Transform Your Desktop With Toolbars

Fred, there’s a surprisingly useful launch bar built right into every copy of Windows (I’m NOT talking about the Quick Launch bar, which is just plain lame), and I’m surprised that I’ve never seen you or anyone else mention it.

How would you like a program launcher that integrates seamlessly into your task bar with a simple right-click?; How would you like to be able to drag and drop anything you want onto it, including shortcuts, programs, documents, or folders, and even customize the icons?; How would you like those folders to become fly-out menus when you click on them, as many layers deep as you like?;Believe it or not, IE’s Links toolbar does all of that quite well when it’s on the Windows Task Bar, and it works even if you don’t use IE;if you have a different browser set as your default browser, internet shortcuts in the Links bar will open in that browser instead of IE (when launched from the task bar instead of from inside IE).

I have my task bar set two levels high, with one level for open programs and the other level for the Links bar. On the Links bar I have shortcuts to all of the programs, websites, and folders that I use regularly, and those shortcuts are all organized into fly-out menus (folders) who’s icons I’ve customized so I can tell them apart without having to have the text names showing. If you don’t have need of as many shortcuts and menus as I do you can simply replace the Quick Launch bar with the Links bar, and organize everything into much less space. It’s worked great for years, and so far I’ve never found anything that worked enough better to be worth changing. Thanks for a GREAT newsletter!; I’m an IT consultant and have been a PLUS subscriber for years, and many of my most valuable tools and tricks have come from your newsletter. —John McCurdy

Thanks, John! We have covered that, but it was a long time ago; it’s good that you brought it up again!

Windows’ Toolbars are, as you imply, underutilized and underappreciated UI resources that enable you to customize and transform your desktop in powerful ways. (Access the Toolbars menu by right-clicking on the Taskbar and choosing Toolbars.)

Everything in a Toolbar is a shortcut, file or folder, but viewable and usable in different ways, depending on which kind of Toolbar you choose. Each of the various Toolbars— Address, Links, Quick Launch, etc.— has different functions and limitations. For example, Links and Quick Launch Toolbars are similar in that every item on them is a shortcut. But they’re different in that, by default, Links has shortcut labels and Quick Launch doesn’t. (You can change this default behavior of each by right-clicking and selecting or deselecting Show Text.) Links shortcuts you create on the Taskbar automatically show up on the Links Toolbar in Internet Explorer and visa versa. Quick Launch shortcuts don’t.

At the bottom of the Toolbars menu you’ll find a New Toolbar item. When you select it, you’re shown a dialog box with a cascading menu of your system. You can drill down to choose any drive or folder on your PC, including My Computer and My Documents. Choosing a folder will use the folder name as the name of the Toolbar, and display the contents of that folder as Toolbar items. But watch out! These are not shortcuts. the New Toolbar option gives you a secondary view of actual files and folders. When you rename or delete items created with the New Toolbar feature, you really do rename or delete the actual files. (When you rename or delete items on the Links and Quick Launch Toolbars, conversely, you modify only the shortcuts— the original files aren’t touched.)

You’ll find other Toolbars on the menu: at the least an Address Toolbar for quick-launching Web pages, probably a Windows Media Player Toolbar, possibly an iTunes Toolbar, and maybe others.

These are the basic facts about Toolbar behavior. Here are a few nice Toolbar tips.

Your Toolbars can be separated from the Taskbar by dragging and dropping the dotted slider bar at left onto the desktop (right-click on an empty part of the Taskbar and deselect "lock the Taskbar" if you find a check-mark there).

By dropping Toolbars onto the desktop, they become just like other open windows. By dropping one Toolbar on top of the other, you join them both into a single window. Go ahead and drop as many Toolbars as you like into that window, and adjust sizing and placement of each by dragging the sliders. Experiment with combinations of large and small icons, text and no text and whether individual Toolbars show their labels (all with the right-click Context menu).

"Dock" them to the left, right, top or bottom of your screen by dragging and dropping them to the edge of your choice. Make them pop-out "menus" by right-clicking on the docked Toolbars and choosing both Always On Top and Auto-Hide.

Make the Desktop a pop-out menu, and hide icons on your real desktop (right-click on the Desktop, and choose Arrange Icons By/Show Desktop Icons). You can still drag and drop to the desktop, but you won’t see the icons until you pop out your "Desktop" Toolbar. The advantage of this is that you can access desktop items without closing any windows you have open.

Here’s another useful Toolbar tip:

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10) Code Load Success Story

After his site was listed in a "Load The Code" section, code-loader John Carson wrote:

Hi Fred, Just a quick Load the Code success story. My site appeared in your e-newsletter; my visitors jumped [twentyfold]! Many thanks, John Carson

Do you have a home page or website? (It doesn’t matter what size.) Please click over to , and maybe you can join the thousands of LangaList readers who have "Loaded the Code!" (If you’ve already "Loaded The Code" and are wondering if your site will appear here or on the Langa.Com web site, please see )

Speaking of which: Here’s another eclectic sample of reader sites— some professional, some very personal:

View A Randomly-Chosen Reader Site

Manually Browse All Posted-to-Date Sites Starting At

Pat Rosenheim, PC Mechanic (Mass.)

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.