5 Killer Windows Taskbar Tricks (That Work in Windows 7 and 8)
By Chris Hoffman
Updated October 17, 2017
The Windows taskbar is more powerful than it looks. Most people just use it to get to programs by clicking the icons that are on it — and if that’s you, you’re missing out. Like various other keyboard shortcuts and hidden tricks in Windows, these tips can help you work more efficiently and get things done faster.
Windows Key + #
Tapping the Windows key opens the Start menu — or Start screen on Windows 8. But holding the Windows key down while pressing a number key is equivalent to clicking a taskbar icon. For example, press “Windows Key+1″ is the same as clicking the first taskbar icon. If the program isn’t open, it will launch. If it’s running in the background, you’ll switch to it. If it’s the foremost window, it will minimize. Yup, it’s just like clicking the taskbar icon.
Try it yourself using a shortcut like Windows Key+1, 2, 3, or any other number key.
Right-click any of those taskbar icons and you’ll see a menu known as a “jump list.” Jump lists were added in Windows 7 and, depending on the program, they provide quick access to common actions, recent files, and more. You can also pin items to a jump list. For example, you could right-click Google Chrome’s taskbar icon to see shortcuts for recently closed tabs. Click the pin icon next to one of them and it will be “pinned” to the list, so you can quickly access it with a right-click on the taskbar icon. It’s like making a Favorites list right on your desktop, which is hudden away until you need it.
You can also drag-and-drop a file (or website link) onto an app’s taskbar shortcut to pin it to the jump list.
Try it with your other favorite programs — pin documents to a Microsoft Word shortcut, folders to an Explorer shortcut, and more.
Open New Application Windows
Sometimes you might be using a program, but you want to quickly open a new window. For example, you might want to open a second web browser window or a second instance of Microsoft Word.
To open a new window, hold the Shift key while you click a taskbar icon. This also works with the “Windows Key+number key” shortcut above, so you can open a new window with a keyboard shortcut.
If you prefer using the mouse, you can also middle-click an app icon on your taskbar.
Pin Web Apps
If you’re like most Windows users, you probably use a lot of Web apps. You can break them out of your browser and pin them directly to your taskbar, if you like.
In Chrome, navigate to the webpage you want to put on your taskbar, click the menu button, select “Tools,” then “Create application shortcuts” to create the taskbar shortcut.
In Internet Explorer, first navigate to the webpage you want to pin. Drag and drop the webpage’s icon from Internet Explorer’s address bar to your taskbar.
Mozilla Firefox doesn’t support this feature — sorry, Firefox users.
Finally, on Windows 8.1, right-click the Start button or press “Windows Key-X” to open a special “power user menu” with convenient access to common actions like opening the Control Panel and shutting down your PC. This is one of the secret tricks Windows 8.1 users need to know. Windows 10 is fixing this discoverability problem by restoring a real Start menu.
This is just a snapshot of the most useful Windows taskbar keyboard shortcuts and tricks. That simple bar at the bottom of your screen hides a lot of features!
Image Credit: Microsoft, Google
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around tech geek who writes for PC World, MakeUseOf, and How-To Geek. He's been using Windows since Windows 3.1 was released in 1992.