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The Taskbar, shown in Figure 3-31, contains the Start Menu button, buttons representing all open application windows, the notification area (also known as the Tray, discussed earlier in this chapter), and any optional toolbars (see “Toolbars”, later).

Figure 3-33. In addition to your Start button and the notification area, a Taskbar button appears for each open window; click a button to activate the window

The Start button isn’t terribly complicated: just click on it to open the Start menu (discussed earlier in this chapter). There are two choices for the look of the Start button, each part of the currently selected style (see “Style,” at the beginning of this chapter). Unfortunately, there’s no way to customize the look of the Start button without a third-party add-on.

You can keep tabs on all running applications by looking in the portion of the Taskbar between the Start button and the notification area (Tray). Nearly every currently open window is represented by a button on your Taskbar. Click the button of a corresponding window to bring that window to the top (if it happens to be obscured) and shift focus to that window. If the window is currently active, clicking its Taskbar button will minimize (hide) it. The currently active window appears pushed in, while any others (if any) appear as normal buttons. If a window has been minimized (see “Windows”, later in this chapter), it will also appear as a normal button, indistinguishable from those for visible windows. Right-click on a Taskbar button to access the window’s control menu (see “Windows”), allowing you, among other things, to close a window without first having to restore it.

If an application is busy, clicking a Taskbar icon sometimes won’t activate the window. If this happens, try right-clicking on the Taskbar icon and selecting Restore. If an application has crashed and you’re unable to shut it down gracefully, you can often close it by right-clicking its Taskbar button and selecting Close. Although this doesn’t always work, it is much quicker and more convenient than using the Windows Task Manager (discussed in Chapter 4).

By default, the Taskbar appears at the bottom of the screen, but it can be dragged to the top or either side by grabbing any empty portion of the Taskbar with the mouse (unless it’s locked—see below). You can also resize the Taskbar by grabbing its edge.

Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar to pop up its context menu.


Show or hide any of the Taskbar toolbars (discussed later in this chapter) or the Address Bar (discussed earlier in this chapter).

Cascade Windows

Arrange all windows (except those that are minimized) so that they appear “cascaded:” the window on the bottom of the pile will be moved to the upper-left of your Desktop, the next will appear just slightly lower and to the right, and so on.

Tile Windows Horizontally, Vertically

Arrange all windows (except those that are minimized) so that they don’t overlap and that, together, they fill the screen. Horizontal tiling results in wider windows and vertical tiling results in taller, narrower windows.

Show the Desktop

Bring the Desktop to the top of the pile, covering all open windows. This has the same effect as minimizing all open windows, except that you can then use Show Open Windows to quickly drop the Desktop back down to the bottom and restore all windows to their previous states. Note that the “Minimize all Windows” option found here in previous versions of Windows has been removed in Windows XP, but you can still quickly minimize all open windows by holding the Windows logo key and pressing D.

Task Manager

Open the Windows Task Manager (see Chapter 4).

Lock the Taskbar

If you lock the Taskbar, you won’t be able to move or resize it, nor will you be able to move or resize any Taskbar toolbars that happen to be docked. If you find yourself accidentally messing up the Taskbar, locking it will eliminate the problem. Most toolbars in Windows can be locked in this way. Note also that locking the toolbar will hide the resize handles, giving you a little more Taskbar real estate for your task buttons.


This is the same as Control Panel Taskbar and Start Menu, which is the same as Start Settings Taskbar and Start Menu and as right-clicking the Start button and selecting Properties. See “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” properties in Chapter 4 for details on these settings, as well as “Style,” at the beginning of this chapter.



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