Since the introduction of Windows 95 in August 24, 1995, Windows users have had a love/hate relationship with the infamous windows toolbar! We started with the basic gray boxy one (pictured) with Windows 95 and somehow 27 years later we have the same old tool bar with a fancy face lift :).

Screeshot of the Windows 95 taskbar

Personally I think Microsoft feared that if they got too innovative with the toolbar they would lose the approval of the diehard Microsofters. However, lets be real when push comes to shove the tool bar works just fine. I think the real confusion lies in the features that were added over the years that makes life with our old friend soooo much better.

Here I am going to review the top 3 features that will make your Windows taskbar, your favorite bar ;).

  • The Pin Feature

Starting with Windows 7 a revolutionary feature was introduced, Pin Feature! Sure it doesn’t sound like much but the ability to pin common apps and files increases productivity big time. This feature was enhanced over the years to allow pinning files within app. For example, when you pin the Excel application you also have the option to pin recently opened documents. Just hover over the Recent excel document and click the pin icon.

I have 3 to 5 excel sheets that I refer to and edit all day. These pinned documents allow me to quickly open them without searching for the file location.

These are what my shortcuts look like:

Screenshot of Microsoft Windows 10 pro explaining the pin feature

  • Customization

One pet peeve of mine, as an IT professional, is (1) a messy desktop & (2) an unorganized toolbar… *rant over*… but seriously its not the messiness, its the effect on productivity. Over the years, Microsoft has added more and more features to the windows toolbar to help with productivity and user experience. They are great and all, however if they are not used they just become clutter. Sorry Cortana, Task View Button, and News and Interests… we are just not interested. Here is an example of how I turn my cluttered toolbar into an organized one:

screenshot of the windows 10 taskbar before MSP customization

screenshot of the windows 10 taskbar pointing out MSP customization

screenshot of the windows 10 taskbar after MSP customization

Ahhhh… nice and clean 🙂

  • The Icons

This part is more about security and awareness than customizing the toolbar. The icons on the right side of the taskbar are a combination of system icons and application icons. The system icons include the audio, network, and security center indicator. These icons are standard on a windows install. You want to keep these open on the taskbar at all times.

The application icons are the ones that you want to pay close attention to. They will show you applications that are actively running on your machine. You want to make sure the application icons present are necessary. Frequently users will have several applications open that consume computer resources and cause their machine to slow down. Make sure you close the application icons you don’t need open. Even more important investigate any application icons you dont recognize. An old malware trick is to have a “antivirus” program hiding in your application icons.

With all this said I think the best way to manage your icons is to display all of them. I dont think its a smart idea to leave your icons in the overflow. The overflow is the ^ button to the left of your icons. When you have icons in the overflow you cannot see them easily and can easily miss things. To show all icons follow these steps:

  1. Right click your Windows Taskbar –> click ‘Taskbar Settings’
  2. The taskbar settings windows will open–> scroll down until you find the option ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar’
  3. Under this menu you will the first setting named ‘Always show all icons in the notification area’–> Enable this option
  4. Now all of your active icons will be displayed!

I hope we educated you on the windows taskbar and taught you ways you can make it work better for you!

If you have any questions on this topic. Give us a call at (910) 727-2200.


Angel Contreras

Blogger for Advanced Data Infrastructure, LLC

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