MANAGE  THE  TASKBAR  AND  ITS  ICONS

At the beginning of this website's home page (Getting Started) I explained the five areas of the Desktop in general. The Display (main Desktop Icon) Area, the Start Button, the Quick Launch Toolbar, the Taskbar and the Notification Area. In this section I will explain the Taskbar in more detail - How to Re-Size/Re-Position the taskbar, How to emulate the old Quick Launch Toolbar and explain some of the Notification Area settings and general settings.

Windows 10 has changed the way the, now old/obsolete, Quick Launch Toolbar (QLT) works. Despite the documentation stating that the QLT is "not included in Windows 10", the fact is it is hidden only. Anyway, forget about that aspect. The point here is the QLT is, technically, no longer available. In Windows 10 you now PIN software/program icons to the Taskbar to emulate the QLT. In case you wondering what the QLT was; it was an area of the taskbar reserved for software/program icons whereby one click on a QLT icon would launch its associated software/program. Hence the name: Quick Launch.


To start off with I am going to show you the way the new Quick Launch Toolbar (pinned area of the taskbar) works, which is now a part of the Taskbar (so refrain from saying Quick Launch Toolbar!). The Taskbar starts from the right-side of the START Menu button and ends just before the Notification Icons (the set of icons before the clock), even though the Taskbar is technically the whole bar from the START Menu button to the Clock. You can ignore this small technicality though.

HIDE  THE  CORTANA  TASKBAR  ICON

Depending on the country you are in: You might have the ugly Cortana voice/search icon (edit box) on your taskbar, taking up too much space. If so, for this example, hide the Cortana icon. It should not be needed all the time (not enough to warrant a huge edit box, anyway) and can be accessed via the START Menu. So hide the Cortana icon by right clicking over it, to bring up its context (Options) menu, and then move the mouse pointer over the CORTANA menu-item to reveal its sub/menu. From there, click on the HIDDEN sub-menu menu-item to hide Cortana.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.0 - The CORTANA Voice/Search icon (edit box) takes up way too much space on the Taskbar

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.1 - Click on the HIDDEN sub-menu menu-item to hide the Cortana icon (edit box) from the Taskbar

The TASK VIEW icon (button) can also be removed (unpinned) from the taskbar, for this example, by right clicking over it and unticking (left clicking on) the SHOW TASK VIEW BUTTON menu-item.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.2 - Right click over the TASK VIEW icon and untick the SHOW TASK VIEW BUTTON menu-item

With those two icons gone there will be more space on the taskbar for more important, more commonly used, icons; as used by the software/programs you use. Bu default, Windows 10 puts three other icons on the taskbar; besides the two just removed. The other three icons are: Microsoft Edge (the replacement program for Internet Explorer), Libraries Folder and App Store. At the moment they are not active - Microsoft Edge has not been launched. I have not opened a Library folder (i.e. the PICTURES folder). And I have not launched the App Store.

Those three icons are basically new Quick Launch icons because they have been Pinned-To the taskbar, which means they are on the taskbar permanently until you unpin them; just like the old Quick Launch Toolbar. It also means the two programs (Microsoft Edge and the App Store) and the Library folders (DOCUMENTS, PICTURES, MUSIC AND VIDEOS) are accessible (can be quickly launched/opened) simply by clicking on their respective taskbar icon.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.3 - Click on the LIBRARIES FOLDER taskbar icon to quickly open the Libraries folder

If you click on the Libraries Folder taskbar icon for example the LIBRARIES FOLDER will open whereby you can then double click on one of the four library folders. At this point you may be thinking "that's not quick launch - I have to click and then double click". In this case the emphasis is on quickly launching the LIBRARIES FOLDER - When an actual library folder is opened (i.e. the PICTURES folder) it will be quick launched as well because it will have its own preview pane (explained later). A click on one of the program (Microsoft Edge or App Store) taskbar icons will launch that program - so it really is quickly launched.

In this next example I have opened three programs - The Calculator, Wordpad and Mail. These programs naturally have an icon placed on the taskbar so that you can perform tasks such as Minimize Window and Maximize Window. However, these taskbar icons are only temporary. They are only usable while their program is open. Once the Calculator program is closed for example its taskbar icon is naturally removed, simply because it will have no tasks to perform - Its tasks died when it was closed.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.4 - The Taskbar with three programs open - The Calculator, Wordpad and Mail

To make a program's taskbar icon permanent, and therefore Quick Launch-able, right click over its taskbar icon (temporary taskbar icon) and select the PIN THIS PROGRAM TO TASKBAR menu-item from the menu that appears.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.5 - Select the PIN THIS PROGRAM TO TASKBAR menu-item to make the program Quick Launch-able

In this example I have made the Wordpad program quick launch-able by pinning it to the taskbar icon. From there I closed down the Calculator program, Wordpad program and Mail program. This left the Wordpad program's taskbar icon intact, even though I closed down the Wordpad program. Why? Because in reality taskbar icons are nothing more than Shortcut Icons placed on the taskbar. So the Wordpad program's taskbar icon is just a shortcut to the file called Wordpad.exe that lives inside the system folder - C >> Program Files >> Windows NT >> Accessories.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 1.6 - The program called Wordpad is now quick launch-able via its permanent taskbar icon

If you want to remove a taskbar icon simply right click over it and then select the UNPIN THIS PROGRAM FROM TASKBAR menu-item. This applies to the three default icons too (Microsoft Edge, Libraries Folder and App Store).

