The default taskbar layout is designed to work for most people in most situations, but not everyone may like the functionality or might not need all that the default layout has to offer.
In this section, we will learn about how to customize Windows 7 as you would many other programs.
Locking and Unlocking the Taskbar
The taskbar holds the Start button, displays icons for open programs, tells the time, and displays other information about the computer:
Figure 1: Taskbar at dottom of desktop.
By default, the taskbar is locked. This means it cannot be modified to look or function differently. However, as we explore different concepts in this and following lessons, we will need to know how to unlock the taskbar.
To unlock the taskbar, right-click in an empty area of the taskbar and click Lock the Taskbar to uncheck this field:
Figure 2: Taskbar's right-click menu.
Windows 7 doesn't give you any visual indication that the taskbar has been locked or unlocked. You will have to right-click an empty area of the taskbar again to be sure.
Moving the Taskbar
The Taskbar is a feature that has been around since Microsoft introduced Windows 95. It has always been displayed by default at the bottom of the screen. However, it can be displayed on the left, right, or top of the screen as well, depending on how you like your screen to be set up.
Moving the Taskbar is easy to do. Make sure the taskbar is unlocked and then click and drag an empty part of the Taskbar to the side of the screen of your choice, such as the left side:
Figure 3: Vertical taskbar.
As you move the taskbar around, any open windows or icons on the desktop will reposition themselves to account for this change.
If you are satisfied with the location of the Taskbar, we recommend that you lock the taskbar to prevent accidentally clicking and dragging it somewhere else.
Resizing the Taskbar
If you use many programs at once or use a smaller screen resolution, your taskbar can start to look cluttered. This can make switching between different windows more difficult. With the taskbar unlocked, move your mouse to the top edge until your cursor changes into a double-headed arrow. Click and drag to raise or lower the height of the Taskbar to your liking:
Figure 4: Enlarged taskbar height.
You can take up half of the screen with the Taskbar if you want:
Figure 5: Taskbar enlarged to take up bottom half of screen.
However, if you need that much space for all of the work you want to do, you might instead consider hiring an assistant or purchasing a few extra monitors!
Other Taskbar Options
The taskbar features a few more tricks if you would like further customization. For example, imagine you are an animator or graphic artist and only use one or two programs during the course of your workday. Despite the taskbar being fairly small to begin with, you would rather have all the space on your screen available. In that case, you can make the Taskbar go away until you need it again with the AutoHide feature.
Right-click some empty space on the taskbar and click Properties. The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog will appear:
Figure 6: Taskbar properties.
Check the box marked "Auto-hide the taskbar" and click OK. This will make the taskbar disappear except for a single line across the bottom of the screen. Move your mouse to the bottom of the screen and the taskbar will reappear:
Figure 7: Taskbar moving with mouse-over.
On the other hand, if you work in desktop publishing and have many different documents open at the same time, the Taskbar will group windows of the same program together into one button. Windows 7 does this by default, creating a "stacked" icon:
Figure 8: Stacked documents in Taskbar.
Hover your mouse over the stack to see a thumbnail image of each view. Point to a thumbnail to use Aero Peek and view the window, click the thumbnail to open that window, or click the close button beside the thumbnail to close the window:
Figure 9: Thumbnail view of stacked documents in Taskbar.
If you wish to turn off this grouping feature and view the names of the programs/folders open on the desktop, use the Taskbar buttons combo box:
Figure 10: Taskbar button options.
Figure 11: Taskbar without stacked icons.
For example, the "Never combine" option displays taskbar icons in the traditional way, with the icon shown beside the name of the program or folder that is currently open. Click Apply to confirm the changes or OK to confirm the changes and then close the Properties dialog box.