One of the best features of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 is the ability to pin apps to the Taskbar. Until Microsoft comes out with the refreshed Start menu, pinning apps is a must for Windows 8.1 users.
As the go-to location for dealing with and switching between open programs, the Taskbar may be the most clickable location on your desktop. But there’s no reason you can’t spice it up with a few keyboard tricks to make things a little more efficient.
Pick by number
If you have a bunch of apps pinned to your taskbar, the keyboard offers a quick way to fire up or switch to a program without reaching for your mouse.
Press the Windows logo key plus the app’s placement number (counting from the left on Windows 8.1, the File Explorer is #1). Let’s say you wanted to open Atom, GitHub’s new text editor, in the taskbar above, you’d tap Win Key + 4.
If a program is open it will immediately become the active window. Using this shortcut when the app is closed will open it.
This shortcut works with any app that’s currently on the taskbar including any that aren’t pinned. The downside is this trick only works with the first ten apps on your taskbar and doesn’t work with double digits—the tenth app is 0.
Microsoft’s jump lists that give you program-specific context menus when you right-click an app are great. But if you ever want something with more system-wide options just press Shift and then right-click.
If the program is open you’ll only see options to adjust or move the window. Closed apps, however, offer a much larger set of choices as seen here.
If you love the idea of Win Key + “#,” but are frustrated by the upper limit of 10—I have about 20 apps pinned to the taskbar myself—try Win Key + T. This trick lets you quickly cycle through every app on your taskbar whether it’s open or not.
A small spotlight at the bottom of the app icon will tell you where you are on the taskbar just like when you hover over an icon with your mouse.
When you’ve landed on the program you want just release the keys and press Enter to either open the app or make it the active window.
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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.