Taskbar Productivity Tips & Shortcuts

TaskbarSince Windows 7 was launched, our team is a big fan of the new taskbar and its features. Working with it seriously improves your productivity compared with all previous versions of Windows. In this article we will continue to talk about it and share a roundup of tips & shortcuts which will further improve your productivity. You will learn things like: how to control the position of taskbar icons, preview contents of windows without opening them, use the keyboard to navigate between opened windows and many other tips.

How to Control Taskbar Icons

Windows 7 allows you to have a better grip on how the taskbar icons are displayed. For instance, you are now able to drag-and-drop taskbar icons in order to change their position in the taskbar. Also, you can pin down your favorite programs to the taskbar. Here's how to do that:

  • Drag-and-drop icons - drag-and-drop a taskbar icon to another position on the taskbar to change the icon's position. You can shuffle them back and forth as you desire.


  • Pin an application to the taskbar - Pinning an application to the taskbar means showing its icon in the taskbar persistently, even if the application is closed. Of course, this behavior can easily be reverted. One way to pin an application to the taskbar is to open it, right-click its taskbar icon to bring its context menu and then click on 'Pin this program to taskbar'.


    An alternative is to simply drag-and-drop a file which is opened by that application over the taskbar. This action has two results: pinning the application to the taskbar and adding the dragged file to the jumplist specific to that application.


    More information on jumplists can be found in our article called How to Create your Own Custom Jump List.

How to Manage Opened Windows

You can use the newly introduced taskbar features to preview the desktop or the opened windows. Check out the following tips.

  • Show the desktop - Click the Show Desktop button from the right end of the taskbar (alternative action: WINDOWS + D) to minimize all opened windows; repeat the action to revert this behavior.


  • Temporarily show the desktop - Hover the mouse cursor over the Show Desktop button (alternative action: WINDOWS + SPACE) to temporarily show the desktop and the opened windows' contours (useful if you only want to take a look at the gadgets or desktop contents).


  • Live thumbnails - Hover the mouse cursor over an opened application's taskbar icon to show a live thumbnail for the application's window; the applications with multiple instances display a list of thumbnails.


  • Temporarily show an opened window - Hover the cursor over a window thumbnail in the taskbar to temporarily show only the window that corresponds to the hovered thumbnail.

How to Open files or Start New Application Instances

In Windows 7 you can use the keyboard in combination with the taskbar icons to start new instances of applications which are already running and to open files. Here are a few useful tricks:

  • Open a file using an application's taskbar icon - SHIFT + drag-and-drop a file over an application icon in the taskbar to open the file with that application.


  • Start new application instances - SHIFT + click or middle click an application's icon in the taskbar to start a new instance of that application. This works only with applications which support running in multiple instances, like Microsoft Office or Internet browsers.
  • Taskbar

  • Start new application instances with full administrative rights - CTRL + SHIFT + click an application's icon in the taskbar or start menu to start a new instance of that application, with administrative rights. This will raise an UAC (User Account Control) prompt.

The tips from this section are covered in more detail also here: How To Quickly Open Multiple Windows for the Same Application.

How to Show Context Menus

  • Windows 7 introduced a redesigned right-click menu for the taskbar icons which includes new features. Also, the old context menu you may have been used to from previous versions of Windows is still there. To learn how to switch between the two context menus, read these tips:
  • Show the classic context menu - SHIFT + right-click an application's icon in the taskbar or start menu to show the classic window context menu. To get the same result, you can also right-click an application's live thumbnail.


  • Show the context menu - Click and drag upwards an application's taskbar icon to show the new context menu using a fade in effect (similar to right-clicking the application's taskbar icon).


How to Minimize Windows to the Taskbar

You can also minimize windows to the taskbar by using the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Minimize all windows, except the active window - WINDOWS + HOME to minimize all windows, except the active window.
  • Minimize all windows - WINDOWS + M to minimize all windows.

How to Cycle between Windows and Taskbar Icons

If you want to use your keyboard to navigate (cycle) between opened windows or taskbar icons, you can use the following key combinations:

  • Cycle between opened windows - WINDOWS + T to cycle between opened windows using their taskbar thumbnails.
  • Cycle between taskbar icons - WINDOWS + (1-9) to cycle between taskbar icons, following a left-to-right order (ex. for the first icon use WINDOWS + 1, for the second one use WINDOWS + 2 and so on). Repeat the action to minimize the selected window.
  • Cycle between an application's opened windows - CTRL + click an application's taskbar icon to cycle between the application's opened windows.
  • Cycle focus between taskbar icons - ALT + ESC to cycle focus between taskbar icons (for minimized windows press ENTER to activate the highlighted icon).
  • Move focus on the notification area - WINDOWS + B to move focus on the notification area (useful in case you want to activate notification area applications - cycle with the arrows and activate with ENTER).

Related Videos

You can take a look at the following clips to see the Windows 7 taskbar features in action.

The first one is a walkthrough of the taskbar features like live thumbnails, desktop preview, jumplists, etc.:

The second clip focuses on taskbar icons, including the pinned programs:


I hope this tutorial has managed to show you new and useful tips on how to work with the Windows 7 taskbar. If you know other good tips, don't hesitate to share them in a comment. We would love to update this list and make it bigger and even more useful.

Related Articles:

How to Customize the Notification Area
How to Pin Any Folder to the Windows 7 Taskbar
How to Pin Special Windows Items to the Taskbar
How to Snap Windows Side by Side on a Dual Monitor Setup