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Windows Taskbar: Frequently Asked Questions

Published: May 4, 2009

Applies To: Windows 7

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The New Windows Taskbar: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Windows Taskbar in Windows 7?

The Windows® Taskbar is the area at the bottom of the screen where you can launch programs, open documents, and work with different windows. In Windows 7, the Taskbar consolidates functions you experienced in earlier Windows versions, such as the Quick Launch bar, Recent Documents, the notification area, desktop shortcuts, and application buttons. The Windows Taskbar will likely become one of the primary ways you interact with Windows 7.

Why did Microsoft change the Windows Taskbar?

The development teams at Microsoft® had a mantra during Windows 7 development: Put the user in control. Microsoft looked at feedback that showed not only how people use Windows, but also how they try to use it. For example, having three or more places from which to launch a program wasn’t intuitive. Also, users often closed applications and reopened them just so they could reorder the buttons on the taskbar. The Windows Taskbar is one of the many features in Windows 7 that was driven by user feedback.

What are the differences between the taskbar in Windows 7 and Windows Vista?

Windows Vista® displayed buttons and icons in the taskbar. These included Quick Launch shortcuts, buttons for running programs, and icons in the notification area. In Windows Vista, Quick Launch shortcuts launched a program and taskbar buttons brought that program to the top.

Windows 7 combines the functionality of the Quick Launch shortcuts and program buttons. You can pin programs to the Windows Taskbar to make them quickly accessible, similar to how you can add shortcuts to the Quick Launch toolbar in Windows Vista. On the Taskbar in Windows 7, pinned programs look similar to running programs. Each icon on the Taskbar represents a program, and when a program is running, a glass box surrounds the program’s Taskbar icon.

Windows 7 extends the Taskbar’s program icons in other ways, too. On the Taskbar, program icons have Jump Lists, which display commands and recent documents. Additionally, you can pin documents to programs so they are always available. For example, you can pin Internet Explorer® to the Taskbar so that it’s always available. Then, you can pin your favorite Web sites to the Internet Explorer icon so you can open them quickly. To see your list of recent and pinned Web sites, right-click the Internet Explorer icon on the Taskbar to display its Jump List.

What are Jump Lists?

Programs have Jump Lists that you open by right-clicking their Windows Taskbar icons. You can think of Jump Lists as miniature Start menus for program icons on the Taskbar. Each Jump List can contain tasks, links to recent and frequently used documents, and links to pinned documents. For example, on the Windows Live Messenger Jump List, you can open the MSN home page or change your online status. Jump Lists are extensible and can be program specific, so experiment with your program icons.

Is there more to Windows Taskbar Preview than seeing a thumbnail of an open window?

Hovering the mouse pointer over a program’s Taskbar icon will show a small, live preview of the program right above its Taskbar icon. If a program has multiple items open, each item will have a preview. For example, if you have three Web sites open in three tabs of Internet Explorer, you’ll see three previews over the Internet Explorer icon in the Taskbar when you point at the icon. This is great for monitoring the progress of a download while doing other work. Hovering over a particular preview will show a full-screen preview of the item to which you’re pointing and make all other on-screen windows transparent. Clicking the preview will bring that instance of the application to the front and restore all other open windows to their previous locations.c

What’s the coolest new Windows Taskbar feature?

Different users will answer this question differently. Most will probably agree that the following are the top four features:

  • Pinning frequently used programs to the Taskbar makes them quickly accessible.

  • More room is available on the Taskbar, allowing users to work with programs in an uncluttered way.

  • Jump Lists make recently used and frequently used files and commands readily available.

  • Live previews make working with programs easier.

Can you give me a tip to impress my friends?

Pressing the Windows key plus a number key (for example, 1, 2, or 3) will launch the application that holds that position on the Taskbar. For example, press the Windows key + 1 to launch the first program icon on the Taskbar, and press the Windows key + 2 to launch the second program icon on the Taskbar.

What should I tell my friends and family about the Taskbar in Windows 7?

When describing Windows 7 to your friends and family, you can tell them that the new Taskbar provides one place from which to launch, switch to, and access the features of their programs. Using the Taskbar, your friends and family can easily see running programs. If they’ve opened many applications, they can switch with confidence and precision to the windows that they want. In Windows 7, working with programs can be easier than in Windows Vista or Windows XP, because the Taskbar features larger icons, previews, and Jump Lists. More computer-savvy friends and family will want to know that Windows 7 puts them in control of their experiences. They can easily customize the Taskbar and quickly manage their programs and windows on their own terms.

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