MOVE / DRAG  A  TASKBAR  ICON

If you want to move/rearrange the taskbar icons simply drag them into position. Click on the taskbar icon you want to move, and with the click (left mouse button) still held down, begin moving (dragging) the mouse pointer leftwards or rightwards. In this example I have clicked on the Wordpad taskbar icon and started dragging it leftwards (Fig 2.0).

As you drag the mouse pointer (Wordpad taskbar icon) over another taskbar icon (the App Store taskbar icon), the taskbar icon you are dragging will move into the position of the taskbar icon underneath it (Fig 2.1). Therefore, they swap positions (Fig 2.2).

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 2.0 - Dragging the Wordpad taskbar icon over the App Store taskbar icon

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 2.1 - The Wordpad taskbar icon is moving into the position once occupied by the App Store taskbar icon

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 2.2 - The taskbar icons have taken each others position

To move one more position to the left, or even to the right, follow the same dragging technique as just exampled above. The good thing about rearranging taskbar icons is that you can rearrange them into groups. For example: You could group Microsoft EXCEL, WORD and POWERPOINT taskbar icons together as Office taskbar icons. In others words, group taskbar icons in the order you want them.

PREVIEW  OPENED  PROGRAM  WINDOWS

Although Windows Vista first introduced the Preview Pane to the taskbar, it only allowed you to preview a program's Window Content. You could not close, for example, the program's actual window from the preview pane. The preview pane had no CLOSE Window button on it. Fortunately, in Windows 7 and now in Windows 10 there is a CLOSE Window button! See the How To Close A Window section for more information.

This next example shows what happens with the taskbar when you have more than one instance of the Internet Explorer 11 program open. The same would apply to folders and other programs.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 3.0 - One Microsoft Edge window is open with three tabbed windows

In the above example I first opened Internet Explorer 11 as normal, with the BBC web page displayed inside it. I then clicked on the TAB button of Internet Explorer 11 to open a second, tabbed, window to display the Henry VIII Wikipedia web page. The original window of Internet Explorer 11 now becomes tabbed, so there are now two tabbed windows open. I clicked on the TAB button again to open the third and final, tabbed, window in order to display the Google Search web page. So that is three tabbed windows open within Internet Explorer 11.

The reason I explained the above is because when you hover the mouse pointer over the Internet Explorer 11 taskbar icon the taskbar will display a Preview Pane (also known as a Thumbnail) for each window of Internet Explorer 11; regardless if you opened three separate Internet Explorer 11 windows or one Internet Explorer 11 window containing three tabbed windows. It does not matter to the taskbar because it treats each display (web page) as a separate task. Therefore the above example is displaying three web pages, which means Windows 10 is managing three separate tasks.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 3.1 - Click on a Preview Pane to view the actual web page or click on its CLOSE button to close the actual tabbed window

If you click on one of the Preview Panes, the actual Internet Explorer 11 window associated with that preview pane will be made active (displayed as the front/top most window). So in the above example I am hovering the mouse pointer over the middle preview pane (Henry VIII) to make the second tabbed Internet Explorer 11 window, that is displaying the Henry VIII Wikipedia web page, the front/top most window.

If I want to close the middle window I could click on its preview pane CLOSE button, which becomes active when you hover the mouse pointer over its preview pane. If an Internet Explorer 11 window is in view (i.e. not minimized) you have the choice of closing it with its natural CLOSE button or its preview pane CLOSE button.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 3.2 - Right click on the Internet Explorer 11 taskbar icon for more options/features

To open a new Internet Explorer 11 window simply right click over the Internet Explorer 11 taskbar icon, to bring up its Options menu, and then select (left click on) the INTERNET EXPLORER menu-item. You can also open a frequently used web page from that menu, if listed, as well as UNPIN THIS PROGRAM FROM TASKBAR. Remember: The above applies to folders and other programs - I have only shown you Internet Explorer 11 as an example.

MAKE  THE  TASKBAR  VERTICAL

To move the taskbar into a vertical (upright) position you must first right click on an empty area of the taskbar, to bring up the Options menu, and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item (fIG 4.0). This will bring up the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties window (fIG 4.1).

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.0 - Right click on an empty area of the taskbar to bring up the Options menu

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.1 - Select LEFT to have the taskbar on the left-side of the desktop

With the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties window open the next thing to do is click on the TASKBAR LOCATION ON SCREEN drop-down menu and select a new position for the taskbar. In this example I am selecting the LEFT position so that the taskbar sits on the desktop screen vertically (Fig 4.2 below).


