More About The Windows 7 Taskbar

You can easily configure some aspects of the Windows 7 taskbar

Switching off “Aero Peek”

Last week, I mentioned that if you hover over the rectangle at the bottom righthand side of the taskbar then you will be shown the contents of the desktop superimposed with an outline of the windows that are currently open. If you find this feature a bit distracting and pointless you can turn it off as follows:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button.
  • Left-click on the “properties” option of the menu that pops up.
  • Click on the box next to “Use Aero Peek to preview the desktop”. This will remove the tick.
  • Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the window.
Preview Desktop With Aero Peek
Removing the tick will disable Aero Peek

By the way, the window that you have just closed is an example of what is known as a “dialog box”. A dialog box is a window that requires you to make a choice, enter information, or just click a button to acknowledge that you have read the information that it contains. In other words, it’s a box that enables a dialogue between you and the computer. When a dialog box is open it is very likely that you will not be able to do anything else until you have “finished the dialog” (ie entered the information and/or closed the box).

Notification Area Icons

The notification area is the area at the bottom righthand side of the taskbar. Mine currently looks like this:

Notification Area Icons
Notification Area Icons

You can control some aspects of this area of the screen:

  • Right-click on the “Start” button.
  • Left-click on “Properties”.
  • Click on the “Taskbar” tab.
  • Click on the “Customize” button.

The “Hidden Icons”

The icon for Hidden Icons
The icon for Hidden Icons
If you have a “hidden icons” icon in the notification area, you will need to click on this to reveal icons that would otherwise be permanently displayed. Although there may be some benefit to this in reducing clutter, it can be irritating to have to click on this to reveal icons that you need regularly. The example that crops up most often on my clients’ computers is that the icon that you click on in order to “safely remove hardware” is often hidden. This particular icon is the one you (should) click on before disconnecting USB pen drives, external drives, or SD cards. It would be nice to have it permanently displayed on the taskbar instead of hidden. This – and other icons – can be forced to stay out of the “hidden icons” as follows:

  • Starting from your normal view of the desktop, left-click on the “hidden icons” icon.
  • Left-click on “customize…” that is at the bottom of the small window that pops up.
  • Look through the list of configurable icons and change the options for any icon by clicking on the dropdown menu next to the item you wish to change. If you want to prevent an icon from disappearing into the “hidden icons” category then choose the option “Show icon and notifications”.

Note that the icon that you click to “safely remove hardware” is named in the list of icons as “Windows Explorer”. This item will NOT be included in the list if you don’t currently have a device attached that can be “removed” using this icon. In other words, you have to connect a USB pen drive, external drive, or SD card before you can configure the “safely remove…” icon to stay permanently on your taskbar.

"Safely Remove Hardware" Icon
The “Safely Remove Hardware” Icon

If you want to dispense with the “hidden icons” entirely, so that all icons are always permanently shown, then just tick the appropriate box at the bottom of the window as follows:

Always Show All Icons and Notifications

Displaying and Hiding System Icons

There are also a number of icons known as “system icons” that can be individually displayed or hidden by clicking on the link called “turn system icons on or off” in the Notification Area configuration screen

System Icons

For nerds only – Tclock

If you would like to have more control over how the date and time is displayed on your taskbar (eg by showing seconds as well as hours and minutes on the clock), then I recommend installing Tclock from “Stoic Joker”. This is a freeware program that’s been around for yonks and that has been developed by different people at different times. It’s absurdly “feature rich” for such a basic task. Tclock can be downloaded from this link.

(Last updated 08/09/2023)