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Windows 7 tricks: 20 top tips and tweaks

November 11, 2009 06:00 AM ET

See taskbar thumbnails without a mouse

If you're a fan of using the keyboard rather than your mouse whenever possible, you can move your cursor from icon to icon in the taskbar without a mouse -- and still see thumbnail previews.

Press Windows key-T, and you'll move the focus to the leftmost icon on the taskbar. Then, while still pressing the Windows key, press T again to change the focus to the next icon to the right. You can keep doing this as long as you like.

Launch taskbar apps without a mouse

Likewise, you can launch any program on the taskbar without the mouse. Press the Windows key and the number that corresponds to the position of the application on the taskbar -- for example, Windows key-1 to launch the left-most application on the taskbar, Windows key-2 to launch the second left-most application and so on.

Run multiple copies of applications from the taskbar

The Windows 7 taskbar serves a dual purpose, which can get confusing at times. It's used to launch programs, and also to switch between programs that are running. So you launch a program by clicking its icon, and also switch to that program after it's running by clicking its icon.

But what if you want to launch a second instance of the program? Once the program is running, it seems there's no way to launch a second instance, because when you click its icon, you only switch to the running instance.

There's a simple fix: If a program is already running and you want to launch a second instance from the taskbar, hold down the Shift key and click the icon. A second instance will launch. You can keep launching new instances this way.

Get back the Quick Launch bar

Windows 7's new taskbar functions as a program launcher as well as task switcher. As a result, the old Quick Launch bar, the area on the left side of the taskbar that contained shortcuts for frequently used programs, has been banished. However, if you really miss the little applet, you can add it back. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars --> New Toolbar.

2 . You'll be asked to select a folder for where the new toolbar should live. In the Folder text box at the bottom of the dialog box, enter this text:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

After you do that, click Select Folder. A link for the Quick Launch bar will be added to the taskbar. It will be on the right of the taskbar, just to the left of the Notification area.

Quick Launch bar docked
The Quick Launch bar docked on the right. Click to view larger image.

It's not particularly useful docked all the way to the right with no application icons showing, so we're going to have to do a bit of work on it to make it useful. Right-click the taskbar and, in the pop-up menu, remove the check next to "Lock the taskbar." Now right-click Quick Launch and remove the checks next to Show Text and Show Title.

Once you've done that, drag the vertical triple dotted line next to the Quick Launch bar to the left until you expose its icons. To prevent further changes, right-click the taskbar and check Lock the taskbar. You can now use the Quick Launch bar as you could in Windows XP and Vista, including adding icons to it and deleting them.

Quick Launch bar showing icons
The Quick Launch bar, restored to usefulness. Click to view larger image.

More tips for Windows 7:

Preston Gralla is a Computerworld contributing editor.

Read more about Operating Systems in Computerworld's Operating Systems Topic Center.



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