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Windows 8 Tips: Taskbar & Hotkeys

Updated on June 23, 2013

Some tips to help you get out from behind the Windows 8 Ball

Photo Editing by TDowling via
Photo Editing by TDowling via | Source

Flashback to the Twilight Zone

Without a Start Menu, Windows 8's Taskbar and Hotkeys come to your aid

I can hear Rod Sterling’s voice saying: “You're entering Windows 8. It appears to be another dimension. All around you the scene is unfamiliar. You want to turn back, but you’re determined to push ahead. Wait! You’ve just crossed over to…”Cue: The Twilight Zone music. ♫ ♪

As you attempt to go about your business in Windows 8, you’re confronted by flying tiles and other charming things that slide onto your screen adding to the chaos and confusion. All this and NO Start menu! Soon you’re muttering to your dog something about Kansas.

Microsoft made some drastic design changes in Windows 8 aimed at touch-oriented devices, such as tablets and smartphones. With so many tablets on the market, the operating system needed to incorporate touch screens. It was a necessary advancement, but Microsoft executives didn’t take into account the needs of the average Windows user.

The gal using a PC feels that Microsoft is treating her as second class citizen when she's operating Windows 8. However, I have a few Taskbar tips, along with a couple of hotkey combinations, which will greatly improve the Windows 8 experience for veteran Windows users, like her.

Photo editing by TDowling
Photo editing by TDowling | Source

Longtime Windows users are confused by 2 worlds in Windows 8

Before we go much further, let me pull up my traveling couch and analyze this youngster, Windows 8. Hmm.

My diagnosis: Windows 8 is suffering from multiple personality disorder. It’s an operating system for two drastically different divisions or worlds. The new Start Tile Screen and its apps reside in “Tile World.” While classic Windows and its traditional programs live in “Desktop World.”

Most laptop and PC users hate Tile World and want to return to comfy, cozy Desktop World. However, like a bossy older sibling, Tile World is always butting in and trying to run things his way.

OK, Winnie Eight. Your session's over. Ask your grandparent, XP, to come in so we can discuss your family history.

Meeting and learning about the Taskbar's helpful nature

Windows 7 turned the Taskbar into THE place to park your favorite programs, instead of decorating your desktop with icons.

Now in 7 or 8, when you want to open an application, you click on the appropriate icon in the Taskbar and fire up the program. And when a program that doesn’t live at Taskbar Terrace is running its icon takes up temporary residence on the Taskbar.

As Desktop World programs are opened and closed the Taskbar's display changes showing a line-up of active and resident apps.

A few default programs are pinned to your Taskbar. You can easily add or remove programs from the Taskbar. In Window 8’s jargon that’s “pin” or “unpin.” Before we discuss customizing the Taskbar, let’s inspect this useful Windows element. Kick the tires and give it a run.

Screen Capture #1
Screen Capture #1

Hover your mouse over it (or “mouse over”) and see what happens. See how the icons in the Taskbar “act” differently when a program is running and when it’s asleep. When the program is running a mini-window pops up.Move your mouse into this little rectangle and that program appears or maximizes on your desktop. (In Screen Capture #1 Adobe Reader is the open program that pops up in a mini-window.)

If you want to change to this program, click inside its mini-window. If you don't want to activate that program, move your mouse off of that little rectangle. Examine one more thing in that mini-window. Notice the tiny red X in the upper right corner, if you click it the app closes. (The "X" is surrounded by a black box in Screen Capture #1.)

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Now try right clicking your Taskbar icons. A mini-window or a a jump list pops up. In certain programs, like Word where you create something, its jump list displays the last ten saved files.

The jump list is different in an informational or system program, like Control Panel. It has numerous categories and subcategories. When you right click it, up pops a list of the last ten submenus you’ve accessed.

Rather than working my way through Control Panel’s submenus, I like to have quick access to Print Manager. From there I can open either Printer Preferences or Print Queue. I want to insure that Devices and Printers (one level above Print Manager) always pops up in Control Panel’s jump list.

Screen Capture #2
Screen Capture #2

How to pin a program & part of a jump list on the Taskbar

Here’s how to add Devices and Printers to Control Panel’s mini-window or jump list. Remember: Add = Pin. Right click on Control Panel and select the submenu item you want to pin permanently to Control Panel’s jump list. Then select Pin. (See Screen Capture #2.)

