One of our favorite features in Windows 7 is the revamped taskbar – the strip that runs across the bottom of the Desktop. Various improvements make it tidier while speeding up access to programs, folders and files. Previous versions used a Quick Launch Bar next to the Start button plus separate buttons for open applications; Windows 7 combines both functions and more besides in the same space. Here’s how to make the most of what’s on offer.
1) When an application is running, its icon appears in the taskbar. Quit the application and the icon disappears. It’s useful to have the icons of favorite applications always visible so you can launch them with a quick click. Locate the shortcut for your chosen application; this can be one already running in the taskbar, one sitting on the Desktop or one in your Start menu, maybe hidden away in the All Programs section. Right-click it and select ‘Pin to Taskbar’. Alliteratively, drag the icon to the taskbar; the corresponding icon will appear. If you don’t like its position, just drag it to your preferred position.
2) Pinning to the Start menu is much the same; just select ‘Pin to Start Menu’ from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, drag the icon to the Start icon on the taskbar, releasing the mouse button only when the Start menu appears. Your pinned application will appear in a special area at the top of the Start menu. Again, you can reorder the icons by dragging them. If you subsequently want to unpin an application from either of these places, just right-click it and select ‘Unpin from Taskbar’ or ‘Unpin from Start Menu’ as appropriate.
3)Pinning folders is slightly different because they all appear as a subset of the Windows Explorer button that’s already pinned to the taskbar by default. Find the folder you want to pin – either in Windows Explorer or on the Desktop – and drag it to the taskbar. To access a pinned folder, right-click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar. A menu will appear showing your pinned folders at the top. Click on one to open it in Windows Explorer. Once again, you can reorder your pinned folders by dragging them around, or unpin one by hovering over it and clicking on the pin icon that appears at the right.
Use the same process to pin files to the right-click menus for your other pinned applications. For example, drag an Excel file to the taskbar and an Excel button will appear with the file available from its right-click menu.
4) You can also pin folders to the Start menu. Drag the folder over the Start icon in the Taskbar and release the mouse button when The Start menu appears. The folder will appear with any other pinned applications and folders at the top of the menu. Reordering and unpinning is as described in Step 2, except unpinning is referred to as ‘Remove from this list’.
5) At the other end of the taskbar is the Notification Area (known as the System Tray in previous versions of Windows). This shows icons for applications that run in the background. It is more easily customized than in previous versions of Windows. To hide an icon that is permanently displayed, simply drag it out of the Notification Area on to the Desktop. A pop-up box of hidden icons is revealed and the icon you dragged now appears here. To access this icon subsequently, click the up arrow at the left edge of the Notification Area and select it from the pop-up box.
6) If you hide an icon from the Notification Area, you may be unaware of events to which these icons are supposed to alert you, To specify whether hidden icons should appear when there’s a notification, click the up arrow icon and select Customize. The dialog box that appears shows all the Notification Area icons, while only the hidden ones are colored. Use the drop-down menus to the right of each icon; if you want it permanently hidden, select ‘Hide icon and notification’. Alliteratively, pick ‘Only show notifications’ so it pops up under these circumstances. Show an icon permanently by selecting ‘Show icon and notifications’.