The taskbar has been a core part of the Windows user experience since 1995, and the version in Windows 10 builds of those from previous versions while adding some unique new features of its own. Here’s what you need to know about the Windows 10 taskbar, and how you can configure it to work more like the version in Windows 7 or 8.1.
The basics, of course, are the same. The taskbar is anchored to the bottom of the screen by default, but can be moved to any screen side, and contains the Start button, buttons for pinned and running applications, and a system tray area that contains notification icons and a clock. You can still pin items to the taskbar, including applications and web sites. Here’s a comparison of the taskbars from Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.
Cortana and Task View are new. The most obvious major changes from previous versions are the two controls to the right of the Start menu: the Cortana search box and the Task View button. If you’re not a fan of these buttons you can remove them (right-click the taskbar and choose accordingly) or, in the case of Cortana, change it from a search box to a less obtrusive button. I generally remove both, since the features they represent continue to work fine without those buttons. Here’s Cortana as a button.
To use Cortana without a button or search box just open the Start menu and start typing. Or, enable the “Hey, Cortana” feature and just speak.
To enter Task View without a taskbar button just type WINKEY + TAB.
Configure taskbar features. To configure most taskbar features, just right-click an empty area of the taskbar and choose from the available options–there’s a new section for Search, Task View and Touch Keyboard. Choose Properties to display the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties control panel, which hasn’t changed much at all since Windows 7.
All apps are now always displayed on the taskbar in desktop mode. In Windows 8.x, you could configure the system so that buttons for Windows Store apps—or what we might called Metro apps—were not displayed on the taskbar. In Windows 10, this option has been removed because these apps, and new universal Windows apps, run on the desktop and can be windowed like other apps.
System tray flyouts have gotten a visual update. The flyouts for key system tray items—Network, Volume, and Clock—have been updated with the sparse new Windows 10 visual style.
Action Center is new. That unfamiliar new system tray icon is for Action Center, the new notification center in Windows 10. I’ll be writing about this interface in a future tip, but it contains a number of useful features beyond notifications, including the ability to enter Tablet Mode, which changes how the taskbar works.
The taskbar changes when in Tablet Mode. When your PC is in Tablet Mode—which can be enabled automatically based on different conditions, or manually—the taskbar behaves differently (as do other parts of the system). Specifically, two new buttons—system-wide Back, and Cortana—appear, and the taskbar no longer displays application or shortcut buttons by default. If you would prefer to show taskbar buttons in Tablet Mode, navigate to Settings (WINKEY + I), System, Tablet Mode and change “Hide app icons on the taskbar when in Tablet Mode” to Off.
The taskbar works differently with virtual desktops. Windows 10 now supports virtual desktops via the new Task View feature, and by default each has its own taskbar with its own app buttons. You can configure how this works in Settings (WINKEY + I), System, Multitasking, however. For example, you can choose to view all buttons on all desktops.