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Windows 7 - The Taskbar, the Start Menu, and Other Tools

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The taskbar is the command center for your user environment under Windows 7. With few or no desktop icons after initial setup, everything you do within Windows 7 has to start with the taskbar. The taskbar is host to several other highly useful tools, including the Start menu, the taskband, the open application buttons, and the notification area.
The Start menu is the control center for Windows 7. Most native applications and installed applications have an icon within the Start menu that is used to launch or access them. The Start menu has two columns of access elements.

By default, the Start menu displays the most recently accessed applications. A fresh installation of Windows 7 includes prestocked items in this list, such as Windows Media Player and the Getting Started menu, which walks you through various configuration items, such as adding additional users and personalizing the Windows 7 environment. This leaves room for only a single recently accessed application. These prestocked items will disappear, but if you are impatient you can forcibly remove them one at a time by issuing the Remove from This List command from the rightclick pop-up menu.

At the bottom of the left column is All Programs, which is an access point to the rest of the Start menu. Those of you from Windows 9x and above will recognize this as the Programs section of the Start menu. The Start menu’s right column lists Documents, Pictures, Music, Games, Computer, Network (optionally), Control Panel, Devices and Printers, Default Programs, and Help and Support. Below the right column is the Shut Down button and the Shut Down menu, marked by a right arrow. The Shut Down button works exactly as advertised—it shuts down and powers off the computer with no confirmation dialog boxes, other than prompts to close any open files. The Shut Down menu enables you to choose other options for shutting down Windows 7, including Switch User, Log Off, Lock, Restart, Sleep, and Hibernate. Sleep is used to put the computer in a low-power state so you can quickly recover and continue working from where you left off, while Hibernate writes the contents of the computer memory to the hard drive and powers off the computer, so it can be left unattended for longer periods of time without fear that a power failure will wipe out any work you might have in memory at the time. It is important to note that the Hibernate option is available only if Hybrid Sleep is disabled. Hybrid sleep is enabled by default on desktop machines but not on laptops. The Lock button locks the computer so no one else can access it without the proper password—obviously, your user account will need a password set for this option to do any good.

Clicking any of the items listed on the Start menu either launches an application or opens a new dialog box or menu. Clicking All Programs scrolls to a second page of programs, while leaving the quick links such as Control Panel still visible, which is the same behavior as in Windows Vista. You can add new items to the Start menu by dragging an item from Computer or Windows Explorer over the Start menu button, then over All Programs, and then to the location where you want to drop it. You can even manipulate the Start menu as a set of files and shortcuts through Computer or Windows Explorer. You need to go to the system root (usually C:, but it could be anything on multiboot systems) and drill down to \Users\\Start Menu\Programs (where is the name of the user account whose Start menu you want to modify). To the far right on the taskbar is the notification area. Some services, OS functions, and applications
place icons into this area. These icons provide both instant access to functions and settings, as well as status displays. For example, when you’re working on a portable system, a battery appears in the notification area indicating how much juice is left. The clock is also located in the notification area.

Notice that the far-right portion of the taskbar, to the right of the clock in the notification area, is blank. Microsoft has done away with the classic Quick Launch bar in Windows 7 and put the Show Desktop button in its place. If you hover over the Show Desktop area of the taskbar, all the currently open windows will “turn to glass” and allow you to see what is currently hidden on the desktop. Never fear, however, as the applications will come back just as quickly once you move the mouse away from the Show Desktop section of the bar. You can also click the Show Desktop button to quickly minimize all open windows (much like the classic behavior of the Show Desktop button), and restore them just as quickly by clicking the button a second time.

Between the Start button and the notification area are the active application buttons. These are grouped by similarity, not by order of launch. Notice that instead of the traditional application buttons you have grown accustomed to since Windows 9x, applications that are running in the Windows 7 GUI are represented by a square icon, with no accompanying window title text. This is a major change from previous Windows versions, but once you get used to it you will see that it is quite superior to the previous methods of organizing the running applications.

As previously mentioned, the Quick Launch bar that has been around since Windows 9x is missing, much to the chagrin of Quick Launch bar enthusiasts everywhere. In Windows 7, Microsoft has replaced the Quick Launch bar functionality with “pinning,” which enables you to take an application shortcut and place it permanently on the taskbar. You can then click any of the pinned applications to launch an instance of that application. You can also pin frequently used documents to the pinned applications on the taskbar (how’s that for recursion?) for quick launch at any time. To accomplish
this, you simply drag a file onto its respective application on the taskbar, and the application file is now pinned to the taskbar application. You can access these pinned applications by rightclicking the pinned application and choosing one of the application files.

With practice, most users find that this is a superior alternative to the Quick Launch bar. There is, however, a way to get the Quick Launch bar back:
1. Right-click an open section of the taskbar and choose Toolbars, New Toolbar.
2. In the Folder: bar at the bottom of the dialog box, enter %AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.

You’ll now find the Quick Launch bar on the far right of the taskbar, and you can move it anywhere. Each running application has a gray border around the application icon. If you hover over the application icon, you will see thumbnails of each of the windows that particular application has open. Unless you have super-human eyesight, you probably won’t be able to read the text in those thumbnails, which can make for an interesting time trying to figure out which of those tiny thumbnails was the email you were just working on. Windows 7 comes to the rescue with an enhancement called Aero Peek. Simply hover over one of the presented thumbnails, and all the other open windows “turn to glass” and the selected window rises to the foreground so you can see exactly what is in that window. You also have the option of closing any of the application’s open windows directly from the thumbnail view. You can further control and modify the taskbar and Start menu through their Properties dialog boxes.


Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth (09-2009)

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