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The Taskbar Menu

A right mouse button click often displays a pop-up menu (sometimes called a context-sensitive menu) of options available to you. Windows XP looks at what you are doing when you right-click. Depending on the context, Windows displays commands appropriate to that task. The taskbar is one such location where the right mouse button brings up a helpful menu. You can use it to change the appearance and performance of the taskbar and the windows controlled by the taskbar. After finding a blank spot on your taskbar, right-clicking brings up the taskbar's pop-up menu shown in Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.2. A right-click on a blank space of the taskbar displays a pop-up menu.

The taskbar menu is not necessarily a menu you want to display often. Most users play around with different taskbar and window settings for a while until they find preferences that suit them best. Thereafter, those users might rarely use the taskbar properties menu.

The taskbar actually displays several menus, depending on where you right-click and how you've configured the taskbar. For example, if you right-click over the notification area, the area at the far right (assuming your taskbar's on the bottom of the screen), several more options appear that don't otherwise show.

The Taskbar Properties Menu

When you select Properties from the taskbar menu, the Taskbar and Properties dialog box appears as shown in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3. Adjust your taskbar and Start menu settings from this properties dialog box.


If you have too many windows open to locate a blank spot on your taskbar to right-click upon, you can display the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box by selecting Appearance and Themes from the Control Panel and then selecting Taskbar and Start Menu.


In Hour 7, "Improving Your Windows Desktop Experience," you'll learn how to use the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box to change the contents of the Start menu.

The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box accepts information that controls the way the taskbar appears on the screen. You can allow (or disallow) windows to overlap the taskbar if those windows are large enough to do so, you can eliminate the clock from the taskbar, and you can even minimize the taskbar so that it does not appear until you need it.

The following To Do item lets you practice changing some of the taskbar's properties.

To Do: Working with Taskbar Properties
  1. Display the Taskbar and Start Menu properties dialog box by right-clicking over the Start button and selecting Properties.

  2. Click the first option, Lock the taskbar. This option enables you to lock the taskbar so you cannot move it to another edge of the screen.

  3. Check the option labeled Auto-hide the taskbar. When you click the Apply button, the taskbar disappears. The taskbar hasn't gone far—point the mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen and the taskbar will reappear. You can now have your taskbar and hide it, too! (When you click a dialog box's Apply command button, Windows XP implements your selected options immediately without closing the dialog box. You then can make further changes or click OK to close the dialog box.)


If you display the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box but decide that you don't want to make any changes after all, click the Cancel command button.

Remaining Taskbar Properties

The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box ensures that the Taskbar always stays on top of whatever might appear on your window below it. When you uncheck this option, a window could overlap the taskbar and hide some or all of it.

The fourth option is labeled Group similar taskbar buttons. Microsoft Word users will appreciate this option which is checked by default. Windows XP watches how you open windows and, if checked and if the taskbar is already full of buttons, Windows ensures that only one taskbar button appears for all files you open with the same application. In other words, you can open three documents in Microsoft Word and all three buttons will appear next to each other on the taskbar even if you opened another program before you opened all three documents. In addition, if the taskbar cannot comfortably show all three buttons, Windows XP combines the buttons into one button, thus saving room on your taskbar.

The notification area contains the time of day if you've checked the option labeled Show the clock. The other icons that you find on the notification area represent special notices such as the new mail icon that alerts you that you have unread mail. To save taskbar space, only those notification icons that you've clicked recently appear if you check the last option labeled Hide inactive icons.

Using Dialog Boxes

When Windows displays a tabbed dialog box, it is offering you more than one dialog box at the same time. (Each box, or page, is called a property sheet.) Instead of displaying two or more dialog boxes on the screen at the same time, the tabs give you a way to select which dialog box you want to respond to. You can even respond to one dialog box and then click another tab, and that tab's dialog box then appears so that you can respond to it. Windows often puts an OK command button on a dialog box that you can press when you are finished responding to the dialog box's controls.

Toolbars on Your Taskbar

Right-click over the toolbar and select Toolbars to see an array of choices. Table 3.1 explains each kind of element you can place on the taskbar from this menu.

Table 3.1. You Can Add These Toolbar Elements to Your Windows XP Taskbar
Toolbar Element Description
Address Displays a drop-down list box on your taskbar where you can enter a Web address to open that Web page from your Windows XP desktop.
Links Displays popular Web links that you can quickly return to with the click of a button. You can modify the list of links.
Desktop Displays an icon bar that match those on your Windows XP desktop. You can click one of the icons to start that icon's program or open that icon's window instead of having to return to your desktop to locate the icon.
Quick Launch Adds Internet access control buttons so that you can quickly get on the Web. In addition, the Show Desktop icon appears in the Quick Launch section so that you can minimize all open windows with a single taskbar click.
New Toolbar Enables you to select a disk drive, folder, or Web location whose contents appear as a secondary toolbar slider control on the taskbar. Subsequently, the taskbar's right-click menu contains the new toolbar that you can deselect to hide once again.

The Quick Launch toolbar is extremely helpful, especially due to its Show Desktop button. The following To Do item explains how to display and use the Quick Launch toolbar.

To Do: Working with the Quick Launch Toolbar
  1. Right-click over a blank area on your taskbar to display the pop-up menu.

  2. Select Toolbars to display the list of available toolbars.

  3. Select Quick Launch to place the Quick Launch toolbar on your taskbar. Although the Quick Launch toolbar consumes some taskbar space, it contains one-button access to popular programs such as your Internet Web browser and e-mail. If you don't yet have an e-mail program installed, the e-mail program's icon will appear in the Quick Launch area when you install the e-mail program. You can also drag any program icon from your my Computer window to the Quick Launch area. Figure 3.4 shows the Quick Launch toolbar with icons available for you to click.

    Figure 3.4. The Quick Launch toolbar puts your favorite programs right on your taskbar.

  4. Open your My Computer window and the Control Panel.

  5. Click the Quick Launch toolbar's Show Desktop button. Immediately, your desktop appears. Windows XP did not close the windows but only minimized them. The Show Desktop button is handy when you need to return to your desktop without closing any programs you have open.


You can easily remove icons from the Quick Launch toolbar. Right-click on an icon and select Delete from the pop-up menu. Windows XP removes the icon but does not remove the associated program from your computer. You can add more programs to the Quick Launch toolbar by dragging their icons from the Start menu to the Quick Launch area. You can even place your favorite Web pages on the Quick Launch toolbar by dragging the Web page's icon that appears to the left of its address in your Web browser to your Quick Launch toolbar. When you subsequently click that Web page's icon, Windows XP will display that Web page, starting your Internet Web browser if needed first.

When you want to return to all the windows that you had open before clicking Show Desktop, right-click your taskbar to display the taskbar's pop-up menu and select Undo Minimize All.

Adjusting Your System Clock and Date

You can change your computer's date and time by double-clicking your notification area's clock. The Date/Time Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3.5 will appear.

Figure 3.5. You can change your PC's date and time.

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