Using the Windows Taskbar

Some time ago I wrote about how to organize your desktop to speed switching between opened files in Excel. You can also easily switch between programs in Windows 7 and above by clicking the taskbar icon at the bottom of the screen. Here's another quick tip for keeping an orderly desktop.

Except for the weather gadget and a cute kitty on the background, my computer desktop is blank. I have no icons to click to run programs. By the way, you can configure the desktop to not show icons by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting view, and unchecking the Show desktop icons checkbox.

Desktop ViewsDesktop Properties         

The reason I do that is the taskbar provides all the shortcuts I need. If it's not on the taskbar, I can go to the Windows shortcuts. There are 15 shortcuts on my taskbar, but I can work on much more than 15 projects. For most taskbar shortcuts, you can see previous files opened in that program. To see the previous files, right click on the icon. The real time-saver, though, is the ability to pin files to the icon. As you hover over each file you can see one of two different pin icons at the right edge. The colored one shown at an angle represents files that have been pinned. The grey icon indicates a previously opened file. Simply click the grey pin icon to pin that file to the program's taskbar icon.

Taskbar File List
Opening a particular file can be done by right-clicking the program icon, finding and (left) clicking on the file to be opened. If you don't want to open a specific file, click the program's icon at the bottom of the list. If the program hasn't already been opened, you can simply click on the taskbar icon. Right clicking on a file in a programs filelist will give you different options.

Taskbar File List Right Click
Incidentally, you can also add your desktop shortcuts to the taskbar. Right click on a blank part of the taskbar, select Toolbars, and then Desktop to add a button to the right of the taskbar. The added button will have a chevron (double arrow) that you can click to navigate to an program on the desktop.

There are many other options for the desktop and taskbar that you might want to check out, including the ability to add an internet address bar. Some of them may be just what you need. One of the things I don't like about the taskbar is that you can't add an icon for a specific file or folder.

Aero Peek

Another handy feature of the taskbar is Aero Peek. By enabling that in the taskbar properties, you can preview the desktop as you move over the open program icons on the taskbar. Aero Peek will show miniature versions of the files opened by that program. If you hover over one of the miniature images, you can see the full version displayed. Click on the miniature to switch to that file.

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