Windows 7 Jump Lists

You may have been using Windows 7 for a while without realising the benefits of “jump lists”

Jump lists are menus attached to items in the taskbar. The taskbar is the line on the bottom of the screen that shows icons for two classes of programs:

  • Programs that are currently open.
  • Programs that have been “pinned” to the taskbar for easy access. Pinning a program to the taskbar is as easy as dragging a shortcut from the desktop down onto the taskbar.

Portion of TaskbarIn the first image here, there are four programs shown as being on the part of the taskbar that is shown (in this case, the taskbar is green). The status of each of these programs is as follows;

  • The two leftmost programs (Microsoft Access and OneNote) are available just by clicking on the taskbar icon. These programs are not currently “open” (loaded into memory). We can tell that by the fact that there is no border around their icons. Note that when launching a program from the taskbar (by left-clicking the icon in the taskbar) then only a single left-click is required (whereas, by default, a double-click is needed to launch a program from a desktop shortcut).
  • The third program (Treepad) is both open (as indicated by the border around it) and is also the “current” program. This is the program that is currently being used. It is said to “have the focus”. We can tell that by the fact that the background inside the border is lighter than the rest of the taskbar (as if it is lit up).
  • The fourth program (Textpad) is open but is not the current program. We can tell that by the fact that there is a border around the icon but the background colour within that border is more-or-less the same colour as the rest of the taskbar. We can return to this program (“give it the focus”) simply by clicking on the icon.

Irrespective of whether a program on the taskbar is already open, or is the current program, we can very quickly open files that use these programs by right-clicking on the relevant program icon and then choosing the file we wish to open.

If I right-click on the Microsoft Access icon then the following “jump list” pops up:

Jump list

At the moment that I “grabbed” this image, my cursor was hovering over “Dilbiz.mdb” (the name of one of my databases). There are three things to note here:

  • There is an information box, telling me exactly where that file resides on my hard drive.
  • While I am hovering over the filename there is a map pin lying on its side to the right of the filename.
  • All I need to do to open the selected file with its proper program is to left-click on the filename (in this case, “Dilbiz.mdb”).

You will see that the files are listed under the heading “Recent”. Windows will build up the list of recent files as I open different files. The time will come, though, when it can’t make that “Recent” list any longer so it will start dropping the oldest items off the list. This is where the map pin comes in. If we want to ensure that a file stays on the list, then we just highlight the file (by hovering the cursor over it, as above) and then click on the pin.

Jump List With Pinned ItemThe list will then change as shown to the left. Windows has created a new category of file listing called “Pinned” and placed the Dilbiz.mdb file in that category. Files on this list will remain there, however many newer files come and go under the “Recent” heading. If I want to “unpin” a file, I hover over the filename on the jump list and click on the map pin again.

In the case of the jump list for Access, there are two further options:

  • Clicking on “Access” will open the program without opening any database file (which is the same as left-clicking on the item in the taskbar instead of right-clicking to the jump list).
  • The last option will remove the program from the taskbar. The program will still be accessible by other means (such as choosing it from the start menu or by double-clicking a shortcut on the desktop).

Jump List for Windows ExplorerDifferent programs offer different options from the jump list. The Windows Explorer program, for instance, remembers recently opened folders rather than specific files. It’s also possible that some older programs won’t offer any options at all in a jump list.

If you regularly use the same dozen or so data files in programs such as Excel or Word or PowerPoint, it is worth playing with jump lists and pinned items as you may find they provide the quickest way to open such files.

(Last updated 07/09/2023)