How to Customize the Windows 10 Taskbar

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The Windows taskbar is one of those perennial, ordinary pieces of the Windows interface that everyone takes for granted—but it can be a productivity powerhouse if you know how to tweak it.

Typically resting at the bottom of your screen, the taskbar provides a helpful way of displaying buttons for the applications and folders you currently have open. But it’s much more than that, or at least it can be. You can pin buttons to the taskbar to open your favorite software programs, folders, and files. You can adjust the size of the taskbar and its buttons to suit the way you work. Also, you can set up taskbar toolbars to type Web addresses, play music from iTunes, and access all your Desktop programs. And you can even hide the taskbar when you don’t need it.

The taskbar hasn’t changed too much over the years, but Windows 10 throws in a few tricks versus its predecessors that enhance its usefulness and how you can customize it. So, in this article, we’ll focus on how you can use and tweak the Windows 10 taskbar. How can you do that? Well, let’s count the ways.

Windows 10 Taskbar

Accessing an app from the Windows 10 Start menu or Start screen often requires a few time-consuming steps. But accessing an app from the taskbar is done in one smooth click or stroke. Beyond setting up shortcuts to apps, you can cook up shortcuts to folders and files. And beyond that, you can create jump lists on a taskbar button, which can immediately transport you to anything: a single often-used file, a folder you rely on for work, or a key Web page.

The taskbar itself is nicely customizable. You commonly see it on the bottom of your screen. But you can just as easily position it at the top of the screen or on the left or right screen edge. You can adjust the height of the taskbar to hold more icons, and while you’re at it, you can shrink the size of its icons to store more of them. It’s also possible to lock the taskbar so you don’t accidentally alter its size.

You can opt to display “badges” on a taskbar button to provide visual clues as to the status of an app. For example, the button for your e-mail app can present a badge signaling whenever you have new and unread messages. You can outfit the taskbar with toolbars for iTunes, your Desktop, and your browser favorites. And to top that off, you can create your own taskbar sub-toolbars to quickly access disk drives, folders, and other items.

Okay, let’s look at 10 crucial tips for using and tweaking the Windows 10 toolbar so you can get to your favorite content more quickly and more capably.

1) How to Pin or Copy Apps, Folders & Files to the Taskbar in Windows 10

The taskbar can serve as a holding place for shortcuts to your favorite applications. By pinning them to the taskbar, those shortcuts are more easily accessible than they would be from the Start menu or Start screen.

You can copy a shortcut simply by dragging and dropping it onto the taskbar. Drag an icon from your desktop to the taskbar until a message pops up saying “Pin to Taskbar,” and then let go, like pictured below. The icon now appears on the taskbar.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Drag Pin to Taskbar)

Here’s another handy option. Open the Start menu or Start screen. Right-click on any shortcut or tile. At the popup menu, move to the More selection and then click on the option to “Pin to taskbar”…

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Start Menu Pin to Taskbar)

That item is now nestled on the taskbar. Should you change your mind, just-right click on the button you just pinned and click on “Unpin from taskbar”…

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Unpin from Taskbar)

You can also pin folders (as opposed to program shortcuts) to the taskbar, though it requires a few steps. Right-click on the desktop. At the popup menu, move to the New command and select Shortcut…

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (New Shortcut)

In the field to “Type the location of the item,” browse to the folder that you wish to pin to the taskbar (for example, the Pictures folder), then click OK. But before you move onto the next step, type the word explorer in front of the path to the folder, like you see below in the example. Click Next.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Find Shortcut Folder)

Now, type a name for the shortcut, such as Pictures. Click Finish.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Name Shortcut)

Next, right-click on your new shortcut and select “Pin to taskbar” from the popup menu. The shortcut appears on the taskbar. You can now delete the shortcut on the desktop, assuming you no longer need it.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Pin Shortcut to Taskbar)

How about pinning a file to the taskbar? Yep, you can do that, and the process is the same as pinning a folder. Follow the same initial steps as above but instead of picking a folder, choose a specific file (such as a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or a PDF). Remember to type the word explorer in front of the pathname to the file, as before.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Find General File)

You’ll see that the finished shortcut displays the generic icon for folders…ehhh, that doesn’t look too good. Let’s change it.

