An Administrator's Guide to Customizing the Desktop and the User Interface for Windows 8

  • 9/15/2012

Customizing the Taskbar

The taskbar provides quick access to frequently needed information and active applications. You can change the taskbar’s behavior and properties in many ways. This section explores key techniques you can use to do this.

Understanding the Taskbar

The taskbar is one of the least appreciated areas of the Windows desktop. Users and administrators tend to pay very little attention to its configuration, yet we use it day in and day out, relying on it for quick access to just about everything we do with the Windows operating system. If you find that users are having frequent problems accessing Windows features or running applications, you can help them by tailoring the taskbar to their needs. The Windows taskbar can contain several toolbars that can assist the user in different ways.

Sometimes you can provide tremendous productivity increases simply by adding a frequently used item to the taskbar. For example, most people spend a lot of time finding and reading documents. They browse the web or their corporate intranet to find the latest information. They open documents in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or other applications, finding documents individually or starting applications to read those documents as well. By adding an Address bar to the taskbar, users can access documents directly and start the appropriate application automatically. They just need to type the document path and press Enter. As time passes, the history feature of the Address bar tracks more and more of the user’s previously accessed documents, making it easier to find the information the user needs.

Pinning Shortcuts to the Taskbar

Windows 8 does not have a Quick Launch toolbar. Instead, Windows 8 allows you to pin commonly used programs directly to the taskbar. You can do this whenever you are working with the Start screen. Simply press and hold or right-click an item you want to add to the taskbar, and then tap or click Pin To Taskbar. Once you pin an item to the taskbar, you can change the item’s position on the taskbar by tapping or clicking and dragging the program’s icon. To unpin an item, press and hold or right-click the item on the taskbar, and then tap or click Unpin This Program From Taskbar.

Changing the Taskbar’s Size and Position

By default, the taskbar appears at the bottom of the screen and is sized so that one row of options is visible. As long as the taskbar’s position isn’t locked, you can dock it at any edge of the Windows desktop and resize it as necessary. To move the taskbar, simply tap or click it and drag it to a different edge of the desktop. As you drag the taskbar, you’ll see the taskbar at the edge of the Windows desktop, and when you release the mouse button, the taskbar will appear in the new location. To resize the taskbar, move the mouse pointer over the taskbar’s edge, and then drag it up or down.

Auto Hiding, Locking, and Controlling Taskbar Visibility

When you want to control the visibility of the taskbar, you have several options. You can enable the Auto Hide feature to hide the taskbar from view when it is not in use. You can lock the taskbar so that it can’t be resized or repositioned. You can also make the taskbar appear in a specific location and with a specific appearance. Once the taskbar is positioned and sized the way a user wants it, you should lock it. In this way, the taskbar has a fixed location, and users don’t have to hunt for it.

To configure the taskbar, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold or right-click the taskbar, and then tap or click Properties.

  2. On the Taskbar tab, select the appropriate Taskbar appearance options. You can lock the taskbar, auto-hide the taskbar, and use small icons.

  3. Use the Taskbar Location On Screen list to select the location for the taskbar on the desktop. You can select Bottom, Left, Right, or Top.

  4. Use the Taskbar Buttons list to specify whether taskbar buttons are combined and labels are hidden. Choose Always Combine, Hide Labels to always combine buttons of the same type and hide their labels. Choose Combine When Taskbar Is Full to combine buttons only when the taskbar is full. Choose Never Combine to never combine buttons.

  5. Tap or click OK.

Controlling Programs in the Notification Area

The notification area or system tray is the area on the far right of the taskbar that shows the system clock and notification icons from applications. The two standard notification icons are for Action Center and the Network console. When you point to icons in the notification area, a tooltip provides information about the state of the application. To control an application in this area, press and hold or right-click the application icon to display a menu of available options. Each application has a different menu of options, most of which provide quick access to routine tasks.

You can optimize the notification area by setting properties that control whether system icons—such as for the clock, volume, and network—are displayed and whether application icons are displayed or hidden.

Controlling Icon Display in the Notification Area

The notification area can display both application and system icons. Icons for applications appear in the notification area for several reasons. Some programs, such as Action Center, are managed by Windows itself, and their icons appear periodically when notifications are pending. Other types of programs, such as an antivirus program, are configured to load at startup and then run in the background. You can often enable or disable the display of icons through setup options for the related applications, but Windows 8 provides a common interface for controlling icon display in the notification area. You can specify whether and how icons are displayed on a per-application basis.

To control the display of icons in the notification area, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold or right-click the taskbar, and then tap or click Properties.

  2. On the Taskbar tab, for the Notification Area setting, tap or click Customize to display the Notification Area Icons page, as shown in Figure 3-3.

    Figure 3-3

    Figure 3-3. Configure notification icons.

  3. If you want all icons to be displayed, select Always Show All Icons And Notifications On The Taskbar, and then tap or click OK. Skip the remaining steps.

  4. If you want to customize the appearance of icons, clear Always Show All Icons And Notifications On The Taskbar. You can now optimize the notification behavior. Each entry in the left column has a selection menu in the right column with the following options:

    • Hide Icon And Notifications Never displays the icon and notifications

    • Only Show Notifications Displays only notifications

    • Show Icon And Notifications Always displays the icon and notifications

  5. When you have finished updating the notification entries, tap or click OK twice.