The Windows desktop can be a super productive work space, provided it’s set up right. Native toolbars can help you make it even more efficient by placing shortcuts and information at your fingertips. Being located in the Windows taskbar means you won’t have to close windows or open files and folders via Windows Explorer to access them. Let’s see how toolbars can be useful for you.
How To Add A Toolbar To Your Taskbar
Right-click the Windows taskbar, pick Toolbars from the menu, and either select an existing toolbar, or click on New toolbar… When you’re adding a new toolbar, you need to select a folder on your computer that contains the desired content. You can create a new folder as you’re picking the location and add the content later.
Tip: If you store the content of a custom toolbar in your Dropbox or on OneDrive, you can use the same source with toolbars on different computers and make them automatically sync across computers. You could even share your toolbars with colleagues, family, or friends.
Default Windows Toolbars & What They Do
Windows offers a set of default toolbars that may be useful to you:
- Address: Open recently used folders, type in names of applications, folders, or files to open them, and launch websites in your default browser. It works surprisingly well! To go to the address toolbar using keyboard shortcuts, try clicking Windows + B, followed by Shift + Tab.
- Links: Add your favorite websites here and have them open in your default browser. This is the same as your Internet Explorer Favorites Bar. You can find and edit the content of this folder in your Windows user folder under Favorites.
- Tablet PC Input Panel (Windows 7) or Touch Keyboard (Windows 8): This toolbar button launches a keyboard that will respond to touch input on your touch screen. Alternatively, it also works with the mouse.
- Desktop: View all items located on your desktop in one long list. This is a great way to maintain access to shortcuts when you hide desktop icons for a cleaner look.
Quick Launch Bar
The Quick Launch bar, a list of icons embedded in the taskbar, is a remnant of Windows 95 that survived until the release of Windows XP. Although not promimently featured as a toolbar anymore, it still survives in the depths of the Windows operating system, even in Windows 8. As the name suggests, it’s great for quickly launching your most used programs, but you can also add files you need to access frequently.
To enable the Quick Launch bar, point the new toolbar to this path:
%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
To customize it, right-click and unlock the Taskbar. Then right-click Quick Launch and remove the checkmarks for Show title and Show Text. While the Taskbar is unlocked, you can also drag the Quick Launch bar to a different location. I like to have it on the left hand side, next to the Start button.
Short Notes & Lists In A Custom Toolbar
Do you keep looking up bits of information again and again? Maybe you have snippets of data on Post-It notes attached to your monitor or in text files on your desktop. How about organizing the information and making it more accessible via a toolbar located in your taskbar. This is great low tech solution for quickly creating a list of things you find hard to remember, like commands, shortcuts, or phone numbers.
To create this type of list, you need to create a new toolbar, pick an empty folder, and then fill that folder with files, whose names represent your notes. Since your note is the title of the shortcut file, your choice of characters and length are limited. Use Notepad files and save them as shortcut (.LNK) files; that way the file extension is never shown. You can also choose a custom icon: right-click on the file, select Properties, and click the Change Icon… button.
This tip was seen on How To Geek. They have a few more tips, including a way to add new notes automatically using a . bat file.
Start Menu Toolbar
Those of you running Windows 7, you can simply use and customize the existing Start Menu. If you’re on Windows 8, however, you could install a third party Start Menu or wait until Microsoft brings it back later this year. We previously showed you how you can build your own custom Start Menu in Windows 8 by re-purposing the Apps View. Now here is another native solution.
You can use a toolbar to re-create the Start Menu. Briefly, create a new toolbar, point it to the folder that will contain the content of your alternative Start Menu, add the desired content to the respective folder, and finally move the toolbar to the native Start Menu location on the far left of the taskbar.
If that doesn’t cut it or seems like too much work, maybe the Win+X Power User Menu does the job for you. As the name suggests, this menu opens when you click the Windows + X keys; alternatively, right-click the Windows 8 Start button. You can find three more ways to make a Windows 8 Start Menu here.
Did You Discover A Useful Toolbar?
The most useful toolbars probably are the ones you make yourself and can fully customize. So what type of toolbars are you using? Do share your ideas in the comments!