Right-click on the shortcut and select Properties from the popup menu. At the Shortcut tab in the Properties window, click on the button to “Change Icon”…

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Change Icon)

Browse through some of the folders in Windows that contain .EXE or .ICO files and pick a more appropriate icon. For example, if the file is a PDF, browse to the folder for Adobe Reader and choose the .EXE file for the program. Select the appropriate icon. Click OK.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Select Icon)

Click OK again. Now you can right-click on the shortcut and select the command to “Pin to taskbar.” When done, delete the desktop shortcut.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Pin File to Taskbar)

2) How to Pin a Folder or File to a Jump List on a Taskbar Button in Windows 10

Here’s another way to access a folder or file from the taskbar. Right-click on a taskbar button, and you should notice a list of recent, frequent, or pinned items, such as folders, files, or Web sites. Windows keeps track of the items you access with various applications and makes them accessible in jump lists on the taskbar buttons. Well, you can pin items on your own to the jump lists as well. Here’s how.

Open File Explorer and browse to a specific folder, such as Music. Drag the Music folder on top of the File Explorer button on the taskbar until you see a message that reads “Pin to File Explorer.” Let go of the mouse.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Pin Folder to File Explorer)

Now right-click on the File Explorer taskbar button and you’ll see that the Music folder has been pinned to its jump list.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Folder Pinned to Jump List)

You can do the same thing with applications. Open Microsoft Word, if you have it. Then open File Explorer and browse to a frequently used Word document. Drag the Word document on top of the Microsoft Word taskbar button.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Pin File to Application)

Let go and then right-click on the Word taskbar button. The document that you dragged is now pinned to Word’s jump list.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (File Pinned to Jump List)

3) How to Always, Sometimes, or Never Combine Taskbar Buttons in Windows 10

One issue with the taskbar is that it can become awfully crowded. As you open more applications, folders, and files, more and more taskbar buttons get squeezed into that relatively small piece of Windows real estate. Well, don’t fret. You do have some control over how much space the taskbar and its buttons take up.

Right-click on the Start button, then click on Settings. At the Settings window, click on the Personalization category. From there, click on the setting for Taskbar. Scroll down the screen a bit until you see a section for “Combine taskbar buttons”…

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Combine Taskbar Buttons)

Click on the dropdown menu underneath. You can choose among three options.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Combine Taskbar Button Options)

“Always, hide labels” means that Windows will always combine multiple open files into one single taskbar button. For example, if you’ve opened three Word documents, only one taskbar button for Word appears. When you hover over the button, thumbnails for each of the three documents appear. From there, you can click on the thumbnail for the document you wish to access. This option also hides the labels, or names, for each button so you can squeeze more onto the taskbar.

The second option called “When taskbar is full” normally displays a separate button for each file you’ve opened. For example, you would see three separate taskbar buttons for the three separate Word documents. But when the taskbar gets full, those three separate buttons will be condensed into one.

The third option (for “Never”) means the taskbar buttons never get combined, no matter how crowded the taskbar gets.

You can open various applications and files one after the other with each of the three options turned on, one at a time, to see which one of the three you prefer.

4) How to Display Cortana on the Taskbar in Windows 10

Here’s another option that can free up space on the taskbar. By default, the Cortana voice assistant displays a large search field, allowing you to type questions, commands, and other items. But if you don’t use the search field, or typically summon Cortana by saying “Hey, Cortana,” you can get rid of the field.

Right-click on any open area of the taskbar and scroll to the Cortana command on the popup menu. From there, you’ll see three options.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Display Cortana)

“Hidden” hides the Cortana taskbar entry altogether, though you can still talk to Cortana by voice. “Show Cortana icon” displays a small taskbar icon for the voice assistant. And “Show search box” displays the larger search box into which you can type your question or command.

5) How to Change the Size of the Buttons on the Taskbar in Windows 10

Here’s yet another way to squeeze more buttons onto the taskbar, namely by shrinking them. Return to the Taskbar setting in the Settings window. Turn on the option to “Use small taskbar buttons.” Your taskbar buttons are now smaller, so you can squeeze in more of them.

Using and Tweaking the Windows 10 Taskbar (Use Small Taskbar Buttons)

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