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What is the Taskbar

Since Windows 95, the interface of the Microsoft Windows operating system has revolved around the start menu and taskbar. While the taskbar has changed somewhat since Windows 95, it still has the same basic purpose. In Windows 8, however, the taskbar will be marginalized due to the entirely new "Metro" interface which will, for the most part, replace the traditional taskbar and do away with the start menu altogether.

From the left-hand side of your monitor to the right, the taskbar is comprised of the start button, pinned programs (or, before Windows 7, the "Quick Launch" bar), open programs, the language bar, the system tray, the system time and, in Windows 7, the Aero Peek / Show Desktop button.

Clicking the start button will allow you to quickly access your programs, folders and files on your computer. Windows 7 also includes the useful start menu search box which you can use to search for installed programs and Windows components as well as files on your computer. In Windows 8, due to be released in late 2012, the start button will disappear from the taskbar, instead being replaced by the touch-screen optimized "Metro" start screen. There will be a setting to restore the start button, however.

Beside the start button is a customizable section of the taskbar which contains pinned programs. You can pin a program to the taskbar by right-clicking on the open program on the taskbar and clicking "Pin this program to the taskbar." A shortcut to that program will permanently appear just to the right of the start button unless you unpin it. In Windows Vista and previous versions of Windows, this area of the taskbar was occupied by the Quick Launch bar which contained a customizable set of shortcuts to commonly used programs, files and folders. While this has been removed in Windows 7, it is still accessible by creating a custom taskbar toolbar.

To the right of the taskbar, you'll see the language bar if you have multiple keyboard layouts installed. This won't appear if you only have one keyboard layout installed. The language bar is simply represented by a two-letter language code for the current input language.

Beside the language toolbar, you'll see a set of icons which form the system tray. This contains shortcuts to important system settings as well as various other tools and programs. It's also referred to as the notification area, since any notifications such as those about Windows Updates or computer security alerts will appear here. Finally, to the right of the system tray, you'll see the system tray and a button which, when clicked, will minimize all open windows. Gliding your mouse pointer over it without clicking will give you a preview of the desktop without actually minimizing any windows.


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