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How to use new Taskbar features in latest Windows 8.1 update

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June 3, 2014

Here's how to use Taskbar features in Windows 8.1 update to get the most from the desktop ...

Here's how to use Taskbar features in Windows 8.1 update to get the most from the desktop and Modern UI

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Microsoft took a gamble when it launched Windows 8 and made the Modern interface so prominent. Many users reacted negatively, and Microsoft has subsequently made three major revisions to Windows 8. Each update has made it easier to use on traditional computers that aren't touch-enabled, while still adding more touch functionality to 2-in-1 devices. Here are some tips for using new Taskbar options on a traditional PC that is running Windows 8.1 Update.

Note: For these tips to work you'll need the most recent Windows 8.1 update (KB 2919355) which you can download here. If you have Windows 8.1 set to automatically install Windows updates, which it does by default, then you should already have it.

Pin Modern apps to the Taskbar

Pinning Modern apps to the Taskbar is one of the easiest ways to make them accessible from the desktop. To do this, pull up the Start screen or Apps view, right-click on the app you want, and select Pin to Taskbar.

Right-click a Modern app to pin it to the taskbar

It's also possible to pin apps to the Taskbar when searching for an app.

Pin apps to the Taskbar when searching

You also might want to move and group all of the Modern apps next to each other for easier access.

Group Modern apps together on the Taskbar

Stop Modern apps from displaying on the Taskbar

On the other hand, maybe you're short on Taskbar space or don't want Modern apps on it at all. Well, first you won't want to pin any to the Taskbar, and you can also set them to not show up on the Taskbar when running. Right-click the Taskbar and select Properties and select the Taskbar tab. Then uncheck the box "Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar" and click OK.

Stop Modern apps from displaying on the Taskbar

Then, if you want to use a Modern app that is running, move the mouse pointer to the upper left-side of the screen and select the one you want. Alternately you can use Alt+Tab which lets you cycle through all running apps – desktop or Modern.

See which Modern apps are running

Control Modern apps from the Taskbar

An important new feature is the ability to control music and video playback in Modern apps from the live preview on the Taskbar. In the example shown below, I can control Xbox Music playback by hovering over the app icon.

Basic controls of Modern apps from the Taskbar

This feature wasn't available before the update, as shown in the screenshot below.

Modern app playback control wasn't possible before the 8.1 update

Exit Windows Explorer from Taskbar

There is a ton of code running under the hood of your Windows experience and sometimes it freezes up. Before angrily reaching for the power button to do a hard restart, try restarting Explorer first. Hold down Ctrl+Shift and then right-click the Taskbar. That will give you the option to Exit Explorer.

Hit Ctrl+Shift and right-click the taskbar to exit explorer

After clicking it, everything will disappear from your screen. Then simply use the keyboard combo Crtl+Shift+Esc to bring up Task Manager. Then go to File > Run new task and type in explorer.exe and click OK to restart it.

Restart Explorer from Task Manager

Show Taskbar in Modern UI

If you always want the Taskbar to display on the desktop, the process is still the same as previous versions of Windows. Just right-click it and select Lock the taskbar. But if you want to see it while working within the Modern environment, simply move the mouse all the way to the bottom of the screen and the Taskbar will pop up with the same icons as the desktop.

Display the Taskbar while in the Modern UI

Optimize the Taskbar on a dual-monitor setup

If you have a dual-monitor setup, you might want the Taskbar to display on both screens. For that, right-click the Taskbar and select Properties. Then click the Taskbar tab and under the Multiple display section check Show taskbar on all displays and click OK.

Show Taskbar on all displays

Another thing that can be annoying with a multiple-display setup is when you hit the Windows key and the Start screen pops up on the screen you're not working on. It's easy to have it show up on the particular screen you're working on. Right-click the Taskbar and click Properties. Click the navigation tab, and under the Start screen section, check the box for "Show Start on the display I'm using when I press the Windows logo key" and then click OK.

Set the Start screen to display on the monitor you're working on

Conclusion

There has always been multiple ways to do the same thing in previous versions of Windows. Now with the introduction of the Modern UI, there's even more. But by following these tips, you'll be able make better use of both environments on a traditional PC.

