Windows taskbar icons: How to clean up the clutter

There's only so much space at the bottom of your screen, so here's how to use it wisely.

1203 primary taskbar

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Lis has a taskbar “running over with icons,” and needs to clean things up a bit.

If you keep a lot of programs running at the same time, or if you have pinned a lot of them to the taskbar, that row of icons at the bottom of the screen will overflow. You won’t be able to see all of them.

One obvious solution is to close some of those programs. This will clear the taskbar and improve performance. Shutting down your PC in the evening and booting fresh in the morning will help.

But if you have to keep all those programs running, there are some other solutions.

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First, you can change how the running programs are displayed on the taskbar: Right-click the taskbar and select Properties. In the Taskbar tab, click the Taskbar buttons pulldown menu and pick an option.

1203 taskbar properties

These are the options:

  • Always combine, hide labels: This saves the most space, showing one icon per application—without descriptive labels.
    1203 always combine
  • Never combine: This is the real space-waster. If you have four Chrome windows open, the taskbar will display four Chrome icons, each with a space-wasting label.
    1203 never combine
  •  Combine when taskbar is full: This will display as one or the other of the above options, depending on the circumstances.

Some other tricks:

You can unpin some of the programs you’ve permanently pinned to the taskbar. Right-click the icon on the taskbar and select Unpin this program from taskbar. There are other ways to make a program easy to launch—such as pinning it to the Start menu.

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You can also shrink the notification area—sometimes called the systray. It’s that line of tiny icons on the right end of the taskbar. Once again, right-click the taskbar and select Properties. In the Taskbar tab’s Notification area box, click the Customize button.

In the resulting dialog box, you can select how each of these icons is displayed. Any option other than “Show icon and notifications” will give you a bit more room.

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Windows 10’s Search field takes up a lot of space on the taskbar…unless you hide it. Right-click the taskbar, select Search, and then select any option other than the default “Show search box.”

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If you select Show search icon, you can bring up the search field by clicking on the magnifying glass. If you select Hidden, click Start and just start typing.

1203 search samples
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