Windows 11 Taskbar

There are some things you can change about the Windows 11 taskbar – and some things you can’t

The first thing that my computer support clients usually notice about the Windows 11 taskbar is that its contents are centred – not left-aligned as in previous versions of Windows.

Windows 11 - search box size
If you fill the taskbar with icons, the first thing that happens is that the search box shrinks to an icon

I can’t help thinking that this is just Microsoft copying the centred dock on Apple Macs. I don’t like it because everything shifts left or right depending on how many icons there are on the taskbar at any time. Luckily, this is one of the things that we can easily change back. Read on…

Until recently, another minor annoyance was that the clock could not be persuaded to display seconds. Apparently, Microsoft thought that displaying seconds is a waste of valuable resources. Really? Whatever the reason, they’ve now relented. Seconds are not displayed by default, but that, too, can be changed easily. Keep reading…

Three “unfeatures” of the Windows 11 taskbar are still there:

  • It is still not possible to change the size of the icons on the taskbar easily (but see the end of this post)
  • We cannot display two – or even three – rows of icons on the taskbar as we could in Windows 10
  • You will look in vain for a way to display the taskbar on any side of the screen other than the bottom. There’s no point in trying to drag it to a different location

Changing the Taskbar Settings

To access the settings that we can modify, position your cursor on a blank, unpopulated, part of the taskbar, right-click and then left-click on “taskbar settings”.

Settings

Most of the items are self-explanatory, but some of the more important and the more puzzling are as follows (tap on the “v” to the right of the group name to display its components):

Items

“Task view” shows the different “desktops” that you might have configured. I have never seen any of my clients ever configure a second desktop. Personally, I think there are better – and more familiar – ways of organising your stuff.

You will probably either love or hate “widgets”. Play with it and see. Once it’s “on” there will be an icon towards the lefthand edge of the taskbar. Me? I find it distracting, pointless, and remorselessly American.

“Chat” is part of Teams, but you probably use WhatsApp and Zoom instead.

Behaviours

Here you can change the taskbar alignment between centre and left.

I do still use the option to display the desktop by clicking on the far right corner of the taskbar, but it can be a bit fiddly. It’s probably easier to depress the Windows key and tap the letter “d” to immediately display the desktop without closing any open windows (and do the same again to go back to displaying open windows).

The last item under “Taskbar behaviours” allows you to show or hide seconds on the clock.

Windows 11 taskbar overflow
If you fill it up again, you get an “overflow menu”. Click on the 3 dots to see the overflow menu above the taskbar.

In Windows 10 there wasn’t a way of easily adding a folder shortcut to the taskbar. I explained how to work around this in the blog post snappily entitled Adding folder shortcuts to the Windows taskbar 

I’m pleased to report that this still works in Windows 11.

For Microsoft’s own help on the taskbar (in both Windows 10 and 11) see How to use the taskbar in Windows.

Actually, I’ve found a YouTube video that says that you can change the size of the taskbar icons in the registry editor, but be aware that if you get it wrong you can break your computer. I haven’t yet tested the steps in this video myself. It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGYeIkcPgWU.