There are going to be aspects of Vista where you need step-by-step instructions, but learning the new Vista Start Menu is not one of them. Just admire Microsoft's glass effects and appreciate the clearer, sharper menu icons.
Note the pleasing way that Microsoft's AERO graphics render the Start Menu items, observe in the screen shot below how 'Control Panel' is highlighted.
Review of the Start Menu and Desktop
1) Finding the new Vista settings is easy. Although I have met people who cannot sing in tune, others who are unable to catch a ball, and some who cannot spell, I have never met anyone who could not configure a Microsoft desktop. Microsoft's developers have spent an enormous amount of time analyzing how people use Windows Software, and Vista reaps the rewards of their research. What you get is lots of subtle front-end changes, trust me, the overall effect is greater than the sum of the individual parts. That's another way of saying that no one feature is spectacular, but together they make for a pleasing, productive Start Menu.
In conclusion, if you are already familiar with XP, then you will have no trouble getting started. Your previous knowledge will help you appreciate the improvements, and the neat new touches that Vista brings to the desktop, Start menu and Windows Explorer.
2) Personalizing the new Vista settings is a labor of love. With the new Start Menu, you will have fun clicking on the Aero graphics and discovering where to find both new features and old friends. Adapting to the new Vista shell, is hard work, but only in the sense that there is a lot to explore. The new menus teach you far better than I could. I admit that one of my personal foibles is that I prefer to figure Explorer and Desktop menus myself, than have someone show me. Therefore, in the case of the Start menu, Desktop and Explorer I recommend to you adopt the same learn-by-doing method.
3) Everyone has different ideas. One of the hidden benefits of visiting customers' sites, is observing the different ways that people use the same technology. Nowhere are the differences greater than the way people treat their desktop and Explorer preferences. My point is, it's no good me prescribing a single way of configuring a desktop, when there are so many equally effective configurations.
4) Key Vista menu item: Start Search. Whenever you want to run an executable, just type its name in the box labelled 'Start Search'. Observe how Vista populates the dialog box with names of programs that match the first few letters that you type, and thus avoid irritating typos. As I am keen to emphasise, no one Vista feature is earth shattering, but together the tiny improvements add up to more fun and greater productivity.
5) Next Step Vista Desktop. Allied to the start menu are the desktop setting. Once again, knowledge of XP is useful, but there are subtle difference and extra sub menus.