What's new with the Windows 7 taskbar?

In Windows 7, the taskbar has been completely redesigned to help you more easily manage and access your most important files and programs.

Taskbar buttons

Taskbar buttons have a new look and do more than just show you which programs are running.

In the default view, each program appears as a single, unlabeled button—even when multiple items for a program are open—for a clean and uncluttered look. You can customize the taskbar appearance to change how buttons appear and how they group together when you have multiple items open. You can also choose to see individual buttons for each open file. For more information, see Change how buttons appear on the taskbar.

You can also rearrange and organize buttons on the taskbar, including pinned programs and running programs that aren’t pinned, so they appear in the order you prefer. To rearrange the order of buttons on the taskbar, drag a button from its current position to a different position on the taskbar. You can rearrange buttons as often as you like.

Previewing open windows with Aero Peek

When you open multiple windows on the desktop, sometimes it can be a challenge to view separate windows and switch between them.

You can use Aero Peek to take a quick look at other open windows without clicking away from the window you are currently working on. Point your mouse at a taskbar button, and thumbnail previews of any open windows associated with that button appear above the taskbar. If you want to open a window you are previewing, just click its thumbnail. For more information, see Preview an open window on the desktop using Peek.

Pinning items

Pinning programs to the taskbar complements pinning programs to the Start menu, like in earlier versions of Windows. When you pin a favorite program to the taskbar, you can always see it there and easily access it with a single click. Windows 7 also includes Jump Lists, so that in addition to launching a program from the taskbar, you can now launch favorite and recent items from that program, just by clicking the same button.

Jump Lists are lists of recently or frequently opened items, such as files, folders, tasks, or websites, organized by the program that you use to open them. In addition to being able to open recent items using a Jump List, you can also pin favorite items to a Jump List so you can quickly get to the items that you use every day.

On the taskbar, Jump Lists appear for programs that you've pinned to the taskbar and programs that are currently running. You can view the Jump List for a program by right-clicking the taskbar button, or by dragging the button toward the desktop. You open items from the Jump List by clicking them.

Notification area

A new way of managing the notification area on the end of the taskbar means you get fewer notifications, and the ones you get are collected in a single place in Windows.

In the past, the notification area could sometimes become cluttered with icons. Now, you can choose which icons appear visible at all times. And you can keep the rest of the icons on hand in an overflow area, where they’re accessible with a single mouse click. For more information about customizing the notification area, see Change how icons appear in the notification area.

Action Center is a single area that collects important notification messages about security and maintenance settings. You can review these messages later if you don’t want to be interrupted. When you click the Action Center icon Picture of Action Center icon and then click Open Action Center, you’ll see information about the things you need to take action on, and find helpful links to troubleshooters and other tools that can help fix problems. For more information, see What is Action Center?

Viewing the desktop

The Show desktop button has been moved to the opposite end of the taskbar from the Start button, making it easier to click or point at the button without accidentally opening the Start menu.

Picture of the Show desktop button on the taskbar
Show desktop button on the taskbar

In addition to clicking the Show desktop button to get to the desktop, you can temporarily view or peek at the desktop by just pointing your mouse at the Show desktop button, without clicking it. When you point at the Show desktop button at the end of the taskbar, any open windows fade from view, revealing the desktop. To make the windows reappear, move the mouse away from the Show desktop button.

This can be useful for quickly viewing desktop gadgets, or when you don’t want to minimize all open windows and then have to restore them. For more information, see Temporarily preview the desktop using Peek.