The Start menu may be gone (if recoverable) in Windows 8, but you don't care -- you have a taskbar full of your most commonly used apps. Here are three tips to help leep your taskbar as organised and powerful as possible.
You probably already know most of the Taskbar's best integrated features, as detailed in our power user's guide to the Windows taskbar: keyboard shortcuts, jump lists, and maybe even a few registry tweaks that make it better. Here, we'll run down three more advanced tricks and downloads that help you organise it for optimal usage.
Add Separators To The Taskbar For Easier Scanning
If you've ever wanted to group your apps into separate spaces on your taskbar, you actually can -- with a little help from this workaround we've talked about before. All you need to do is create a shortcut to a fake EXE file, give it a transparent icon, and add it to your taskbar. You can separate your office apps from your games, or even your slow-loading apps from your fast-loading apps -- that way, if you accidentally click on the wrong button, you don't have to wait 60 seconds for the wrong app to load before you close it. Check out our original post for the full rundown on how this works.
One reader gave us a suggestion that made this tip even better. If you put that transparent icon into an image editor -- such as GIMP -- you can add text to each separator to give them different categories. See the image to the right for an example.
Use Bins To Create Stacks Of Applications
If you find you have too many apps and need to save some space, the $US5 Bins is the perfect tool to make that happen. With it, you can create a group of shortcuts that all reside on the same taskbar square and "expand" when you hover over it.
Clicking on that square without hovering will open the first app in the bin. While the aforementioned separators are good for separating categories of apps, this feature makes Bins perfect for collecting the programs you only use occasionally, but want quick access to. For example, my "music" bin has MusicBee -- my primary player -- as the first item in the bin, so I can launch it just by clicking on the bin as a whole. But if I want to launch Spotify, Pianobar or iTunes, I can open up the bin and click them from there, without having to dig through the Start menu or screen.
Add Folders and Documents To The Taskbar
So you have all your favourite apps beautifully organised in your taskbar, but what about the other stuff you need quick access to? You can add them to your taskbar through jump lists, but that isn't ideal for everyone -- they can easily feel buried under those menus. This trick will bring them out of those menus and into your main taskbar so they're easier to access.
This is extremely easy to pull off: Just create a dummy file (like a text file) and rename it to something with a .EXE extension. Drag it to the taskbar to create a taskbar entry for it then hover over it, right-click on its name in the jump list to go to its Properties and change its path to whatever file or folder you want (and change its icon if you want). Now, when you click on that icon in the taskbar, it'll bring up the file or folder you specified in its properties. Be sure to use this sparingly, or you'll run out of space on your taskbar quickly!
These aren't the only tricks you can use to organise your taskbar, but they're some of our most tried and true. Of course, if you want some serious customisation, you can always try a third-party dock app. We'd be remiss not to mention app launchers as a quicker way to access your apps and files, too, if you're more of a keyboard maven. Don't forget to customise the icons on your taskbar when you're done to keep the whole thing looking snazzy.