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Here and here are a pictures of my Windows 7 start menu; what a waist of space.

Can I either make it so that it by default shows "All Programs" as I don't care for "recently used" or, remove that left hand side pane if not?

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There is a tool call Classic Shell which will revert your Start Menu to a Windows 2000 style menu.

Classic Shell is a collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but were later removed. It has a customizable Start menu and Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8, it adds a toolbar for Windows Explorer and supports a variety of smaller features.

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  • Drag and drop to let you organize your applications
  • Options to show Favorites, expand Control Panel, etc
  • Shows recently used documents. The number of documents to display is customizable
  • Translated in 35 languages, including Right-to-left support for Arabic and Hebrew
  • Does not disable the original start menu in Windows. You can access it by Shift+Click on the start button
  • Right-click on an item in the menu to delete, rename, sort, or perform other tasks
  • The search box helps you find your programs without getting in the way of your keyboard shortcuts
  • Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems
  • Has support for skins, including additional 3rd party skins
  • Fully customizable in both looks and functionality
  • Support for Microsoft’s Active Accessibility
  • Converts the “All Programs” button in the Windows menu into a cascading menu (Vista and Windows 7)
  • Implements a customizable Start button (Windows 7 and 8)
  • And last but not least – it's FREE!
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Close enough for me, thanks very much! –  jwbensley Sep 14 '12 at 14:01
    
Also awesome for giving you back your Start menu that is now completely missing in Win8 :) –  Shevek Sep 16 '12 at 10:17
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Would startmenu7 be an option for you?

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