Using the Taskbar
That little strip of real estate at the bottom of the Windows desktop is called the taskbar. The Windows taskbar lets you open your favorite applications and documents, as well as switch between open windows. You can even add icons for your favorite programs to the taskbar, for quicker and easier launching. Click an icon to launch an app or switch to an open window; taskbar icons exist for both.
Deciphering Taskbar Icons
Because of the multiple functions of the icons on the taskbar, it’s difficult to look at an icon on the taskbar and determine whether it represents an open or closed application or document. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. Here’s the key.
As you can see in Figure 3.8, an icon for a not-yet-open application or document—essentially a shortcut to that app or doc—appears on the taskbar with no border. An icon for an open window has an underline, while still appearing translucent. An icon for the currently selected open window also has an underline but also shows a lighter icon background. And if there is more than one document open for a given application (or more than one tab open in a web browser), the icon button for that app appears “stacked” to represent multiple instances.
FIGURE 3.8 The Windows taskbar with icons for a (closed) application, open application, and open application with multiple documents.
Opening Applications and Switching Between Windows
Using the taskbar is simplicity itself. Click a shortcut icon to open the associated application or document. Click an open window icon to display that window front and center.
If you click a multiple-window icon, however, something interesting happens: Windows displays thumbnails for each of that application’s open windows. (The same thing happens if you mouse over the cursor for any open-window icon, actually.) Move the cursor over a thumbnail, and that window temporarily displays on top of the stack on your desktop, regardless of its actual position. Click a thumbnail to switch to that window, or click the red X on the thumbnail to close the window.
Using Jump Lists
The Windows taskbar becomes even more useful with the addition of Jump Lists—kind of context-sensitive pop-up menus for each icon on the taskbar. To display an icon’s Jump List, shown in Figure 3.9, right-click the icon.
FIGURE 3.9 A Windows taskbar Jump List.
What you see in a Jump List depends to some degree on the application associated with the icon. Most Jump Lists contain the following items:
The most recent documents opened in this application
A link to open a new instance of this application
An option to unpin this item from the taskbar (for shortcut icons)
An option to close the current window (for open-window icons)
In short, Jump Lists are a lot like traditional right-click pop-up menus, but with more useful options. They make the new taskbar icons more useful than they would have been otherwise.
Managing Taskbar Buttons
Now that you know what the taskbar does, let’s look at how to manage it.
First, know that you have total control over the order of icons on the taskbar. Just drag a taskbar icon from one position to another, and there it stays.
To add an application or document shortcut to the taskbar, just navigate to that item using the Start menu or File Explorer, right-click the item’s icon, and select More, Pin to Taskbar. Alternatively, you can drag an icon from any folder to the taskbar. Either approach is quick and easy.
To remove an item from the taskbar, right-click it and select Unpin from Taskbar.
Switching Between Programs
The taskbar is one way to switch between open programs, but it’s not the only way. You can also do either of the following:
Click any visible part of the application’s window, which brings that window to the front.
Hold down the Alt key and then press the Tab key repeatedly until the application window you want is selected. This lets you cycle through thumbnails of all open windows, as shown in Figure 3.10. When you’re at the window you want, release the Alt key.
FIGURE 3.10 Press Alt+Tab to cycle through open apps.
Using the Action Center
If you have any waiting notifications, the Notifications button on the taskbar shows in color with a number, indicating how many notifications there are. Click the Notifications button to display the Action Center, shown in Figure 3.11.
FIGURE 3.11 The Windows 10 Action Center.
The Action Center is a pane on the right side of the screen that displays system messages and (if you’re using the right email client) new messages in your email inbox. It also displays tiles for quickly accessing key system tools, including Tablet mode, Airplane mode, network settings, and the main settings for Windows. (That last one is the All Settings tile.) To see all available settings tiles, click Expand, or click Contract to just display the main ones.