How to Customize the Windows 8 Taskbar

By Andy Rathbone

Windows 8 brings a whirlwind of options for the lowly taskbar, letting you play with it in more ways than a strand of spaghetti and a fork. And that’s especially important in Windows 8: By stocking the taskbar with icons for oft-used programs, you can avoid unnecessary trips to the Start screen.

First, the taskbar comes preloaded with two icons on its far left: Internet Explorer (your full-featured web browser) and File Explorer (your file browser). Like all your taskbar icons, they’re movable, so feel free to drag them to any order you want.

If you spot a favored program’s icon on your Start screen, right-click the icon and choose Pin to Taskbar from the pop-up menu. You can drag and drop a desktop program’s icon directly onto the taskbar, as well.

For even more customization, right-click a blank part of the taskbar and choose Properties. The Taskbar Properties dialog box appears.

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The following table explains the dialog box’s options. (You need to remove the check mark by Lock the Taskbar before some of these options will work.)

Customizing the Taskbar
Setting My Recommendations
Lock the Taskbar Selecting this check box locks the taskbar in place, keeping
you from changing its appearance. Keep it locked to protect from
accidental changes, but lock the taskbar only after you’ve set it
up to suit your needs.
Auto-Hide the Taskbar Handy mostly for small screens, this option makes the taskbar
automatically hide itself when you’re not near it. (Point your
cursor at the screen’s bottom edge to bring it back up.) Leave this
option deselected to keep the taskbar always in view.
Use Small Taskbar Buttons Another helper for small screens, this shrinks the taskbar to
half-height, letting you pack in a few extra tiny icons.
Taskbar Location On Screen Your taskbar can live on any edge of your desktop, not just the
bottom. Choose any of the four edges here.
Taskbar Buttons When you open lots of windows and programs, Windows
accommodates the crowd by grouping similar windows under one
button: All open Microsoft Word documents stack atop one Microsoft
Word button, for example. To protect the taskbar from overcrowding,
select the option called Always Combine, Hide Labels.
Notification Area This section’s Customize button lets you decide which icons
should appear in the notification area. I choose Always Show All
Icons and Notifications On the Taskbar.
Use Peek to Preview the Desktop When you activate this feature, pointing at the strip on the
taskbar’s far-right edge makes the windows transparent, letting you
peek at your underlying desktop. (Clicking it minimizes all open
windows.) Select this check box to activate that strip.

Feel free to experiment with the taskbar until it looks right for you. After you’ve changed an option, see the changes immediately by clicking the Apply button. Don’t like the change? Reverse your decision and click Apply to return to normal.

After you set up the taskbar just the way you want it, select the Lock the Taskbar check box.