NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2010
Discovering Windows 7 – Part 7
By Neil Stahfest,
Vice President, Tacoma Area PC User Group, Washington August 2010 issue, the Data Line

NCStahfest (at) msn.com (click to email author)

This month we’re going to look at customizing the Task Bar and the Start Menu. Why would you want to do this? Read on.

The easiest way to show you why you might want to change the Task Bar that bar with the Start Button, clock and various other items at the bottom of the screen, is to show you.

Do you have a lot of items on your Start Menu? Would it look better, maybe less crowded, by using smaller icons? If so, here’s how to do it. Start by pointing at a blank area on your task bar and then press the right mouse button. In the window that opens, left-click on “Properties”. The “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” window will open.

There are a number of options under the “Taskbar ” tab. In the box labeled “Taskbar appearance” you may want to consider the line labeled “Auto-hide the taskbar”. If you click on the box next to it (a check mark will appear) and then click on “Apply” at the bottom of the window, the Taskbar will disappear to the bottom of the screen. Any time you want to see it, just move your mouse to the bottom of the screen. Some people like this because it opens up more space on the desktop.

The next line down is “Use small icons”. That function is pretty obvious. You click on the box next to it and then the “Apply” button. If you have a lot of icons on your task bar you may want to try it.

There are more options on this menu but we won’t go into them here. Play with them if you like.

Now let’s look at “Start Menu” options. Go back to the “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” window and click on the “Start Menu” tab. Now click on the “Customize” button. Scroll down the “Customize Start Menu” window to the bottom. Four lines from the button of the menu you’ll find “Use large icons” with a check box next to it. Click to remove the check mark and click “OK” to exit this window and “OK” again to exit the “Taskbar and Start Menu” window.

Want to try some more “tricks” with this feature? Bring up the “Start Menu” tab again and click “Customize”. Scroll down the “Customize Start Menu” about 15 lines and you’ll find a line that says “Downloads”. There are three options under this. The default position is off. If you turn it on you’ll have quick way of getting to files that you’ve downloaded. If you select “Display as a menu” you may get a very large list, sorted alphabetically, of all the files that you’ve downloaded. I prefer the “Display as a link” option. It opens Windows Explorer and shows the “Downloads” folder the same as if I had navigated to it from “Computer” on the “Start Menu”. You may want to explore changing the settings of other “Start Menu” items such as “Videos” and “Documents”. It’s your computer. Make it work the way you want!

Before we leave the topic of customizing the “Star Menu”, go back to the “Start Menu” tab and stop. Beneath the “Customize” button line is a line that says “Power button action” and a button with a pull-down menu next to it. I’m not sure why you would want to change the default action of this button but this is where you do it.

Below this option are two more in a box labeled “Privacy”. If you want to really shorten the list of icons in the “Start Menu”, uncheck the box that says “Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu”. Below that is another option which shows recently opened items in the Start Menu and Taskbar. Personally I leave this block checked but you may prefer it turned off.

Experimenting with Taskbar and Start Menu properties can’t hurt Windows 7. Go ahead and experiment. All you’re doing is personalizing your computer by changing the appearance of things. You may discover a change you really like. If not, it’s very easy to restore things to the way they were.

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