Making the Most Out of the Windows Taskbar

Though the taskbar has been around for quite a long time, it has never been more useful and easier to manage than on Windows 7. The Taskbar is one of the most valuable component of the Windows 7 system. Knowing its capabilities and learning some of its features seriously improves user productivity and overall experience compared to using the taskbar versions on older Windows editions. In this tutorial, we’ll be talking about some tips, shortcuts and other  taskbar optimization topics that will surely raise your productivity to an even higher level which includes things like viewing a Window’s content without opening it, controlling the positions of some taskbar icons, using your keyboard to navigate through opened Windows and many more!

Controlling Your Taskbar Icons

Your Windows 7 computer offers some taskbar features that allows you to manage icons easily. For example, you can now pin some programs and files to it plus you can easily change the position of icons by a simple drag-and-drop procedure. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pinning an Application to the Taskbar- When an application or a program icon is pinned to the taskbar, the icon remains there even if the application is closed and you can click on it if you want to launch the program again. To pin an application to your computer’s taskbar, just open it and right-click its icon that you see on the taskbar then choose the “Pin this program to taskbar” option from the right-click menu that appears.

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  • Alternatively, you can also pin an application by dragging an open Window of it towards the taskbar. Doing this pins the application to the taskbar and adds the file you pinned to the jumplist that is specific to that application.
  • Dragging and Dropping Icons Within the Taskbar- Doing this helps you move a program/application icon to a different location within the taskbar. You can shuffle icons back and forth and move them wherever you want within your machine’s taskbar.

How to Manage Open Windows

There are more features that  is unique to the Windows 7 taskbar which you can take advantage of. Using these features will help you preview the desktop screen or take a peek at what a minimized Window contains. To learn how to do these tips, just follow the steps below:

  • View the Desktop with just one click- You can view your machine’s desktop without minimizing all opened Windows. You can do this by by clicking the  button on the extreme right corner of the notifications area (beside the system time and date). Another alternative is by pressing the “Windows + D” simultaneously. To open all Windows back altogether, just click again on the button or press the “Windows + D” keyboard shortcut again.

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  • The desktop peek feature- This feature allows you to take a look at some items on your computer’s desktop without putting all opened Windows to minimize. You can easily do this by hovering your mouse pointer over the “Show desktop” button. By doing this,all opened Windows will become transparent leaving just the  contours visible. This is useful if you want to take a look at what the desktop screen contains without the unnecessary hassle of minimizing or closing the active Windows that you have on your machine.

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  • Viewing Some Live Thumbnails- You can see what a Window of a an open application contains even without opening it. Just hover your mouse over the application’s icon that you can see on the taskbar and you’ll see a preview of what it contains in a thumbnail form.

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  • Showing a minimized Window temporarily- You can view a Window temporarily without totally maximizing it by hovering your mouse over the Window thumbnail. You can do this to any Window thumbnail that you want to take a look at.

Opening New Application Instances

Windows 7 also allows you to use your keyboard in conjunction with the taskbar icons to open new program or application instances or open files with certain application icons on the taskbar.

  • Using an application’s taskbar icon in opening a file- This is simply done by holding the “Shift Key” then dragging and dropping the file to the  icon of the application found on your taskbar.

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  • Shift + Click on an Application’s Taskbar icon- This opens a new application instance. An alternative way is by holding down the “Shift Key + middle click” on a mouse. This is useful for programs that support running two or more instances at a time like most browsers.

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  • Opening an application with full administrator rights- Pressing the “CTRL + Shift Keys” plus a click on an application’s taskbar icon opens an application instance with full administrator rights. Doing this will open a User Account Control (UAC) prompt.

How to View the Context Menus

Windows 7 features an improved right-click menu for your taskbar icons. Some features from the old versions of Windows can still be accessed in it plus the new welcome addition that improves the taskbar’s productivity and uses in many ways. To learn the ways of switching from the new context menu to the old one and the other way around, just follow these steps:

  • Using the old context menu-  You can still use the classic context menu on Windows 7 by holding down the “Shift Key” and right-clicking the icon of the application that is pinned on your taskbar or alternatively, you can also right-click a live thumbnail of the application so you can get the same result.

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  • Viewing the new context menu- Clicking and dragging an application icon upwards shows the new context menu in a fade-in effect. You can also access it by right clicking on the application icon.

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Minimizing Windows to the Taskbar

The new taskbar also allows you to use keyboard shortcuts to minimize an open Window to it. To do this, just do the steps below:

  • Minimize all open Windows except the active one- You can do this by pressing on the “Windows Key + Home” simultaneously.
  • Minimize all Windows- The “Windows Key + M” keyboard shortcut works the magic of closing all Windows including the active one.

Switching Between Windows Using Keyboard Shortcuts

You can also navigate and switch (cycle) through different Windows or taskbar icons using some keyboard shortcuts. To do this, just use the following keyboard shortcuts and combinations:

  • Windows Key + T allows you to cycle between application and program Windows through their taskbar thumbnails.
  • Windows Key + [1-9] helps you go to specific application thumbnails on the taskbar in a left to right order. For the first taskbar application icon on the left, use Windows Key + 1, for the second use Windows Key + 2 and so on. You just need to press the same key combinations if you want to minimize specific Windows.
  • CTRL + one click on a taskbar icon for a specific application so you can navigate through the different applicationinstances which are running  altogether.
  • ALT + Esc allows you to cycle the focus between your taskbar icons. If you have some minimized Windows, just press on the “Enter” key to open the icon that is highlighted.
  • Windows Key + B moves the focus to your  machine’s notifications area at the bottom right area of the taskbar. This is useful if you want to activate an item on the notification area. You can easily move from one item to another by using the arrow keys and activating the highlighted item by pressing the “Enter” key.

We’re hoping that this article has provided you some useful information on how you can access and use the taskbar and making your Windows computer more productive with it, If you know any other uses of the Windows 7 taskbar or you’re having problems with it please feel free to share your ideas via the comments section for this tutorial.