If you then want to make the taskbar wider you can do so by dragging its right-side edge rightwards (Fig 4.3). To do this you first need to unlock the taskbar - Right click on an empty area of the taskbar, to bring up its Options menu, and then select the LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item (Fig 4.5). From there begin dragging the right-side edge of the window rightwards. Once you are happy with the new width release the left mouse button (Fig 4.4). Dragging is explained in the How To Re-Size A Window section.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.2 - The taskbar is now on the LEFT-side of the desktop

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.3 - The taskbar is now Wider

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.4 - Dragging the taskbar rightwards

As said above; You need to Unlock The Taskbar in order to make it draggable. This is done by right clicking on an empty area of the taskbar, to bring up the Options menu, and then selecting the LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item - The taskbar is Locked when there is a tick next to the LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.5 - Click on the, ticked, LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item to Unlock the taskbar

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 4.6 - Click on the, unticked, LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item to Lock the taskbar

When the taskbar is Unlocked there is no tick next to the LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item - It is unticked. So once you have dragged (resized) the taskbar you then need to Lock The Taskbar, so that it is no longer draggable, by clicking on the LOCK THE TASKBAR menu-item again.

NOTIFICATION  AREA  ICONS  /  TASKBAR  SETTINGS

The Notification Area, which is located at the end of the taskbar, is made up of the Clock and the icons to the left it. It is used by Windows 10 and other software to notify you of software changes, hardware changes, available updates and so on. A notification usually comes in the form of a pop-up message requester, as shown below.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.0 - Hardware Removal notification (pop-up system message)

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.1 - Windows Update notification (pop-up system message)

If you want to change the main settings of the taskbar right click on an empty area of the taskbar, to bring up its Options menu, and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item to bring up the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties window.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.2 - Right click on an empty area of the taskbar to bring up the Options menu

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.3 - Click on the CUSTOMIZE button to continue

When the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties window appears (Fig 5.3 above) it displays the following Taskbar settings.

Lock The Taskbar

The same as described in the above examples. When this setting is unticked it unlocks the taskbar, allowing you to resize the taskbar for example.

Auto-Hide The Taskbar

This setting, when ticked, automatically hides the taskbar (while not in use) to give you more desktop space (more desktop height). The taskbar remains hidden, temporarily, until you hover the mouse pointer over the bottom of the desktop. To make the taskbar appear all the time again, permanently, simply untick this setting.

Use Small Icons

This setting, when ticked, makes the taskbar icons small - too small in my opinion.

Taskbar Buttons

This setting is a drop-down menu that allows you to group taskbar buttons (taskbar icons) of the same type together. So you could keep Internet Explorer 11 taskbar icons (buttons) grouped together for example because they are of the same type. This is the default setting for Windows 10 (ALWAYS COMBINE, HIDE LABELS) and is ideal if you normally have many web pages (Internet Explorer 11 windows) open for example. This setting is what was exampled in this section.

If you like the classic Windows XP, or Windows Vista, taskbar whereby each window opened has its own taskbar icon (button) you should select either the COMBINE WHEN TASKBAR IS FULL option or the NEVER COMBINE option. COMBINE WHEN TASKBAR IS FULL will only group taskbar icons together when there is no more space available on the taskbar for individual taskbar icons. The NEVER COMBINE setting on the other hand will never group taskbar icons together.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.4 - The classic Windows XP, ungrouped, taskbar icons - A taskbar icon for each task (program)


Use Aero Peek To Preview The Desktop

This setting, when ticked, allows you to see the desktop screen when you move the mouse pointer into the bottom/right corner of the desktop screen (the empty rectangle space in the corner, to the right of the clock). If you hover the mouse only and then move it away from the corner, that is taking a peek at the desktop screen. However, if you click in the corner, that will put you onto the desktop screen (activate the desktop screen).

Notification Area

This setting is a button called CUSTOMIZE (Fig 5.5), that when clicked on opens the Notification And Actions settings window (Fig 5.6). On that settings window you need to click on the link called SELECT WHICH ICONS APPEAR ON THE TASKBAR in order to then switch on/off notification icons. So if you switch a notification icon on, it will appear directly in the notification area (visible from the taskbar). But if you switch a notification icon off, it will be grouped with other switched off notification icons (hidden behind the expansion (up arrow) button) and therefore not visible from the taskbar.

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.5 - Click on the CUSTOMIZE button to continue

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.6 - Click on the link called SELECT WHICH ICONS APPEAR ON THE TASKBAR to continue

Windows Taskbar Explained

Fig 5.7 - Click on a button to switch the associated notification icon on/off ()

In the example below I have left the on/off switches alone, on their default settings. When you have finished changing the taskbar settings simply exit the settings window, as any changes you make will be instantly applied.


I have not explained the START Menu settings and Toolbars settings here as they do not really need changing and are not of much relevance to this section. For example: The START Menu settings are more to do with the START Menu than the notification area and the Toolbars settings are not normally touched/set. The Toolbars are to do with what Toolbars you want displayed on the taskbar - the Address Toolbar, the Links toolbar, the Desktop toolbar (allows you to see the desktop icons on its toolbar) and so on. Experiment if you like, but as said these toolbars are normally left untouched/unticked due to the amount of space they occupy on the taskbar for example.