Customize taskbar buttons settings in Windows 7
Before Windows 7, you could not customize your taskbar buttons in any way (without using third-party tools that is). In this version of Windows, Microsoft introduced three settings that allow you to control how your taskbar buttons behave, how much space you want to devote to open applications, etc. While this feature seems to arrive a bit too late, now that monitors offer high enough screen resolutions to see 30 different applications' buttons visible on the screen, but there is a good reason for it: by default, Windows 7 does away with the "Quick Launch" toolbar on the taskbar, replacing it with the ability to "pin" programs to the taskbar (tip: you can still enable Quick Launch in Windows 7). This means that you can conveniently add quite a few more applications as your "favorites" and permanently give them a spot on your taskbar, which can take up quite a bit of space!
Windows 7 offers three options: Always combine, hide labels, Combine when taskbar is full, and Never combine.
Configure button options for the taskbar
Here is each is approach available, and explained in details:
- First, let's launch the taskbar customization dialog: you can either type "taskbar" in the start menu's search field, and click on the "Taskbar and Start menu Properties" link when it appears at the top, or right-click on an empty area of the taskbar and choose "Properties". Either way, the same dialog opens.
- The "Taskbar" tab should be automatically selected; now click on the "Taskbar buttons" dropdown menu, and you will see three options from which you can choose, explained below:
- The default choice is an addition to Windows 7: "Always combine, hide labels". Windows XP introduced the concept of optionally combining buttons for a same application on the taskbar, but they always showed the name of the program in question and/or the name of the file currently opened. That first setting, in Windows 7, allows you to have a true square button that only displays the program icon; in the screenshot below, here's that setting in action with IE and three or more browser tabs opened:
Tip: with this taskbar button setting, you can tell that an application has more than one "file" opened thanks to the "stacked" border effect on the right of the button. Moving your mouse pointer (cursor) above the program's button will typically show which files are opened and allow you to pick one for viewing; above 9-10 files or so, depending on the program, a scrollable menu will instead be displayed.
- The second button option is "Combine when taskbar is full": this hybrid setting will show taskbar buttons as Windows Vista did, close to one another, but only as long as you have enough screen real estate on the taskbar for all open applications and files; beyond that point, Windows 7 will combine these individual buttons into a single one, just like on the screenshot above.
- The final option, "Never combine", brings you back to the old Windows days of one-button-per-file-opened (see our "Make the Windows 7 taskbar look like Windows XP or Windows Vista" tutorial on a related note). This setting will leave one button per program and/or file open, so long as there is room; the exception comes when you have so many programs running at the same time that Windows 7 starts showing taskbar buttons on multiple levels - in that case, levels below will remain that way (i.e., not combined), but all taskbar buttons on the first row will hide labels but without combining buttons.
Tip: keep in mind that you can use small button icons on the Windows 7 taskbar.
- As you change your "Taskbar buttons" setting, just click on the "Apply" button to get a preview of the option; once you have made your choice, click on the "OK" button to return to Windows.
Note that all Windows 7 taskbar settings work in conjunction with one another; feel free to experiment combinations of new settings, you may well find a new favorite mix (for example by switching between various button settings and moving the taskbar to a different position on the screen!)up ↑