Is there a way to have "Pages" set as the default tab when the user logs in to the admin area? I am using a heavily customised set up, where none of the dashboard widgets are useful so they are hidden anyway.
The best way is to re-direct user logins to your page and also remove the dashboard from the menu, this can be done with 2 filters.
Redirect logins to your page edit screen example based on user roles, this example uses "author":
Remove the "dashboard from the admin menu"
ps. You can also order the admin menu items using the same filter.
This is how you remove DASHBOARD on your Wordpress fully !
Insert codes on functions.php
Redirect : (When user go to url like domain.com/wp-admin)
Redirect after logged-in : (For prevent logging loop bugs also)
Remove the Dashboard menu : (Why do you still have it?)
Now when user logged-in or go with url like domain.com/wp-admin/ ,..
User will be redirected to domain.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=page
Yes, use Adminimize Plugin, remove dashboard and let the pages be the first screen when an use logs in. You can customize it very well and do a fine tuning of the entire admin backend!
Use the filter 'login_redirect' and use the admin_url like in this Wordpress Stackechange post: