7 Windows taskbar tricks

That bar of icons at the bottom of the desktop isn't just for pretty pictures. Here are a few ways to configure the taskbar and make Windows easier to use.

0407 primary taskbar menu

Donald Craig asked how he can configure the Windows taskbar for easier and more powerful access.

The taskbar at the bottom of your screen does more than give you easy access to your currently open programs. You can pin programs to the taskbar, pin data files to the programs, launch a program as an administrator, and do all sorts of other tricks.

I’ve tested all of these in Windows 7 and 10.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

1: Put a program on the taskbar permanently: By default, only running applications appear on the taskbar. When you close a program, its taskbar icon disappears. If you don’t want it to disappear, right-click it and select Pin this program to taskbar (Windows 7) or Pin to taskbar (Windows 10).

0407 pin app

2: Use the keyboard: Press Winkey-1, and the first program displayed on the taskbar will open. If it’s already open, it will get Windows’ focus. (Bonus tip: You can rearrange the icons on the taskbar with a simple drag and drop, allowing you to control which program any Winkey-number opens.)

3: Open a recently used data file: Right-click a taskbar icon and there’s a good chance you’ll find a jump list of files you’ve recently opened with that particular program. Select one to open it again.

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4: Pin a data file permanently to a program: The files on a program’s jump list will disappear over time…unless you pin them there. If the file is already on the application’s jump list, hover the mouse pointer over the filename, then click the pushpin icon that will appear on the left.

0407 pin to list

If the file you want to pin isn’t already on the jump list, open the folder containing that file, then drag it to the appropriate taskbar icon. When a “Pin to…” message pops up, let go.

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A horizontal line separates pinned files from merely recently-used ones.

5: Change a program’s properties from the taskbar: Right-click the program’s taskbar icon, then right-click the program itself, listed near the bottom of the jump list. Select Properties.

0407 change properties 1

You’ll get the program’s Properties dialog box. From there, you can change various settings; for instance, you can set up what type of window the program opens in.

0407 change properties 2

6: Launch a program with administrator privileges: Hold down Shift-Ctrl while you right-click a taskbar icon, and you’ll get a pop-up menu. Select Run as administrator.

7: Easily access folders and subfolders: Right-click a blank spot on the taskbar and select Tools > New toolbar. This brings up File Explorer, where you can navigate to any folder or drive—I recommend Libraries. Once you click Select Folder, you’ll have a cascading menu of folders and files on the taskbar.

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