The Taskbar sits (probably) at the bottom of your screen, and you interact with it day in and day out. But chances are that even with this constant use, you don’t give it a great deal of thought.
It’s just there, and it works.
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The Taskbar is the bar that runs along the bottom of your screen, and gives you quick access to the Start Menu, the open apps and much more. It’s one of the few traditional features that the Windows OS has carried over for many years. But it has evolved in Windows 10, with Microsoft baking in features and customization options that help you improve your workflow and productivity.
And while it is easy to overlook something that you see so frequently, doing this could mean that you might be missing out on the full potential of this key Windows feature.
For this reason, we present you a detailed guide on how you can get the most out of the Windows 10 Taskbar, along with tips and tricks on how you can enable it to be more productive in line with your PC usage habits.
The Windows Taskbar is more than just a home to the Start Menu, the programs that are running, the folders that are currently open and the shortcuts that are automatically placed there when you install certain applications.
It has plenty more possibilities — you just need to know where to look.
And the best thing is that you can change the position and functionality of the Taskbar using the built-in options in Windows 10, without the need of extra software. Additionally, you can customize it so that the Taskbar gives you access to more of the tools that you need.
We reveal the secrets and capabilities of the Windows Taskbar below, and show you how you can personalize it to your liking.
Clean up Taskbar area
There are people who like to load it up, and there are people that like to keep it clean. If you’re in the latter camp, you might want to tidy up the Taskbar and make room for the actual tasks.
For this, you should remove unwanted shortcuts by removing the pinned apps that are already there, while also clearing up the icons that show up in the system tray on the right. Removing the Cortana search box will also be necessary. And finally, you will also need to resize the elements that are displayed on the Taskbar to be small.
All of this you can learn from the tips below. The good thing is that you only need to make these changes the first time you set up Windows 10 on your PC, and it’s smooth sailing from there on.
Move the Taskbar
The Taskbar appears at the bottom of your screen by default, but it does not have to stay there. You can move it anywhere on the screen, at the top, or even place it vertically to the left or right. To do so, first right-click on an empty section of the Taskbar and ensure that the Lock the Taskbar option is not ticked. Then use your left mouse button to drag the Taskbar to your preferred screen edge.
Change Taskbar location
If you are bored by always seeing the Taskbar at the bottom of your screen, then Microsoft provides another option to instantly move it to your selected location on the monitor display. Right-click anywhere on the Taskbar to open Taskbar settings, and look for the Taskbar location on screen option.
Click the drop-down to select one of the available options, Left, Right, Top or Bottom.
Enlarge the Taskbar
This one is easy. You can make the Taskbar larger when it is unlocked. Place your cursor on the upper border of the Taskbar, and drag upwards with the left mouse button. The Taskbar will be resized.
Shrink Taskbar icons
This is a handy option for those that either have a small display or run a lot of apps at once. Even for those that just want to fit more stuff in the Taskbar. Windows lets you shrink the size of the icons that are displayed in the Taskbar.
To do so, right-click an empty section, and select Taskbar settings. Here, enable the Use small taskbar buttons option to do the deed.
Arrange Open Windows
Another very handy option that not many people know about is the ability to arrange your open windows from the Taskbar. If you have multiple windows open, you can display them on your monitor display as tiles.
All it takes is right-clicking the Taskbar, and choosing from the options provided to arrange all the open windows. You have three options here, the first one called Cascade windows, the second Show widows stacked, and another to Show windows side by side.
Hide the Taskbar
You can hide the Taskbar when you are not using it to maximize the amount of available screen space on your display. Enter Taskbar settings by right-clicking on an empty section of the Taskbar. Enable the setting labelled Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode, and you will see that it automatically disappears. You can slide it back to view by simply moving your mouse to the bottom of the screen.
This is a neat way to maximize your screen real estate, and leave more of the screen visible for the programs and applications that you have open.
Automatically hide the Taskbar in tablet mode
Microsoft added this new option for users that are using Windows 10 on touchscreen and tablet devices. This serves the same purpose as above, allowing you to clear your workspace from distractions while also maximizing your screen.
Open Taskbar settings, and toggle on the Automatically hide the taskbar in tablet mode. From here on, the Taskbar will display when you are on the desktop, but will disappear by itself as soon as you enter the tablet mode on your device.
It’s easy to accidentally drag the taskbar and increase its height. This may disturb the windows that you have open and working on. In cases like this, you might want to lock the height of the Taskbar so that you cannot move or change it unintentionally.
Just enable the Lock the taskbar option under Taskbar settings, and you are good to go. No more changes to height of the Taskbar inadvertently.
