Four Ways to Super Power the Windows Taskbar

The Windows taskbar is at the very heart of the user experience for Microsoft's operating system. The taskbar is that thin strip at the bottom of your display where the Start button exists and program icons appear when a window is open. We've seen before that the taskbar is quite malleable. You can relocate it to a different side of your screen and change taskbar properties, for example.

Now, we'll look at some less "mission critical" niceties that you can add to the taskbar to make your daily use just that little bit better.

01
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Pin the Control Panel

The Control Panel context menu
The Control Panel context menu in Windows 10.

The Control Panel is the central place to make significant changes to your system--though that's changing in Windows 10. The Control Panel is where you manage user accounts, add or remove programs, and control the Windows Firewall.

The problem is the Control Panel is a pain to access and navigate. It's not that it's hard to find just that there's so many options when you do open it, it can be overwhelming. One way to make that easier is to pin the Control Panel to the taskbar in Windows 7 and up.

When you do that, Windows creates a jumplist that makes it easier to go straight to key parts of the Control Panel.

To pin the Control Panel to the taskbar in Windows 7 open it by clicking the Start button and then selecting Control Panel to the right of the programs list.

In Windows 8.1, tap Win+X on the keyboard and select Control Panel in the context menu that appears.

Once it's open, right-click the Control Panel icon on the taskbar and select Pin this program to taskbar.

In Windows 10, type Control Panel into the Cortana/Search box on the taskbar. The top result should be the Control Panel. Right-click that top result in Cortana/search and select Pin to taskbar.

Now that the Control Panel is ready to go, just click it with the right-hand button on your mouse, and the jumplist will appear. From here you can directly access all kinds of options, which will change depending on the version of Windows you're using.

02
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Add Multiple Clocks

Windows 10 date and time
Date and time settings in Windows 10.

Anyone who has to keep track of multiple time zones can have an easier time of it by just adding more clocks to the taskbar. This won't show multiple time zones at once. What it will do, however, is allow you to hover over the system clock on the taskbar, and see the current time in two other time zones.

This will work on Windows 7 and up, but the process is a little different depending on the version of Windows you're using.

For Windows 7 and 8.1 click on the system time on the far right of the taskbar (an area known as the system tray). A window will appear showing a miniature analog clock and a calendar. Click Change date and time settings... at the bottom of that window.

In Windows 10, click on the Start button and then open the Settings app by selecting the cog icon in the left margin. Next select Time & language > Date & time. Scroll down this window until you see the "Related settings" sub-heading and click Add clocks for different time zones.

Now a new window opens entitled Date and Time. Click the Additional Clocks tab--in Windows 10 this tab will open automatically following the instructions above.

You'll see two slots for adding new time zones. Click the Show this clock checkbox and then select the appropriate time zone from the drop down menu under "Select time zone." Next, give your new clock a nickname in the text entry box under "Enter display name." You can use any name you want such as "Head office" or "Aunt Betty," but note that there is a 15-character limit on time zone nicknames.

Follow the same process in the second time zone slot if you want to display three time zones, total.

Once you're finished click Apply at the bottom of the Date and Time window, and then click OK to close it.

Now just hover over or click the clock on the taskbar with your mouse to see the current time in multiple time zones.

03
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Add Multiple Languages

Windows 10 language settings
Choosing languages in Windows 10.

Anyone who regularly works in multiple languages needs a quick way to switch between them. Windows has an easy way to do this, but depending on your version of Windows setting it up may not be so simple.

In Windows 7 and 8.1, what you need to do is open the Control Panel by clicking the Start button. Next select Control Panel from the list on the right-hand side of the Start menu.

When the Control Panel opens look in the top right of the window. Make sure the View by option is set to Classic View. Then click on Regional and Language Options.

A new window will open. From here, click on the Keyboards and Languages tab. At the top of this section, there will be a heading that says "Keyboards and other input languages." In this area, click Change keyboards... and yet another window will open entitled Text Services and Input Language.

Under the General tab of this new window you'll see an area called "Installed services." This lists all the various languages that are already installed. Click Add... to open the Add Input Language window. Select the language you want to add to your PC, click OK, and then back in the Text Services and Input Languages window click Apply.

Now, close up all the Control Panel windows that are open. Looking back at the taskbar, there should be a big EN for English (assuming that is your native display language) icon to the far right of the taskbar. If you don't see it, hover your mouse pointer over the taskbar, and then click the right button on your mouse. This will show what's called the context menu that houses various options for the tasbkar.

Hover over Toolbars in this menu and then when another context menu panel slides out make sure there's a check mark next to Language bar.

That's it, you're ready to go with multiple languages. To switch between them either click on the EN icon and select the new language, or use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift to switch automatically. Note that you must use the Alt button on the left side of your keyboard.

Windows 10

Microsoft, thankfully, made it much easier to add new languages in Windows 10. Open the Settings app as we have before by clicking on the Start button, and then selecting the cog icon in the left margin of the Start menu.

In the Settings app select Time & language and then choose Region & language.

On this screen, under "Languages" click the Add a language button. This will take you to another screen in the Settings app, select the language you want, and that's it, the language will be added automatically. Even better, a language toolbar will appear immediately on the far right of the taskbar. To switch between the various languages you can once again click on the ENG or use the new keyboard shortcut Win+Space bar.

04
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The Address Toolbar

The address toolbar in Windows 10
The address toolbar in Windows 10.

This last one is quick and can be a fun little trick if you don't keep your web browser open at all times. You can add what's known as the Address toolbar, which lets you quickly open web pages from the taskbar.

To add this, hover your mouse pointer over the taskbar once again, click the right button on the mouse to open the context menu. Next, hover over Toolbars and when another context menu panel opens select Address. The address bar will appear automatically on the right side of the taskbar. To open a webpage just type in something like "google.com" or "lifewire.com," tap Enter, and the webpage will open automatically in your default browser.

The Address bar can also open specific locations in the Windows file system such as "C:\Users\You\Documents". To play around with these options type in "C:\" into the Address toolbar.

All four of these tricks won't be for everybody, but those features that you do find useful can really be helpful on a daily basis.