How Does the Windows 10 Taskbar Work? - dummies

How Does the Windows 10 Taskbar Work?

By Andy Rathbone

Whenever more than one window sits across your Windows 10 desktop, you face a logistics problem: Programs and windows tend to overlap, making them difficult to spot. To make matters worse, programs such as web browsers and Microsoft Word can contain several windows apiece. How do you keep track of all the windows?

The Windows 10 solution to a crowded desktop is the taskbar — a special area that keeps track of your currently running programs and their windows. Shown here, the taskbar lives along the bottom of your desktop, constantly updating itself to show an icon for every currently running desktop program.

Point at a taskbar icon to see its currently running programs.
Point at a taskbar icon to see its currently running programs.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 keeps the taskbar firmly in place, even when run in Tablet mode. The taskbar always remains accessible along the screen’s bottom edge, even when apps or the Start menu fill the screen.

The taskbar also serves as a place to launch your favorite programs. By keeping your favorite programs’ icons in sight and one quick click away, you’re spared a detour to the Start menu.

Not sure what a taskbar icon does? Rest your mouse pointer over any of the taskbar icons to see either the program’s name or a thumbnail image of the program’s contents, as shown. In that figure, for example, you can see that the Photo Viewer is displaying three photos.

From the taskbar, you can perform powerful magic, as described in the following list:

  • To play with a program listed on the taskbar, click its icon. The window rises to the surface and rests atop any other open windows, ready for action. Clicking the taskbar icon yet again minimizes that same window.

  • Whenever you load an app or program, its icon automatically appears on the taskbar. If one of your open windows ever gets lost on your desktop, click its icon on the taskbar to bring it to the forefront.

  • To close an app or program listed on the taskbar, right-click its icon and choose Close from the pop-up menu. The program quits, just as if you’d chosen its Exit command from within its own window. (The departing program thoughtfully gives you a chance to save your work before it quits and walks off the screen.)

  • Taskbar icons with an thin underline along their bottom edge let you know that their app or program is currently running.

  • Traditionally, the taskbar lives along your desktop’s bottom edge, but you can move it to any edge you want, a handy space saver on extra-wide monitors. (Hint: Try dragging it to your screen’s side. If it doesn’t move, right-click the taskbar and click Lock the Taskbar to remove the check mark by that option.)

  • If the taskbar keeps hiding below the screen’s bottom edge, point the mouse at the screen’s bottom edge until the taskbar surfaces. Then right-click the taskbar, choose Properties, and remove the check mark from the option Auto-Hide the Taskbar.

  • You can add your favorite apps and programs directly to the taskbar: From the Start menu, right-click the favored program’s name or tile and choose Pin to Taskbar. The program’s icon then lives on the taskbar for easy access, just as if it were running. Tired of the program hogging space on your taskbar? Right-click it and choose Unpin This Program from Taskbar.