About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek.   All articles by Brian Burgess
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9 Comments

Ugh, I am simply not prepared to deal with such changes. Sticking with W7

Paul van Dinther
3rd June, 2014 @ 09:58 pm PDT

This is useful, aside from "show taskbar on all desktops" I change it to "display on desktop where window is open" rather than having all the tasks on each task bar.

People have different preferences but IMO that setup is useful enough that I think it should be a default setting for multiple monitors.

You can do it in pre windows 8 versions of windows with the "Actual Multiple Monitors" app.

Daishi
4th June, 2014 @ 12:46 am PDT

In the future Microsoft Windows will be a public utility.

Lance
4th June, 2014 @ 08:49 am PDT

Oh well ... Anyone tried the latest version of Fedora running the Gnome desktop ??? Way ahead of anything else, but then it is not Windoze, thank God

Pete_Morrison
4th June, 2014 @ 09:38 am PDT

Running my employer's CAD software at work forces me to use Windows. At gunpoint, so to speak. Zero choice.

After IT "upped" me to Windows 8, I was super-thrilled to find the "escape" button, my friendly companion since prehistoric times, getting me out of trouble after getting lost, had been demoted. Example: Me the unsuspecting user hitting the wonderful "windows" button to see the same old set of available programs, now beautifully laid out as sleek looking tiles. But these are straits that turn out to be one-way with no easy way out. Try "escape"? Nope. Still stuck in the tiles. Oh wait I see - I can now click the "desktop" tile to get back the the "desktop". What an improvement! I just learned a new trick! I'm good at this!

Way to go Microsoft, make us monkeys learn all these new tricks, never mind there's no actual quantifiable benefit for the user being added. Zero! Windows 8 is all about that, it's not adding ONE SINGLE THING that windows 7 could not do for me. No, I do not have a touchscreen. I like my hands on my desk.

If Microsoft made cars, "steering wheel 8" would now be paddles, hidden under the dash, "easy" to use after activating the logo on the screen! Hey, it's 2014 and we really can't have steering wheels that still look round any more, you kidding?

On my own time, I use - and love - Ubuntu. Its programmers seem to have every incentive to stick with proven things and not change them unless absolutely necessary. Very different from a commercial OS provider that has to re-invent reasons to upgrade to yet another new version every few years to justify its existence!

BeWalt
4th June, 2014 @ 10:35 am PDT

I love options and I love companies that listen to customers complaints and suggestions.

mados123
4th June, 2014 @ 11:06 am PDT

There have been occasions when if Bill Gates had been in the same room as me, they would have carried him out by the handles.

Why on earth is it that we cannot bring in a new operating system while leaving the old one on the computer for a sensible period of time? That way, employees can learn the basics of the new system while still being productive on the old one. (The same goes for packages such as MS Office.)

Also, why is it that we, the users, cannot have more control over the features of the operating system. I do not like libraries, but can I get rid of them? No. I have a way of working that I really don't think MS should have the right to force me away from. Car manufactures do not force us to learn to drive all over again with every new model, so why does MS think it can behave in such an arm-twisting manner?

Mel Tisdale
4th June, 2014 @ 02:34 pm PDT

Why do they have to change things as soon as they start to get things right. When will they start listening to customers and stop scaring us with claims about cyber attacks, who will bet that within in two weeks their will be no threat. I finally got used to Windows 7, I'm happy with Windows 7, so I'm staying with Windows 7. I've looked at Windows 8 and hate it, I'll never use it.

RichardU
4th June, 2014 @ 02:37 pm PDT

I tried Windows 8 and hated it.. after a while, I installed it again and used all the tricks to make it like Windows 7 (with classic shell etc)... I realised one thing, Windows 8 is in fact faster, more efficient, less bloated and less resource hungry than a fresh install of Windows 7. But that's the thing, Windows 8 only becomes better when you disable all the new concept stuff. So the improvements to the core OS are without doubt there, but the new wave windows store focused crap is just that.... oh, and i also have a touch screen laptop... still converted it to windows 7 look with classic shell. For the people wanting to stick to Win 7, I say Win 8 is better when u make it look and work like win 7 due to being more efficient.

SciFi9000
4th June, 2014 @ 04:39 pm PDT
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