Now let’s pin an entire program to the Taskbar. For a program that’s already running you can locate its icon in the Taskbar, right click it and select Pin this program to Taskbar.

For a program that’s not running, open the Charms Bar by pointing your mouse to the upper-right corner of the screen. Now move the mouse down and select Search. (You can also access the Charms Bar by pressing the hotkey combo: Windows key and C.)

In Search:

  • Enter the program’s name
  • Once you locate it, right click the application
  • Select Pin to taskbar.

Unpinning a program

As you might imagine, we do the opposite to unpin an application already living on Taskbar Terrace. Right click on the program’s icon, then select Unpin this program from the Taskbar.

Moving Taskbar icons:

It’s easy to change the order of your icons on the Taskbar. Simply, hold down your left mouse button and drag the offending icon from the head of the line and drop it at the end of the line.

Screen Capture #3
Screen Capture #3

My favorite Windows hotkeys

NOTE: WIN = the Windows key

In addition to Alt + Tab and WIN + 1-9, here are some helpful hotkeys:

Alt + F4 = Close program/app. Press this key combo with the desktop on your screen to shut down Windows.

WIN = Show app tiles. Press WIN again – Go to the desktop (or the currently running desktop program).
WIN + F1 = Windows Help. (Pressing F1 by itself in Word, Excel, etc. opens Help for that program.)
WIN + C = Charm Bar. Press Esc the charmer leaves. NOTE: Accessing the Charm Bar is a great way to check the time, as a large clock also pops up on your screen.
WIN + D = Desktop.
WIN + E = Open Windows (File) Explorer.
WIN + F = Open the search files menu.
WIN + I = Windows 8 Settings. [Faster than WIN + C (access Charm Bar), then select Settings.]
WIN + X = Access the Power User menu in the lower left of Windows.
WIN + begin typing = Search for app (e. g. Type: Con and Control Panel appears. Type C for a list of “C” apps.)
WIN + Print Screen = Screenshot. (It's saved in the Pictures Library and in the clipboard ready to be pasted in Word.)

Hotkeys allow desktop users to take control of Windows 8

I’ve always used Alt + Tab to navigate through Windows. I would've been lost if it wasn't available in Windows 8. It really gives you control over the two worlds in this operating system.

Here’s how Alt + Tab works:

Press and hold the Alt key with your left thumb. Now press Tab with your left middle finger. A box appears, which shows all the open programs and apps from both worlds. A white rectangle frames your current Window. (See Screen Capture #3.)

Continue to hold down the Alt key, press and release the Tab key. Every time you tap Tab the white frame moves to the next app and it fills the screen behind the box. When you’ve found the right window, take your finger off Alt and the selected app maximizes.

WIN + number (1-9): This key combo opens the program residing in that spot on your Taskbar. So if you’ve positioned File Explorer on Taskbar’s first stall you can access it by holding the Windows key (or WIN) and pressing the number 1 – on the keys above the letters. NOTE: This won’t work if you press the numbers on the numeric keypad. –TDowling


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    • TDowling profile image

      Thomas Dowling 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks. The Classic Hub Hopper -- interesting.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

      I came across it in the Classic Hub Hopper. You can find it by going to "My Account". Then look to the upper left of your screen and you will see the link that says, "Help us out. Hop some Hubs." Click that link. You will be taken first to a review screen where you can help to provide input about hubs that are going through the quality assessment process. In the upper left corner of that screen you will find a small link that says "classic hopper" or something like that. Click that link and you can read freshly published hubs and write comments to the authors.

      Hope that helps.

    • TDowling profile image

      Thomas Dowling 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, Nancy.

      Please tell me how you found this Hub. As a newbie I 'm trying to figure out how other Hubbers find my Hubs several hours after I post.

      I'm an old dude, but with a young and inquisition mind. Last month, I bought a new laptop online with Windows 8. I'd heard all the negative reaction when it first came out. So, before the laptop was delivered, I searched the web for information about using Windows 8. And read all the tip and tricks. That together, with my personal experience and observations as a new Windows 8 user, went into this article.


    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

      Great information for those who are in the process of upgrading. This is a very nice hub.