showing the user experience with a customized Start menu layout.

Important: My personal opinion is that the Start menu layout should be left untouched, when possible. In most cases the user will create their own Start menu layout, when needed.

Introduction to the Start menu layout in Windows 11

The Start menu layout of Windows 11 has changed, compared to Windows 10. That includes the configuration options that are available for the Start menu layout. Compared to Windows 10, things have changed. Not just the look-and-feel, also the configuration. That makes it important to breakdown the Start menu layout in Windows 11 and to look at the configuration options. Figure 1 is used as a reference for the breakdown of the Start menu layout.

Important: Nearly all of the mentioned settings are already configurable via a Device restrictions profile or via the Settings Catalog. The newly introduced settings for Windows 11 (in bold), will become available at some point in time.

Note: All the mentioned settings are available via the Policy CSP by using the ./Vendor/MSFT/Policy/Config policy node.

Creating a custom Start menu layout in Windows 11

When looking at the configuration options for the Start menu layout on Windows 11, the most settings are already available for Windows 10. The biggest change, however, is in configuring the actual layout. An IT administrator can create a custom Start menu layout for the organization, by manually configuring a layout and exporting that layout. That sounds familiar to Windows 10, but now the export is a JSON-file with really simplistic content. With that configuration, it’s only possible to configure and overwrite the entire existing layout. A partial Start menu layout is not possible. Also, the user can still pin and unpin apps. The IT administrator can’t force a specific Start menu layout that can’t be adjusted by the user. Once the Start menu layout is manually configured, simply use the Export-StartLayout cmdlet to export the configuration.

Export-StartLayout -Path "C:\Temp\CustomStartMenuLayout.json"

That export results in a JSON-file that contains a pinnedList section. Within that section the different pinned apps are listed. The order of the listed apps is also how the apps will be pinned in the Start menu layout. The apps can be added to the pinned apps list, by using one of the following configuration keys.

KeyDescription
desktopAppIDThis configuration key can be used for adding Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. To pin a UWP app to the pinned list, use the Application User Model ID (AUMID) of the UWP app.
desktopAppLinkThis configuration key can be used for adding unpackaged Win32 apps without an AUMID. To pin this type of Win32 apps to the pinned list, use the path to the .lnk shortcut that points to the app.
packagedAppIDThis configuration key can be used for adding unpackaged Win32 apps. To pin a Win32 app to the pinned list, use the AUMID of the Win32 app. When no AUMID is available, use the desktopAppLink instead.
{
    "pinnedList":[
        {"desktopAppId":"MSEdge"},
        {"desktopAppId":"Microsoft.Office.EXCEL.EXE.15"},
        {"desktopAppId":"Microsoft.Office.OUTLOOK.EXE.15"},
        {"desktopAppId":"Microsoft.Office.POWERPNT.EXE.15"},
        {"desktopAppId":"Microsoft.Office.WINWORD.EXE.15"},
        {"packagedAppId":"Microsoft.MicrosoftOfficeHub_8wekyb3d8bbwe!Microsoft.MicrosoftOfficeHub"}
    ]
}

Important: For OEMs – and organizations that are still into OS deployments – there are a few more options available for customizing the pinned apps. Specific groups of apps and a few more keys to provide some details.

Note: It’s also possible to create this JSON-file from scratch. Using an export just provides an easy starting point.

Applying a custom Start menu layout in Windows 11

When looking actually applying a custom Start menu layout on Windows 11, the Start/ConfigureStartPins policy can be used. That policy overrides the entire existing layout, including apps that are pinned by default and apps already pinned by the user. The configuration of that policy can be achieved by using a custom configuration profile. The following 10 steps walk through the creation of that custom configuration profile.

Bonus: As extra the steps below also provides the required configuration to configure the other new setting for Windows 11, which is the Start/ShowOrHideMostUsedApps policy. That setting can be used to show or hide the Most Used apps section on the top of the All apps list.

  1. Open the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center portal navigate to Devices Windows > Configuration profiles
  2. On the Windows | Configuration profiles blade, click Create profile
  3. On the Create a profile blade, provide the following information and click Create
  • Platform: Windows 10 and later
  • Profile type: Templates
  • Template name: Custom
  1. On the Basics page, provide a Name (and optionally a Description) for the custom profile and click Next
  2. On the Configuration settings page, see also Figure 1, click Add to add a row for the following custom settings and click Next
  • OMA-URI setting (1) β€“ This setting is used to configure start pins
    • Name: Provide a name for the OMA-URI setting to distinguish it from similar settings
    • Description: (Optional) Provide a description for the OMA-URI setting to distinguish it from similar settings
    • OMA-URI: Specify ./Vendor/MSFT/Policy/Config/Start/ConfigureStartPins as value to configure start pins
    • Data type: Select String
    • Value: Specify the content of the exported JSON-file as a value to configure the start pins
  • OMA-URI setting (2) β€“ This setting is used to show the must used apps
    • Name: Provide a name for the OMA-URI setting to distinguish it from similar settings
    • Description: (Optional) Provide a description for the OMA-URI setting to distinguish it from similar settings
    • OMA-URI: Specify ./Vendor/MSFT/Policy/Config/Start/ShowOrHideMostUsedApps as value to show the most used apps
    • Data type: Select Integer
    • Value: Specify 1 as a value to show the most used apps
  1. On the Scope tags page, configure the required scope tags click Next
  2. On the Assignments page, configure the required assignment (optionally: use a filter for Windows 11) and click Next
  3. On the Applicability rules page, configure the required applicability rules and click Next
  4. On the Review + create page, verify the configuration and click Create

Important: When applying a new, or adjusted, Start menu layout, the existing layout of the user will be overwritten.

Note: These settings will probably become available via Device restrictions or the Settings Catalog in the near future.

User experience with a custom Start menu layout in Windows 11

The user experience is interesting to look at. Figure 3 provides an overview of an adjusted Start menu layout on Windows 11. That provides an overview of some of the most notable adjustments. Number 1 shows the adjusted pinned apps, number 2 shows the removed jumplist and number 3 shows the added pinned folders. The latter two are not Windows 11 specific, but do add-on to the overal experience in this screenshot about the configuration options.

More information

For more information about customizing the Start menu layout on Windows 11, refer to the following docs.

4 thoughts on “Customizing the Start menu layout on Windows 11 devices”

  1. This might be nice for big companies with IT departments. I just want to know how to get rid of the junk MS put on my start menu and reorganize all my apps that I had neatly organized by by own categories (media, games, design, office, etc.). It looks like there’s no way to do that anymore. This is worse than Windows 8 was from a user perspective. It may be great for Big Corp to dictate a “perfect” start menu, but for a family that wants all their morning school apps together, their workday apps together, and their evening entertainment apps together, this sucks big time.
    Please understand that this is in now way an offense against your blog page. I’m frustrated, because the #1 result was a MS page that talked about configuring JSON files, and this is the #2, and it talks about policies that control it. I just want to be able to pin, drag, drop, and group my programs together in a way that is logical to my family. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently MS thinks so. I was excited about Win 11, and now I wish I could just go back to 10. Pretty much everything in 11 is harder and more annoying. Sounds perfect maybe for corps, but sucks for ordinary people.

    Reply

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