How To Use The Taskbar In Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

Windows 7 introduced a major redesign of the taskbar which packs a lot of improvements. The list includes features such as Aero Peek, overlay icons and progress bars, jump lists, pinned items and so on. Most of them are still working in Windows 8.1 so in this article we'll show you how to use every feature of Windows Taskbar in both operating systems.

How To Pin Items To The Taskbar

Pinning items to the taskbar means adding shortcuts to it. To do this, press or click and drag the file over the taskbar.

If you are using the Windows 8.1 operating system, you can also follow these steps to pin items to the taskbar: first, type in the search box the name of the application you want to pin, right click or press and hold it and then, select "Pin to Taskbar".

In both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 you can pin items directly from the Desktop. Press and hold or right click the shortcut or the executable file and select "Pin to Taskbar".

How To Use The Jump Lists

Jump Lists are a very cool feature of the Windows taskbar. When you right click or press and hold a shortcut from the taskbar, you will see a small menu customized for it, which shows you frequently used destinations for that application (e.g: Libraries in Windows/File Explorer) or the most frequent tasks performed by the user in that application (e.g: Open new tab in Internet Explorer).

The most popular applications include enhancements to support this feature and make it a big usability improvement.

How To Use Both Interactive And Grouped Thumbnails

In Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, all taskbar windows are grouped together by default, regardless of their number. When you have multiple windows of the same application open, you will see its icon and some additional rectangles on its right. If you leave your mouse over the application icon, you will see a real-time preview of all its opened windows. These preview windows are also interactive. You can close any of the windows by clicking the x button on the right and you can open a specific window by clicking on its thumbnail.

How To Use The Thumbnail Toolbars Or Live Thumbnails

The Thumbnail toolbars allows the generation of window controls to appear when you hover the mouse over the thumbnail of an open window. When a movie is open, it allows you to stop it or start playing it directly from the thumbnail. Or, when listening to music, you can skip the current track or pause it. This feature is really great but, unfortunately it is available only for applications that are developed to use it.

How To Use Aero Peek

The Aero Peek feature complements the interactive thumbnails very well. When you hover the mouse over a thumbnail preview on the taskbar, you will also see its corresponding window on the desktop with all other windows faded away into glass sheets. This feature is very helpful to users when identifying whether the window they are about to open is the correct one. You get, at the same time, a real-time thumbnail preview plus the whole window with just a hover of the mouse.

How To Use Overlay Icons And Progress Bars

The Overlay Icons and Progress Bars is another great feature. It allows a program to show an icon or progress in context onits taskbar button. This is the most noticeable when copying files and folders in Windows/File Explorer. During the copy activity you will see a progress bar showing the status of the copying process. When done, it's going to fill up and disappear. This is extremely useful as you no longer need to open the Windows/File Explorer window to see how the process is progressing. Again, applications can be programmed to take advantage of this feature. For example, it can be very useful for file archivers.

Color Hot-track - when moving the mouse over a running window from the taskbar, you will see a dynamically colored light effect. This light effect follows your mouse movement over the taskbar icon and it is based on the color of the icon. As you can see in the screenshot below, the colored light is yellow for Windows/File Explorer, blue for Internet Explorer, red for Google Chrome and orange for Firefox.

How To Use The "Show Desktop" Shortcut And The Notification Area

On the right side of the taskbar you have the notification area and the "Show desktop" button. In Windows 7 when you keep your mouse over it, you will see the "Show desktop" text above it, the Aero Peek will be enabled and you'll see a transparent contour of all open windows. In Windows 8.1 this button is not that visible, but is there. If you click it, you will see the Desktop. If you click it again, it will restore all the open windows in their last known position.

By default, the Notification Area will hide all icons except the ones for the Volume Mixer, Network and the Action Center. To access the other icons, you need to click on the arrow on the left.

For more information about Notification Area and how use it, read this tutorial: How to Customize the Notification Area in Windows 7 & Windows 8.


Windows 7 introduced new great features to improve the taskbar and Windows 8.1 taskbar kept all of them. We hope that Windows 10 will improve on it and offer new features but that will remain to be seen. If you have any question about this subject or problems with the Windows taskbar don't hesitate to leave a comment in the section below.