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Customizing the Windows 7 Interface

Making the Taskbar Dance

You use the taskbar to manage your programs and open windows. The taskbar displays buttons for pinned and open items that allow you to quickly access items you’ve opened and start applications.

Putting the Taskbar Where You Want It

By default, the taskbar is always displayed along the bottom of the desktop on your primary monitor. If you want to move the taskbar to another location, first make sure it is not locked, as indicated by a check mark. To unlock the taskbar, right-click it and clear the Lock The Taskbar option.

After you unlock the taskbar, you can position it wherever you want by clicking on it and dragging. You can:

  • Drag the taskbar to the left or right to dock it on the left or right side of the primary desktop. Drag up to dock the taskbar to the top of the primary desktop.

  • Dock the taskbar to a location on another monitor. Simply drag the taskbar to the desired left, right, top, or bottom location on the stretched desktop.

After you position the taskbar where you want it, you should lock it in position. To do this, right-click an open area of the taskbar, and then select the Lock The Taskbar option. A check mark indicates that it is locked.

Customizing Taskbar Appearance

You can customize other aspects of the taskbar by using the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, shown in Figure 1-5. To access this dialog box, right-click an open area of the taskbar, and then select Properties. Select or clear options as desired and click OK to save your changes.

Figure 1-5

Figure 1-5 Customizing taskbar appearance

The available options include:

  • Lock The Taskbar Locks the taskbar in place to prevent accidental moving or resizing. You must clear this option to move or resize the taskbar.

  • Auto-Hide The Taskbar Hides the taskbar when you aren’t using it and displays the taskbar only when you move the cursor over it. If you clear this option, the taskbar is always displayed (although not always on top), which you may prefer, especially if you move the taskbar around a stretched desktop.

  • Use Small Icons Reduces the size of taskbar buttons, allowing more buttons to fit on the taskbar. On my desktop PC, I prefer large icons, which makes them easier to click, but on my tablet PC, I prefer small icons so they take up less screen space.

  • Taskbar Location On Screen Sets the relative location of the taskbar on the currently targeted display. As we discussed previously, you can move the taskbar manually as well when it is unlocked.

  • Taskbar Buttons Specifies whether taskbar buttons are always combined, combined only when the taskbar is full, or never combined.

  • Use Aero Peek To Preview The Desktop Enables the peek feature with the Show Desktop button. If you clear this option, Windows doesn’t temporarily hide all open windows when you move the pointer over the Show Desktop button.

See the next section for more information on combining buttons and using related options.

Pinning Programs to the Taskbar

You can pin items that you work with frequently to the taskbar. Pinning an item to the taskbar creates a shortcut that allows you to quickly open a program, folder, or related window.

Pinning items is easy. If you know the name of the program you want to pin to the taskbar, click Start and start typing the program name in the Search box. When you see the program in the results list, right-click it, and then select Pin To Taskbar. From this point on, whenever you want to access the program, simply click the related icon on the taskbar.

Another way to find items to pin is to click the Start button, and then click All Programs. When you find the program you want to pin, right-click the program’s menu item, and then select Pin To Taskbar.

To remove a pinned program from the taskbar, right-click its icon, and then select Unpin This Program From The Taskbar. This removes the program’s button from the taskbar.

You can set the order of buttons for all opened and pinned programs. To do this, click the button on the taskbar and drag it left or right to the desired position.

When buttons are combined on the taskbar, clicking an item with multiple windows displays a thumbnail with a representation of each open window. You can now rest your pointer over a window to peek at it on the desktop (as long as the appropriate Aero features are enabled) or click a window that you want to work with to open it. For example, if you open three different folders in Windows Explorer, these items are grouped together in one taskbar button. Resting your pointer over the taskbar button displays a thumbnail with an entry for each window, allowing you to select the grouped window to open by clicking it.

Taskbar buttons make it easy to close windows as well. To close a window, whether grouped or not, move the pointer over the related taskbar button. When the thumbnail appears, move the mouse pointer to the right, and then click the close button for the window you want to close.

Using Flip Views and Jump Lists

Flip views and jump lists are some of the most powerful features of Windows 7. Why? They allow you to quickly get to items that you want to work with.

Display the standard flip view by pressing Alt+Tab. As shown in Figure 1-6, the flip view contains live thumbnails of all open windows, which are continuously updated to reflect their current state. You can work with a flip view in a variety of ways. Here are a few techniques:

  • Press Alt+Tab, and then hold Alt to keep the flip view open.

  • Press Tab while you hold the Alt key to cycle through the windows.

  • Release the Alt key to bring the currently selected window to the front.

  • Select a window and bring it to the front by clicking it.

Figure 1-6

Figure 1-6 Using the flip view

Display the 3D flip view by pressing the Windows logo key and the Tab key. As shown in Figure 1-7, the 3D flip view contains a skewed 3D view of all open windows that is continuously updated to reflect the current state. Key techniques for working with 3D flip view are as follows:

  • Press the Windows logo key+Tab and hold the Windows logo key to keep the 3D flip view open.

  • Press the Tab key while holding the Windows logo key to cycle through the windows.

  • Release the Windows logo key to bring the currently selected window to the front.

  • Select a window and bring it to the front by clicking it.

Figure 1-7

Figure 1-7 Using the 3D flip view

If you think flip views are cool, wait until you try jump lists. Jump lists are displayed after a short delay whenever you right-click and hover with the pointer over an item that has been pinned to the taskbar. When a program’s jump list is displayed, you can select a file to open or task to perform simply by clicking it.

Most applications display recently used items or frequently used items. Some applications have enhanced jump lists that also provide quick access to tasks that you can perform with the application. The maximum number of recently or frequently used items on a program’s jump list is configurable. By default, jump lists track up to 10 recent items.

You can specify the maximum number of items to display by following these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button, and then select Properties. In the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, click Customize on the Start Menu tab.

  2. In the Customize Start Menu dialog box, specify the number of recent items to display in jump lists, and then click OK twice.

Windows 7 also allows you to pin items to a program’s jump list. To do this, drag an item associated with a program to the program’s button pinned on the taskbar and release when the Pin To option appears. Consider the following real-world scenario:

  • You want to pin Microsoft Word to the taskbar and pin important documents to its jump list. To pin Word to the taskbar, you click Start, type Word.exe in the Search box, right-click Word.exe in the results, and then select Pin To Taskbar.

  • After pinning Word to the taskbar, you want to add important documents to its jump list. You open Windows Explorer, locate the first document, and drag the document file from the Explorer window to the Word button on the taskbar. When the Pin To Word option appears, you release the mouse button to add the first document to the jump list. You repeat this process to build your list.

Other ways to use jump lists include the following:

  • If you pin Windows Explorer to the taskbar, you can add folders to its jump list. To pin Windows Explorer to the taskbar, click Start, type Explorer.exe in the Search box, right-click Explorer.exe in the results, and then select Pin To Taskbar. After you’ve pinned Windows Explorer to the taskbar, simply open Windows Explorer and locate and then drag an important folder from this window to the pinned Windows Explorer on the taskbar. When the Pin To Windows Explorer option appears, release the mouse button to add the folder to the jump list. Repeat this process to build your list.

  • If you pin Control Panel to the taskbar, you can add frequently used tasks to its jump list. To pin Control Panel to the taskbar, click Start, type Control Panel in the Search box, right-click Control Panel in the results, and then select Pin To Taskbar. After you’ve pinned Control Panel to the taskbar, simply open Control Panel, locate an important task, and then drag the link for the task to the pinned Control Panel on the taskbar. When the Pin To Control Panel option appears, release the mouse button to add the task to the jump list. Repeat this process to build your list.