For over 6 years now I have been setting up my Windows Taskbar in a very specific way to improve my productivity. Essentially, instead of using the Taskbar as it is after installing Windows, I twist things around to be one-click away from things I use a lot. If you already master the Toolbar, maybe you shouldn’t read this post. Since I’ve seen a lot of experienced users who don’t set things up like I do, I think some people out there will still benefit from this post.
For one thing, I don’t "auto-hide" my Taskbar; it is just a few pixels-height, and I prefer to take that room on the screen and don’t have to move the mouse to edge of the screen for it show up. This is what my Taskbar looks like:
As you can see, I resize it to make it occupy two rows. On the first row, I see the typical buttons that show what applications are open:
No surprises there. Another thing I have there is the Language Bar. Most of the time I’m typing text in English, but when I’m typing something in Portuguese, I need to get some special characters in, and for that I need to change my keyboard layout, so it’s handy to have the selector sitting right there:
On the second row of the Taskbar, I add a few more toolbars. In order to get more of the built-in toolbars, all you have to do is to right click on the Taskbar and go to the Toolbars option:
There you can see the ones I have selected on my box (well, I’ve got almost all of them). 🙂
This is how I use them. First, the Quick Launch toolbar:
This one is pretty popular. On mine, I always put things that I really use a lot, so I like to have those options always one-click away from my mouse pointer. If I notice that there is something I haven’t been using for a while, I’ll just delete it from the toolbar, to avoid getting it too cluttered, and therefore, making it become useless. Also, if I see myself going manually to options through the Start menu, or to specific folders in Windows Explorer, I’ll drag and drop the thing to the Quick Launch so to create a shortcut to it; and when I’m done using the thing, I’ll just remove it.
Next on my list is the Desktop toolbar. I use it to get quick access to anything that’s sitting on my desktop. That includes both shortcuts as well as things like My Documents, My Computer, etc. I use this a lot to navigate to places directly without having to open up Windows Explorer:
Next, the Address bar. This bar will open the associated application with whatever you type in there. So, if you type in a UNC path, it’ll open Windows Explorer and navigate to that path; if you type in the path to a .doc file, it’ll open the document in MS-Word; if you type in a URL, it’ll launch your default web browser and navigate to the path. You got the idea. So I use a lot copying the path from somewhere (like when I get the path to a file in Visual Studio, for instance), pasting it in the Address bar and hitting GO. Much, much quicker than painfully navigating to places through the Start menu or Windows Explorer. Also, the address bar keeps the history of the last things you’ve gone to, so that sure comes in handy as well.
Finally, the Windows Search Deskbar, to quickly search for something:
Notice I didn’t mention the Links toolbar. That toolbar lists the Links I have defined in Internet Explorer; I’ll probably be phasing it out of my options since I prefer SlickRun to launch URLs like that. To a certain extent, SlickRun also replaces the Address bar, even though I still like the Address bar’s option to display a dropdown with the history.
Notice that, in order to set up your Taskbar, it takes some trying, clicking on the handles to the toolbar and moving it around:
Once you’re done resign and setting up your bars, make sure to lock it, so that you don’t mess things up by accident (just right-click the Taskbar and select "Lock the Taskbar"):
Experiment, and see if that works for you too. 🙂