Pin apps to Taskbar
One of the finer uses of the Taskbar is to pin your most favorite and most frequently used applications for quick and easy access. To do this, all you have to do is right-click on any of your app and choose the Pin to taskbar option from the menu that pops up.
This will add an icon of that app in the Taskbar. If you have already pinned that application, then the right-click context menu will show the option of unpinning the app.
Remove unwanted shortcuts from the Taskbar
The Taskbar can house shortcuts to the programs that you use most, but it can also get filled with apps that you don’t need. Getting rid of these unwanted shortcuts is useful if you are working with a small display, or want to make room for additional icons and toolbars.
Removing a pinned app is just as easy. Simply right-click the icon of the app in the Taskbar, and you will see the Unpin from taskbar listed at the bottom. Click that, and the app will be removed.
Show or hide icons in Taskbar
Windows 10 provides a number of ways you can customize the icons that are displayed in the Taskbar. These are nicely grouped together in the Notification area section of Taskbar settings, as links.
- The Select which icons appear on the taskbar link lets you make changes to the available system tray icons. You will see an up arrow next to the system tray icons like battery, speaker, and network. Clicking on that shows more such icons that may be hidden there. This option lets you bring them out directly.
- Next up is Turn system icons on or off, an option that can be used to enable or disable the default system icons on the Taskbar tray. Use this to hide applets like the clock, action center, volume control, network status, and touchpad, and many other.
While these icons relating to Windows features are handy to have, you may not find them all useful. It is a good idea to hide the ones that you don’t want to see all the time. Simply toggle the switches on or off, depending on your choice.
Show the Desktop
You probably are familiar with the Win + D key combination to quickly show the desktop. But you have a few more options available here too, for the Taskbar.
For starters, you can right-click on the Taskbar, and choose the Show the desktop option. Also, it is possible to click on the Show desktop button at the corner of the Taskbar. Right-click here, and you will have an additional option of previewing the desktop by hovering on this small button.
Go to Taskbar settings, and enable the Use Peek to preview the desktop when you move your mouse to the Show desktop button at the end of the taskbar option.
Task View button
Windows 10 has provided the Taskbar with a new option called Task View. This can be used to view all open apps and choose the one you want to switch. You can also press the Win + Tab key combination to open Task View.
It is also possible to remove the button altogether by right-clicking the Taskbar, and unticking the Show Task View button option from the popup menu.
Enable or disable People on Taskbar
The People feature in Windows 10 may be on its way out, but you can still use it if you want from the Taskbar without any issues. This can be enabled straight from by right-clicking the Taskbar and selecting the Show People on taskbar option.
Or you can go to Taskbar settings, and then make some changes using the options provided in that panel. Several options are provided there, including the number of contacts to show, notifications, sound, and suggestions. Nothing too fancy, but enough customization if you use this feature in the OS.
Add Toolbars in Taskbar
Toolbars are one of the most powerful features available in Windows 10 Taskbar, though many users are oblivious to it. You don’t need to live with the default icons that are showing there. Instead, you can personalize things here with your own toolbars right on the Taskbar.
Right-click on your main Taskbar, the one on your primary monitor, and select your available options from the Toolbars section in the context menu. Windows 10 offers a few default toolbars here, along with an option to add your own custom folder.
- Address: What better way to quickly browse to a website without even opening the browser? This cool little option adds an address bar directly on your Taskbar, allowing you to enter a web address and hit the enter key to open the site in Edge.
- Links: You can also add quick links from the favorite bar of the Edge browser. Click on the double arrow, and then click on the link to open it in the Edge browser.
- Desktop: This adds a desktop shortcut to your Taskbar. Like the option above, click on the double arrow, and choose any of the items that are available on the desktop to access it.
- Language bar: Useful for when you use multiple languages on your computer, this shows or hides the language bar in Taskbar, allowing you to quickly switch between your language of choice for the operating system.
- New toolbar…: You click on this option and choose your folder. Windows will then add a shortcut of that folder to the Taskbar. This is basically a way to simply add any folder here so you can quickly access it.
Worth a mention that toolbars will only be available on the Taskbar that resides on the main monitor. You will not find this option if the right-click the Taskbar on your secondary display.
More Options in Apps
You can also right-click the Taskbar for more options in the apps. These are often unique options to speedup operations. For example, if you want to quickly open the Edge browser in private mode, you can simply right-click its icon on the Taskbar and choose New InPrivate window.
These options depend upon the app and its particular capabilities. But needless to say, many applications provide handy new options this way.
Replace Command Prompt with PowerShell
Power option for power users! Windows 10 prioritizes the Windows PowerShell over the traditional Command Prompt. That is why when you right-click the Start button to access the Power Menu in Windows, you see two PowerShell options — Windows PowerShell and Windows PowerShell (Admin).
These have taken the place of the vintage Command Prompt.
