2.3 The Taskbar
You probably don't pay much attention to the taskbar , the bar across the bottom of your screen that shows what programs are currently running, along with the time, the Start button, and a bunch of other icons you may never have noticed. But ignore the taskbar at your peril ‚ this little powerhouse offers many ways to make your computer time more efficient. This section has all the details.
2.3.1 Launching Web Pages from the Taskbar
Memo to speed demons: you can jump directly to Web pages without opening a browser first. Here's the trick: add an address box to the taskbar. Then, whenever you type in the address of a Web site (such as http://www.oreilly.com), your browser opens and heads straight to that site.
To add the address box, right-click the taskbar; in the menu that appears, choose Toolbars Address. (You may have to select "Lock the Taskbar" to remove the checkmark first.) The word Address appears toward the left end of the taskbar. To the left of the word Address there's a handle ‚ a small dotted line you can grab and drag. Drag the handle to the left to reveal a white box, shown in Figure 2-14. When you type an Internet address in the box, your browser launches and goes directly to that site.
Note: If you want to lock the address box in position, right-click the taskbar and select "Lock the Taskbar."
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Figure 2-14. Adding an address box to the taskbar is a big time-saver, since it lets you visit Web sites without opening your browser first. You don't need to click the Go button after entering a Web address; simply press Enter after you type the URL (and you don't have to type http:// either ‚ just start with www).
2.3.2 Adding Files, Folders, and Disks to the Taskbar
The Internet address bar you added to the taskbar in the previous hint is a kind of toolbar ‚ in essence, a shortcut that lives on the taskbar. You can create other kinds of toolbars as well, containing things like shortcuts to a specific folder, document, or drive. If you constantly head to Windows Explorer for a particular item, add that item to the taskbar for faster access.
Here's how. Right-click the taskbar and in the menu that appears, make sure "Lock the Taskbar" is turned off (if it's checked, select it to remove the checkmark). Then choose Toolbars New Toolbar. The New Toolbar dialog box, shown in Figure 2-15, appears. In the New Toolbar dialog box, browse to the folder, disk, or document you want to add to the taskbar. Click OK.
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Figure 2-15. If you don't like a toolbar you've created, you can get it out of your face. Right-click the taskbar, choose Toolbars, and turn off the one you want to delete. (If you change your mind, you have to recreate that toolbar from scratch.)
Once you're done, the title of the item you added appears on the taskbar next to a double arrow. Click the double arrow to open your new item, as shown in Figure 2-16.
2.3.3 Hiding Icons on the Bottom of Your Screen
Many utilities and programs that run in the background on your computer, such as antivirus software, add their icons to the notification area , the area on the far right end of the taskbar (also known as the system tray ). Some of the icons in this area are useful (like the volume button, described on Section 1.2.3). But the tray can get cluttered with useless icons, so you may want to hide the flotsam.
To stash away the icons you don't regularly use, right-click the taskbar and choose Properties. The "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" dialog box appears. In the notification area, select "Hide inactive icons." Figure 2-17 shows you how to unhide them.
To handpick which icons you hide, reopen the "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" dialog box (right-click the taskbar and choose Properties), and then click the Customize button. The Customize Notifications dialog box appears, as shown in
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Figure 2-16. When you click the double-arrow next to a folder you've added to the toolbar, the contents of the folder appear in a pop-up menu (here the folder is Cloning). If you create a toolbar for a folder that contains a lot of files, the pop-up menu can get unwieldy. Consider doing a little housekeeping to make things tidier, by creating subfolders for some of your files, which makes it easier to use the toolbar to get to the file you need.
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Figure 2-17. Top: Icons in their natural habitat.
Bottom: When you hide icons, a small arrow appears in the notification area, pointing to the left (almost like a sleeve peeking out from under a bed). To uncover hidden icons, click the arrow and the icons reappear (with the arrow now pointing to the right). To hide the icons again, click the arrow.
Figure 2-18. Below Current Items, select the program you want to hide or display.A drop-down menu appears to the right of the program name , letting you choose to hide the program's icon when it's inactive, to always hide the icon, or to always show it. Select the option you want and click OK, then OK again.
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Figure 2-18. If you always hide an icon, you may forget the program is running, so consider hiding icons only when their programs are inactive.
Note: If you're a cleanliness freak, you may want to hide all of the icons in the notification area, not just a few of them. To do that, run the Registry Editor (Section 15.1.2) and go to My Computer HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Policies Explorer. Create a new DWORD (Section 188.8.131.52) called NoTrayItemsDisplay. Assign it a value of 1. (A value of 0 keeps the icons displayed.) Exit the Registry and reboot. The icons are gone.
2.3.4 The Quick Launch Bar
One of Windows XP's greatest time-saving features is the Quick Launch bar ‚ the area of the taskbar just to the right of the Start menu (Figure 2-19). As its name suggests, the Quick Launch bar contains icons you can launch with one swift click.
Quick Launch is usually turned on in Windows XP, but if it's not, you can activate it by right-clicking the Start button and choosing Properties Taskbar. Select Show Quick Launch, and then click OK.
Tip: For a faster way to turn on the Quick Launch bar, right-click the taskbar, select Toolbars, and turn on Quick Launch.
To delete an icon from the Quick Launch bar, right-click it and choose Delete. That doesn't delete the program itself, but simply removes the icon from the Quick Launch bar.
To add icons to the Quick Launch bar, drag them from Windows Explorer, the desktop, or the All Programs menu to your preferred spot on the Quick Launch bar. Choose your icons with care, however. If you put too many of them in the Quick Launch area, it can become a cluttered, not-so-quick launch pad instead.
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Figure 2-19. The Quick Launch bar puts your favorite programs just a click away. One of its most useful icons is the Show Desktop icon, pictured on the far right. Click it to minimize all open windows and return to the desktop without the hassle of minimizing each window manually.