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Customize Your Taskbar

by Oscar Sodani
March 6, 2003

Oscar Sodani is a founder of Help2Go and owner of Help2Go Networks, an IT consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. Oscar holds the CISSP certification as well as industry certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Novell.

Bill Gates paid a small fortune for the rights to use the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" to launch Windows 95. (Well, small for him anyway) The funny thing is it worked. PC owners have become conditioned to begin almost every task by clicking on the Start button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. What some Windows users don't know is that the Taskbar, where that ubiquitous Start button resides, is actually quite malleable and can be customized to suit the individual's tastes.

In this Help2Go article, we'll show you:

  • How to change the settings for your Taskbar
  • How to change the Toolbars shown in the Taskbar
  • How to move the Taskbar

Personal Preferences

The standard setup for the Taskbar has it sitting on the bottom of the screen. Reading from left to right, you'll see the Start button, the Quick Launch Toolbar (with shortcuts for Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and other installed programs), boxes for the various programs you have running, and the System Tray (with icons for items like your Internet connection, the sound volume, and maybe some chat programs). Pretty boring, huh?

Fortunately, you can change the way your Taskbar appears with a few simple mouse clicks. There are two ways to make these changes:

Click on the Start button,
Select Settings,
Click on Taskbar & Start Menu...

Figure 1

A slicker method is to:

Find a blank space on the Taskbar,
Use the right-hand mouse button to click on this spot. You will see a small pop-up menu,
Select Properties from the menu and left-click on it.

Figure 2

From the Taskbar Properties window, you can decide exactly what you want the Taskbar to do.

Figure 3

Under the Taskbar Options tab, you can check off those features you'd like to use.

Always on top: Selecting this option means that the no matter what window you have open, even if it fills the entire screen, the Taskbar will be displayed.

Auto hide: If selected, the Taskbar will disappear from the screen unless you strike the Windows key on your keyboard or drag your mouse pointer down to the bottom of the screen and bring it up into view.

Show small icons in Start Menu: When you install software on your PC, the programs will often place a shortcut in the Start Menu. This can be bothersome if you have to scroll through your Start Menu to find what you want. Using small icons can eliminate this problem. Alternatively, you can edit your Start Menu and clean things up.

Show clock: Self-explanatory.

When you have made your changes, click on the Apply button to see the effects. Try various combinations until you find a set of preferences you like.

Make the Taskbar your own

Changing the appearance of your Taskbar is only the beginning. You can also dictate what information is shown in the Taskbar itself:

Once again, find a blank space on the Taskbar,
Right-click and you will see the pop-up menu,
This time, select Toolbars.

Figure 4

Now you can choose which toolbars appear in the Taskbar.

Address: This toolbar allows you to use your Taskbar to browse the web. Type in a web site URL (like and your web browser program (Netscape, Internet Explorer) will open that page.

Links: Much like bookmarks, the Links toolbar provides you with one-click access to specific web sites. You can customize this set of links or use the ones provided by Microsoft.

Desktop: This toolbar will place the shortcuts found on your Desktop screen (My Computer, My Documents, etc.) inside the Taskbar. You won't have to minimize your windows to get to your shortcuts.

Quick Launch: Another set of shortcuts for commonly used programs is found in this toolbar.

New Toolbar: You can choose a folder within Windows or an Internet location and use that as a toolbar. For example, by making the folder "My Documents" a toolbar, you can open any of your saved documents by simply clicking on the icon.

Below is an example of a Taskbar that has Address, Desktop, and Links toolbars selected:

Figure 5

Pretty messy, eh? I wouldn't recommend using all of the toolbars at one time. You may find that adding one or two really enhances the Taskbar and makes life a little easier for you.

Move it or lose it

One last little trick. The Taskbar does not have to sit on the bottom of your screen. Here's how you can move your Taskbar:

Left-click on a blank space within the Taskbar,
Hold down the mouse button and drag the pointer to the top, left or right sides of the screen,
The Taskbar will now move to that new location.

Here's what the Taskbar would look like if you moved it to the left-hand side of the screen:

Figure 6

Making all or some of these changes may not be to everyone's tastes, but having the option of customizing your Taskbar means you can make Windows that much more useful to you.

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