Since we started writing about it, we said that the new taskbar is one of the best features in Windows 7. It has some very interesting new features & improvements which definitely boost user productivity compared to older versions of Windows. Therefore it is only natural for us to continue our series of articles about it. In this article, I'll show how to further customize different aspects of the taskbar such as: its appearance, size, location and toolbars.
How to Open the Taskbar Properties Window
Most of the configuration options are located in the taskbar properties window. To open it, right click on a blank space of the taskbar and select Properties.
The configuration options are found in the first tab, called Taskbar.
In the chapters below I will discuss all these options in detail.
How to Change the Appearance & Location of the Taskbar
The first set of options from the Taskbar tab are helping you to customize the way the taskbar looks and how it is positioned. You can make the following configurations:
- Lock and unlock the taskbar - if checked, this option will make the taskbar stay fixed in its place. It won't allow you to move it or change its size. To unlock it, uncheck this option. An alternative is to right click on a blank space in the taskbar and uncheck the 'Lock the taskbar' option.
- Auto-hide the taskbar - this option lets you hide the taskbar when you are not using it. When checked, the taskbar will only show up when you take your cursor to the taskbar zone, where the taskbar should be when it's unhidden.
- Use small icons - when checked, will make the taskbar icons look smaller which helps you save some space.
- Taskbar location on screen - with this option you can move the taskbar to different positions on your desktop. Click on the drop-down menu and select the position you desire.
Another way to move the taskbar is to simply click on it, hold and drag it where you want. Just make sure that 'Lock the taskbar' is unchecked. Once the option is unchecked, click the left mouse button somewhere on the taskbar, keep it pressed and drag the taskbar to the desired position.
- Taskbar buttons - this helps you select how to see the buttons of applications opened on the taskbar. Here you have three options:
- Never combine - will keep all labels on the taskbar and will never combine the same applications (or better said will never stack them). If, for example, you have 10 Internet Explorer windows open, they will be shown separately. If the taskbar is full, the arrow next to the notification section will point to the next list of the applications opened. Also, when the taskbar is full, the name labels will not be present.
- Combine when full - combines the same application into a stack only if the application has too many instances of it opened. This option also shows the label names of the application currently opened or pinned on the taskbar.
- Always combine - will always combine opened instances of an application and will hide label names. This is also the default setting for the taskbar.
Resizing the taskbar is not included in the configuration options. However, this doesn't mean you cannot change its size. To resize it, position the cursor on the upper margin of the taskbar until you see the cursor having two arrows (up and down), click and drag the margin up or down, as you desire.
NOTE: Resizing the taskbar works only if it's unlocked.
Preview the Desktop with Aero Peek
When this option is enabled, you can move the cursor over the 'Show Desktop button and a preview of the desktop will be shown by making all open windows translucent. This is useful when you want to see a desktop gadget or some other info shown on your desktop without reverting to your desktop for more than a second. Once you move the cursor out of the 'Show Desktop button, your open windows will be shown again as they were before.
If this feature is not useful to you, uncheck the 'Use Aero Peek to preview the desktop' box from the Taskbar tab and it will be disabled.
If you click the 'Show Desktop button, all open windows will be minimized and the desktop will be shown. If you click on it again, all windows will be shown as in their initial state.
How to Add Toolbars to the Taskbar
One feature that is not exactly new is the possibility to add toolbars to the taskbar. To add one, be it a standard toolbar offered by default or a custom one, right click on the blank space of the taskbar. In the right click menu, go to Toolbars and select the option you desire:
- Address - this will add a web address toolbar in which you can type the address of any web-site. When you enter a web-address, it will open it in your default browser. It can also be used to access your computer folders or files. Personally I don't find this to be very useful. You can get the same results just by typing a web-address in the Start Menu search field. This makes the Address toolbar pretty redundant.
- Links - this adds a toolbar with all your favorite websites from Internet Explorer. If you use another browser as your default, it's pretty useless.
- Tablet PC Input Panel - this creates a button which you can use to quickly launch the Tablet PC Input Panel. This can be useful for Tablet PCs but it's the same as pinning the Tablet PC Input Panel to your taskbar. Which is again redundant.
- Desktop - this will add a toolbar with all the shortcuts and items from your desktop.
- New toolbar - this is the most useful option as it allows you to add a custom toolbar to your taskbar. When you select this option, a new window will appear. Browse to the folder you wish to use as a toolbar and, once you have found it, click on the 'Select folder' button.
When you will click on the newly created folder toolbar, you will see the whole contents of the folder. This means that, if the folder has lots of content, the toolbar will occupy a big portion of your screen and it can take up longer time to load.
How to Disable Toolbars from the Taskbar
To disable a toolbar you can right click on the taskbar, go to Toolbars and click on the toolbar you wish to disable. Those that are enabled on the taskbar have a check sign next to them. Uncheck it and they will disappear.
If you want to disable more than one toolbar, an easier way is to go to the taskbar properties (as shown in the first chapter), click on the Toolbar tab and select only the toolbars you want to use.
As you can see, customizing the taskbar is very easy and can be done in seconds. In this article I covered all customization aspects except the Notification area, which will be included in a separate article. If you have some interesting tips about how to further customize your taskbar in Windows 7, don't hesitate to leave a comment.