When I get a new product, I like trying out new features long enough to be able to evaluate whether they might be useful. Windows 7 introduced the “Pin to Taskbar” feature to replace the Quick Launch toolbar of prior versions of Windows. I found that the “Pin” feature provides no advantages over the Quick Launch toolbar and some disadvantages. If you have not used this feature before—in some XP installations, Quick Launch was not activated by default—you might try this out to see if it improves your efficiency in using Windows. Windows 7 and 8 have made this more difficult, so you’ll need to follow the instructions, following the break, to bring it back.
Pin to Taskbar
If you have not noticed, in Windows 7 and 8, you can pin any application shortcut to the taskbar so that its icon always appears, regardless of whether it is running. This allows you to activate the program by clicking on its icon in the taskbar without thinking about whether it is already running.
The problem is that the pinned, but inactive applications take up a lot of taskbar space. More significantly, the user has to “hunt” for the icon since pinned icons’ positions change based on which other pinned applications are active and taskbar display properties—this impedes productivity.
See “Pin a program to the taskbar” to read what Microsoft has to say about it.
The Quick Launch was introduced with Internet Explorer 4.0 on Windows 95 and 98 and became integrated as a Windows core user-interface feature during the Windows 98 time-frame. This provides a small toolbar with a stable set of application icons that allow a single click to activate without having to open and navigate the “Start Menu.”
See what Microsoft had to say about Quick Launch for versions of Windows prior to 7 at “Display the Quick Launch Bar” and “Add or remove programs on the Quick Launch toolbar” or “What happened to the Quick Launch toolbar?”
Activating the Quick Launch Toolbar on Windows 7 and 8/8.1
With the long history of the Quick Launch toolbar, many software programs install icons there. So, despite what Microsoft says, the essential elements for supporting Quick Launch are still in Windows 7, it just takes a few steps to activate them:
- Right-click on a empty space on the taskbar and select Toolbars→New Toolbar.
- In the Folder line, enter the following path:
%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
- Click on the Select Folder button. The Quick Launch toolbar should appear on the right side of the Taskbar.
- Right-click and uncheck Lock the taskbar to customize the Taskbar layout.
- Click the “dot-grid” on the left to drag it to the desired size or location on the Taskbar (I prefer it on the left side of the taskbar, so I have to drag it past the icons of open apps).
- Right-click to customize on the dot-grid to customize the look of the Quick Launch toolbar (I uncheck the Show text and Show title settings and resize the toolbar for the minimum size).
- Re-enable Lock the taskbar to lock your layout settings and reduce wasted space on the taskbar.
Find additional configuration information at the place where I found these instructions at “How to Enable or Disable Quick Launch in Windows 7″.
Originally published May 13, 2010 15:18. Added references to Windows 8 & 8.1, in which this still works.