Make the most of Windows 7's high-powered taskbar

Four features that make the taskbar even more functional

by Kevin Purdy - Microsoft pulled off a rare feat with Windows 7's taskbar, making it far more elegantly useful and customizable, without turning its back on everyone's well-honed sense of what it does. Dig around, though, and you'll find a few features that make the taskbar even more functional.

[ See also: Bend Windows 7 to your will ]

You can pin frequently accessed folders to Windows Explorer's folder-like icon on the taskbar, but even more helpful for some might be the ability to pin a system-wide search to that same folder. Perform a search from the Start menu for the file types or names you're frequently looking for, then drag the icon from the search result window's location bar onto that taskbar folder. Now you can pop up that search any time you need without typing.

You've probably noticed the pop-up "jump lists" that appear when you right-click a program on the taskbar, offering recent documents, common actions, and open tabs or windows. It's worth noting that Outlook, in particular, offers the really handy option of pinning message templates to its jump list--just drag the document onto your Outlook taskbar launcher. Most programs can add templates or commonly-accessed files to their jump lists, in fact, with the same drag-and-drop move. We write "most," because, at least in its current 3.5 version, Firefox doesn't offer much jump list functionality. Install WinFox, however, and you get access to your frequently visited sites, new tab and new window actions, and other clever stuff.

[ Learn some Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts and start zipping around with mouse-free ease ]

This new stuff is great, but you might miss some of the old taskbar functionality, like dragging documents onto a particular program to have them opened with that app. That's actually still in Windows 7, but now you hold the Shift key to fire it off. If you were a fan of Taskbar Shuffle and its middle-click-to-close powers in Vista, you'll be glad to know that middle clicking is just as deadly in Windows 7. In this case, hover your mouse over a running application, and middle-click on the program windows you want to close.

Finally, if the taskbar isn't just how you want it, there's probably a setting you can switch to make it better. Right-click on the taskbar, select Properties, choose the Start Menu tab, and hit the Customize button. At the bottom of that dialog (and, yes, it's an odd place for it), you'll find a toggle to change the limits on how many items show up on jump lists. Want to get super-geeky with what clicks do which actions on the taskbar? Grab the 7 Taskbar Tweaker and run it to switch up your clicking. Your confused fingers will thank you.

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