Creating a Materials Screen for Blender Internal
When working with materials in Blender (particularly when rendering with Blender Internal), you find out very quickly that you often have to scroll the Properties editor or you frequently have to switch between different sections of the Properties editor. This fact is even more apparent when you start working with textures in BI.
What it comes down to is that the default screen layout is inadequate for working with materials. The best way to alleviate that problem is to create your own screen layout that shows you all the information you need all at once.
To start, set up this new screen from a fresh Blender scene, so either open Blender now or reload the startup file by choosing File→New. This way, after you set up this new screen, you can include it with your startup file and it will be available for you in all your future Blender sessions.
With your default scene loaded, go to the header at the top of the Blender window and use the Plus (+) button on the right of the Screen datablock to add a new screen layout. When you do so, not much will appear to change, aside from the screen name now showing as Default.001. Left-click the text field in the screen datablock and change the name of this new screen to Materials. Now you can actually edit the screen layout to suit your needs.