Customizing the Windows Vista Interface : Customizing the Taskbar for Easier Program and Document Launching

10/17/2012 4:29:46 AM
In Windows Vista, the taskbar acts somewhat like a mini-application. The purpose of this “application” is to display a button for each running program and to enable you to switch from one program to another. Like most applications these days, the taskbar also has its own toolbars that, in this case, enable you to launch programs and documents.

Displaying the Built-In Taskbar Toolbars

Windows Vista taskbar comes with six default toolbars:

Address— This toolbar contains a text box into which you can type a local address (such as a folder or file path), a network address (a UNC path), or an Internet address. When you press Enter or click the Go button, Windows Vista loads the address into Windows Explorer (if you entered a local or network folder address), an application (if you entered a file path), or Internet Explorer (if you entered an Internet address). In other words, this toolbar works just like the Address Bar used by Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.

Windows Media Player— This toolbar contains controls for playing media. When you activate this toolbar, it appears when you minimize the Windows Media Player window.

Links— This toolbar contains several buttons that link to predefined Internet sites. This is the same as the Links toolbar that appears in Internet Explorer.

Tablet PC Input Panel— This toolbar contains just a single icon: the Tablet PC Input Panel icon, which, when clicked, displays the Tablet PC Input Panel.

Desktop— This toolbar contains all the desktop icons, as well as an icon for Internet Explorer and submenus for your user folder and the following folders: Public, Computer, Network, Control Panel, and Recycle Bin.

Quick Launch— This is a collection of one-click icons that launch Internet Explorer or Media Player, clear the desktop, or activate the 3-D Window Switcher. Other applications—such as Microsoft Office—also add icons to this toolbar.


You can adjust the size of a toolbar by clicking and dragging the toolbar’s left edge. However, this won’t work if the taskbar is locked. To unlock the taskbar, right-click an empty section of the taskbar and then click Lock the Taskbar to deactivate it. Also, make sure that the desktop is visible by minimizing all open windows (click Show Desktop in the Quick Launch toolbar, or right-click the taskbar and then click Show the Desktop).

To toggle these toolbars on and off, right-click an empty spot on the taskbar and then use either of the following techniques:

  • Click Toolbars and then click the toolbar you want to work with.

  • Click Properties, click the Toolbars tab, activate the check box of the toolbar you want to work with, and then click OK.

Setting Some Taskbar Toolbar Options

After you’ve displayed a toolbar, there are a number of options you can set to customize the look of the toolbar and to make the toolbars easier to work with. Right-click an empty section of the toolbar and then click one of the following commands:

View— This command displays a submenu with two options: Large Icons and Small Icons. These commands determine the size of the toolbar’s icons. For example, if a toolbar has more icons than can be shown given its current size, switch to the Small Icons view.

Show Text— This command toggles the icon titles on and off. If you turn on the titles, it makes it easier to decipher what each icon does, but you’ll see fewer icons in a given space.

Show Title— This command toggles the toolbar title (displayed to the left of the icons) on and off.

Creating New Taskbar Toolbars

In addition to the predefined taskbar toolbars, you can also create new toolbars that display the contents of any folder on your system. For example, if you have a folder of programs or documents that you launch regularly, you can get one-click access to those items by displaying that folder as a toolbar. Here are the steps to follow:

Right-click an empty spot on the toolbar, and then click Toolbars, New Toolbar. Windows Vista displays the New Toolbar dialog box.

Select the folder you want to display as a toolbar. (Or click New Folder to create a new subfolder within the currently selected folder.)

Click Select Folder. Windows Vista creates the new toolbar.

Improving Productivity by Setting Taskbar Options

The taskbar comes with a few options that can help you be more productive either by saving a few mouse clicks or by giving you more screen room to display your applications. Follow these steps to set these taskbar options:

Right-click the taskbar and then click Properties. (Alternatively, open Control Panel’s Taskbar and Start Menu icon.) The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears with the Taskbar tab displayed, as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1. Use the Taskbar tab to set up the taskbar for improved productivity.

Activate or deactivate the following options, as required to boost your productivity:

Lock the Taskbar—
When this check box is activated, you can’t resize the taskbar and you can’t resize or move any taskbar toolbars. This is useful if you share your computer with other users and you don’t want to waste time resetting the taskbar if it’s changed by someone else.

Auto-Hide the Taskbar—
When this check box is activated, Windows Vista reduces the taskbar to a thin, blue line at the bottom of the screen when you’re not using it. This is useful if you want a bit more screen room for your applications. To redisplay the taskbar, move the mouse to the bottom of the screen. Note, however, that you should consider leaving this option deactivated if you use the taskbar frequently; otherwise, auto-hiding it will slow you down because it takes Windows Vista a second or two to restore the taskbar when you hover the mouse over it.

Keep the Taskbar on Top of Other Windows—
If you deactivate this option, Windows Vista hides the taskbar behind any window that’s either maximized or moved over the taskbar. To get to the taskbar, you need to either minimize or move the window or you need to press the Windows logo key. This isn’t a very efficient way to work, so I recommend leaving this option activated.

Group Similar Taskbar Buttons

Show Quick Launch—
Leave this check box activated to display the Quick Launch toolbar, discussed earlier (refer to “Displaying the Built-In Taskbar Toolbars”). Quick Launch is a handy way to access Internet Explorer, the desktop, Windows Media Player, and the 3-D Window Switcher (as well as any other shortcuts you add to the Quick Launch folder), so I recommend leaving this option activated.

