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15 great Windows 7 tips, tricks and tweaks

How to customise Windows 7 to work your way

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: Taskbar tips

One of the most significant changes to the Windows 7 interface is its new taskbar, which acts more like the Mac OS X dock than the Windows taskbar of old. Here are a few tips for using the new taskbar and tweaks for taking charge of it.

10. Take control of the taskbar notification area

The notification area, at the far right of the taskbar, shows system messages and alerts, and displays the icons of programs and services that typically run in the background, such as Windows 7's wireless service. But what determines when, how and which icons show up there seems one of Windows' great mysteries.

There's a simple way to find out, and better yet, to customise it.

1. Right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and from the dialog box in the notification area section, click customise.

2. For each application, select from the drop-down box whether you want the icon and notifications to always be displayed, to never be displayed or to have an icon appear only when there's a notification of some kind. Click ok when you're done.

You can also customise the system icons and services that appear there, including the clock, volume, network, power and Action Center icons.

At the bottom of the same screen, click "Turn system icons on or off", and from the screen that appears, choose whether to turn on or off the icon and notifications. Click ok twice when you're done.

11. Get back the Quick Launch bar

Windows 7's new taskbar functions as a program launcher as well as task switcher, and so the old Quick Launch bar, an area on the left side of the taskbar that contained shortcuts for frequently used programs, has been banished. However, if you really miss the little applet, you can add it back. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars > New Toolbar.

2 . You'll be asked to select a folder for where the new toolbar should live. In the Folder text box at the bottom of the dialog box, enter this text:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

After you do that, click Select Folder. A link for the Quick Launch bar will be added to the taskbar. It will be on the right of the taskbar, just to the left of the Notification area.

It's not particularly useful docked all the way to the right with no application icons showing, so we're going to have to do a bit of work on it to make it useful. Right-click the taskbar and in the pop-up menu, remove the check next to "Lock the taskbar". Now right-click Quick Launch and remove the checks next to Show Text and Show Title.

Once you've done that, drag the vertical triple dotted line next to the Quick Launch bar to the left until you expose its icons. To prevent further changes, right-click the taskbar and check Lock the taskbar. You can now use the Quick Launch bar as you could in Windows XP and Vista, including adding and deleting icons to it.

12. Run multiple copies of applications from the taskbar

The Windows 7 taskbar serves a dual purpose, which can get confusing at times. It's used to launch programs, and also to switch between programs that are running. So you launch a program by clicking its icon, and also switch to that program after it's running by clicking its icon.

But what if you want to launch a second instance of the program? Once the program is running, it seems there's no way to launch a second instance, because when you click its icon, you only switch to the running instance.

There's a simple fix: if a program is already running and you want to launch a second instance from the taskbar, hold down the Shift key and click the icon. A second instance will launch. You can keep launching new instances this way.

There are times when you'll want to run multiple instances of Windows Explorer - for example, doing that can make it easier to copy and move between different PCs on your network. Unfortunately, though, you can't launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer from the Windows 7 taskbar using the Shift-click technique. When you try it, you'll only switch to the already running instance of Windows Explorer; a new instance won't launch.

There's a simple way to enable multiple Explorer instances from the taskbar. Right-click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar, then right-click the Windows Explorer icon near the bottom of the context menu that appears. Select Properties. Enter this text in the Target box and click ok:

%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /root,::{031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}

Now you're ready to launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer. Click the Windows Explorer icon as you would normally to launch a first instance. To launch a second one, hold down the Shift key and click the Windows Explorer icon. A second instance will appear. You can keep launching new instances using this same technique.

NEXT PAGE: more nifty Taskbar tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips


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