Fixing Office confusion and other hassles on Windows Start menu

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The Start Menu on a new Windows 10 has Microsoft Office icons which are badly labelled, misleading and setup to promote Microsoft’s corporate agenda.

We’ll explain what Microsoft has done and how regular Office users can make the Start Menu better.  Make a Start Menu that suits you, not Microsoft.

A new or reset Windows 10 gets an Office tile and group of Office icons on the default Start Menu.

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Office app

The big Office tile is for the Office app.  This is a gateway to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Office functions generally.

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There are links to all the main Office programs; Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype etc.

Recent, Pinned and Shared with me documents appear if you’re using a Microsoft account.

As you can see, the Office app tries to force itself onto the Taskbar (bottom of the screen).  This is just Microsoft being extra pushy.  Feel free to click No because you can add any program to the Taskbar when you choose (just right-click on the Taskbar icon and choose ‘Pin to taskbar’).

Office program icons

Next to the Office tile is a Start Menu icon group for Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc, but they might not be what you expect.

These tiles don’t open the Office programs even if they are installed. Instead they open the ‘Online’ browser based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint.

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Outlook – takes you to the Outlook.com web page

Word  – to Word Online (the browser based version)

Excel  – to Excel Online

Skype – opens the Skype app

PowerPoint – to PowerPoint Online

OneNote – opens the OneNote modern app

OneDrive – opens the OneDrive folder in Explorer

Default browser override

Even more arrogant, the web links open Microsoft’s Edge browser even though a different browser is set as the Windows default.  Microsoft is desperate to push the Edge browser and takes any opportunity to get people to use it. Whether they like it or not.

Opening Edge gives Microsoft another chance to promote their browser with a prompt to change default browser.

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We’ve got nothing (much) against the Edge browser. However, the customers default browser choice should be honored, not overridden by Microsoft’s corporate demands.

If you want the Office Online in your preferred browser, copy the web link to Chrome, Firefox etc.

Delete the Start Menu tile or replace it with your own tile which opens your preferred browser, not Microsoft’s.

Which tile is the real Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook?

Many people will install Office software (Office 365, Office 2019 or earlier version).  Maybe they’ll put those programs on the Start Menu.

Thanks to Microsoft, there’s more confusion with no difference between the in-built Tiles and the ones used by Office 365.

Check out these two, almost indistinguishable Excel tiles on the Start Menu.  One is for Excel 365, the full program and the other is Excel Online via Edge.

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Can you tell which one is which?  Of course, you can’t. They have the same name, same icon and almost the same background.  The ‘hover’ tooltips are no help either (if you’re wondering, on the left is Excel Online, the right is Excel 365).

It’s plain silly and (deliberately?) confusing.  The browser-based Excel icon should be labelled ‘Excel Online’ and the other ‘Excel 365’.

But that’s not going to happen because Microsoft has the daft idea that properly labelling the Office apps isn’t even necessary.

Fixing the Start Menu mess

Our long-standing recommendation is to totally remove everything from the Start Menu.  It’s what we suggest in Windows 10 for Microsoft Office users.

Why?  The default Start Menu is a billboard for Microsoft’s services and other product placement.  You don’t think Netflix, Spotify or Hulu get their links on millions of screens out of generosity or kindness?

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To remove tiles, Right-click each and choose Unpin from Start.

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If you’re sure you’ll never want it, choose Uninstall.

Make your Start Menu, not Microsoft’s

Once the Start Menu is empty or has only the tiles you really want, gradually add new tiles by right-clicking the long apps list and choosing ‘Pin to Start’.

On the taskbar, right-click on the app icon then right-click again on the program label to see options including ‘Pin to Start’.

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Change the tiles to large or small depending on their importance to you

Over time, you’ll make a Start Menu that reflects the programs you use, not what Microsoft wants to advertise.

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