Show Window Previews (Thumbnails)—
Leave this check box activated to see thumbnail views of your open windows when you hover the mouse pointer over the taskbar buttons. This can help you find the window you want among all the taskbar buttons, so it offers a small productivity boost. (Note, however, that you don’t see thumbnails for grouped buttons.)

Click the Notification Area tab, shown in Figure 2

Figure 2. Use the Notification Area tab to customize the notification area.

To help reduce notification area clutter and make this part of the taskbar more useful, you can do two things:

  • Activate the Hide Inactive Icons check box. When this check box is activated, Windows Vista hides notification area icons that you haven’t used for a while. This gives the taskbar a bit more room to display program buttons, so leave this option activated if you don’t use the notification area icons all that often. If you do use the icons frequently, deactivate this option to avoid having to click the arrow to display the hidden icons.

  • In the System Icons group, deactivate the check box for each icon you don’t use.


If your notification area is crowded with icons, it’s inefficient to display all the icons if you use only a few of them. Instead of showing them all, activate the Hide Inactive Icons check box and click Customize. For the icons you use often, click the item’s Behavior column and then click Show in the list that appears. This tells Windows Vista to always display the icon in the notification area. For icons you never use, click Hide, instead, which tells Vista to never display the icon in the notification area.

Click OK.

Displaying Multiple Clocks for Different Time Zones

If you have colleagues, friends, or family members who work or live in a different time zone, it is often important to know the correct time in that zone. For example, you would not want to call someone at home at 9 a.m. your time if that person lives in a time zone that is three hours behind you. Similarly, if you know that a business colleague leaves work at 5 p.m. and that person works in a time zone that is seven hours ahead of you, you know that any calls you place to that person must occur before 10 a.m. your time.

If you need to be sure about the current time in another time zone, you can customize Windows Vista’s date and time display to show not only your current time, but also the current time in the other time zone. Follow these steps:

Click the Clock icon and then click Change Date and Time Settings to display the Date and Time dialog box.

Click the Additional Clocks tab. Figure 3 shows a completed version of this tab.

Figure 3. Use the Additional Clocks tab to add one or two more clocks for different time zones in Windows Vista.

Activate the first Show This Clock check box.

Use the Select Time Zone list to click the time zone you want to display in the additional clock.

Use the Enter Display Name text box to type a name for the clock.

Repeat steps 4–6 for the second clock.

Click OK.

To see the clocks, click the time to display a fly-out similar to the one shown in Figure 4

Figure 4. Click the time to see your additional clocks.


After you customize Windows Vista with the extra clocks, you normally click the time in the notification area to see the clocks. However, if you just hover the mouse pointer over the time, Windows Vista displays a banner that shows the current date, your current local time, and the current time in the other time zones.

  •  Windows Server 2008 Server Core : Working with Scripts - Scripting Networking Solutions with the NetSH Utility
  •  Windows Server 2008 Server Core : Working with Scripts - Executing Scripts
  •  How To Buy A Hard Drive (Part 2)
  •  How To Buy A Hard Drive (Part 1)
  •  Plantronics Backbeat Go, Inno3d Geforce Gt 640, Sony Internet Player With Google Tv, Azio Mech4 Levetron
  •  TI Computers Ti Deluxe 670 - Fantastic Mix Of Price And Performance
  •  Inkjet All In One Shootout - Going With Ink (Part 3) - Specifications - Brother MFC – J825DW, Canon Pixma MX897, Epson workforce pro WP – 4521, HP Officejet 6700 premium
  •  Inkjet All In One Shootout - Going With Ink (Part 2) - Performance - Brother MFC – J825DW, Canon Pixma MX897, Epson workforce pro WP – 4521, HP Officejet 6700 premium
  •  Inkjet All In One Shootout - Going With Ink (Part 1) - Design & Handling - Brother MFC – J825DW, Canon Pixma MX897, Epson workforce pro WP – 4521, HP Officejet 6700 premium
  •   Linking PCs with a Network : Connecting to and Sharing Files with Other PCs on Your Network, Sharing a Printer on the Network
    Most View
    Xara Web Designer 9 Premium - Offer Professional Flair At A Realistic Price
    Tracking Results and Measuring Success : Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics (part 4) - Rankings, Crawl Errors
    Prepare Yourself – D-Link DIR-865L
    The Mayans Were Wrong (Part 1)
    Extending the Real-Time Communications Functionality of Exchange Server 2007 : Installing OCS 2007 (part 2)
    Windows Server 2012 MMC Administration (part 2) - Using the MMC - MMC window and startup
    SFF Media PCs: What Hardware To Consider, And What To Ignore (Part 3)
    Wilson Audio Alexia - High Performance Loudspeakers (Part 1)
    10 Things You Need To Know About Flash
    ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : The XML Classes (part 3) - Working with XML Documents in Memory
    Top 10
    Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Disable a Timer Job,Start a Timer Job, Set the Schedule for a Timer Job
    Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Display Available Timer Jobs on the Farm, Get a Specific Timer Job, Enable a Timer Job
    Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Review Workflow Configuration Settings,Modify Workflow Configuration Settings
    Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Review SharePoint Designer Settings, Configure SharePoint Designer Settings
    Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Remove a Managed Path, Merge Log Files, End the Current Log File
    SQL Server 2012 : Policy Based Management - Evaluating Policies
    SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 3) - Creating Policies
    SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 2) - Conditions
    SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 1) - Management Facets
    Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 : Configuring Anti-Spam and Message Filtering Options (part 4) - Preventing Internal Servers from Being Filtered