But if you want the classic console back, you can enable Command Prompt instead. Simply go to Taskbar settings and turn off the Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu when I right-click the start button or press Windows key+X option.
Sign out from computer
You can also quickly log out from your computer via the Taskbar. Right-click on the Start button and then choose the Shutdown or sign out option and easily Sign out.
Combine Icons and shows Labels
This sure is a pet peeve of many a user, and people change this option whenever they reinstall the OS. By default, the Taskbar shows one icon for the app, and hides the label or description of the open window. This helps avoid congestion on the Taskbar.
For example, when you have two Word documents open, Taskbar will show only one Word icon without the name or labels of the documents. Sure, you can move the cursor over the Word icon, and then choose one of the documents.
But there are ways to remedy this.
You can show two Word icons along with the label for each. To do this, go to Taskbar settings, and look for the option Combine taskbar buttons. Click on that dropdown to bring up a selection of options.
- Always, hide labels: This is the default, and shows one icon per app, while hiding the labels.
- When taskbar is full: Choosing this will have Windows show icon along with the label for each open window until the Taskbar is full. After that, it will start combining the applications, showing as single icon with the top open window.
- Never: If you want to always show the apps and labels, even when opening many windows that exceed the length of the Taskbar, this is the option to choose.
Tweak Taskbar Color and Transparency
You also get a little say in the look of the Taskbar, with options to tweak its color and transparency levels. Right-click an empty area of the desktop and select Personalize. In the Colors section, specify an accent color that will be used to highlight the Taskbar. Then toggle the Transparency options slider.
Finally, tick the Start men, taskbar and action center box below to have the changes take effect.
Hide Cortana Search
If Cortana Search is showing for you in the Taskbar, you can get rid of it or customize its appearance. Right-click the Taskbar to customize Cortana Search under the Search option.
- Hidden: This is the option you need to completely remove the search from the Taskbar.
- Show search icon: Choosing this will show the lens icon, which you will have to click and then enter your keywords for searching.
- Show search box: Enables the search box so that you can directly type the search keywords on the Taskbar. It will take a substantial portion of your Taskbar, though, making things congested.
Disable Taskbar on Secondary Monitor
Windows 10, by default, will show taskbars on both displays when you connect a secondary monitor to your computer. Some people are fine with this, as this allows them to independently work on each screen. But others may prefer to have the taskbar on just the main computer display.
Luckily, this is easy to change.
To disable the Taskbar on the secondary monitor, open Taskbar settings, and change up the options that are shown in the Multiple displays section. You have options like Show taskbar on all displays that will disable the taskbar on all extended monitors, along with a couple of additional settings like how buttons are displayed there, and combined.
Pin Websites as Apps to Taskbar
This is for all those folks who spend their time using web services. If you regularly use websites like Pandora, YouTube or Outlook.com, then you can add them as a web app to the Taskbar. With this, you will no longer be required to install additional apps or bookmark each site.
Open Microsoft Edge, and then head to your chosen website. From the Options… panel on the right in the browser, select the Pin this page to the taskbar option.
You can also do this in other popular browsers like Google Chrome. But this involves a few extra steps, and using the Add to desktop… option, where you use the shortcut that is created on your desktop and pin it to the Taskbar.
Regardless of the way you choose, pinning your favorite web services and websites to the Taskbar is a great way to up productivity and get an app-like experience for any website.
Bring back the Quick Launch bar
Remember the Quick Launch bar in Windows Vista? It sure was something! That feature allowed easy access to your frequently used apps and other files, while also providing a way to group similar apps together without clogging up the Taskbar.
The Quick Launch bar is no longer part of Windows 10, but you can sort of bring it back manually.
Right-click an empty area on the Taskbar, and go to Toolbars > New Toolbar. Then navigate to the Quick Launch folder
C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.
You can also type the following command %appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch into the File Explorer address bar and hit the Enter key.
The Quick Launch bar will now appear next to the notification area of the Taskbar. You can leave it as it is, or change some thing around so that it looks like it did in the previous versions of Windows. This includes unchecking both the Show Text and Show title options for a cleaner, more organized look, while also unchecking the Lock all taskbars option.
Now you can simply add an app or other items here, and drag them over until you see the Move to Quick Launch message. If you have several items here, you can click the arrow to bring up the list, and open or use them from there.
Customizing and personalizing the Taskbar is imperative for a good Windows 10 experience — no matter if you are a casual user, or a power professional. The Taskbar is an integral part of the desktop, just like the Start Menu.
No reason not to use the time-savers built into it.
Shawn is a WindowsChimp Staff writer, who is a fan of making lists and does the same on this site. He has a Contemporary Writing degree and been in technology niche since last 3 years.