Windows 7 computer housekeeping Organise your workspace in Windows 7
It is convenient to drop files and store documents on your computer's desktop. But, it quickly becomes cluttered. Give your productivity a boost, and organise your desktop.
Note that it is also possible to lose files from the desktop in the event of a System Restore. For this reason, it is best to keep documents in the My Documents folder.
With this guide you will learn to:
- Get your Desktop organised
- Manage your Windows Taskbar
- Effectively use the Windows 7 Taskbar pin and preview features
For more tips on Windows 7, read our guide to Recovery and Backup in Windows 7.
Task A: the Desktop
Step 1 - Arrange desktop icons
It's easy for your computer's Desktop to become untidy as icons sprawl out across it, and duplicate shortcuts appear.
To tidy these up simply right-click on a clear area of the desktop, and select Sort by from the menu that appears. This will pull out a sub menu.
You can choose to sort your icons by Name, Size, Type and Date Modified. We've chosen to arrange our desktop icons by Name.
Once selected your desktop icons will line up accordingly.
Step 2 - Create desktop folders
Another way of organising files is to put them into folders.
For example, you could create a folder on your desktop for current projects in which to store work in progress.
Right-click on a clear area of the desktop and select New > Folder and give your folder a name.
Now you can simply drag-and-drop all your current desktop projects into this newly-created folder.
With most programs, when you go to save a file the Save box will show the last folder you used. So, this time when you save a file, you'll need to locate the new folder first.
To do this, click on the Desktop icon on the left-hand side of the panel. You should see your new folder appear on the right.
Step 3 - Delete duplicate shortcuts
You may find that you've ended up with duplicate shortcuts on your desktop.
For example, you could have a shortcut called 'program' on your desktop and another called 'program (2)'; the (2) identifies the duplicate shortcut or file.
Right-click on the duplicate and select Delete.
You'll be asked to confirm that you want to send this file to the Recycle Bin.
Step 4 - Personalise your desktop
You can alter the appearance of your desktop by changing it to display a photograph, an image you've created yourself, or a background included as part of Windows.
To do this, right-click with your mouse and select Personalize.
In the resulting message box click on the blue link marked Desktop Background.
Click the drop-down menu to either browse to a picture on your computer. Select a picture and click OK.
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Task B: the Taskbar
Step 1 - Move the Taskbar
By default, your Taskbar is secured to the bottom of the Desktop.
To move it, click on an empty part of the Taskbar.
Check the menu that appears. Is there a tick next to Lock The Taskbar? If there is, click on this option to remove the tick. The Taskbar is now free floating. This means that, when you click on it and hold the mouse button down, it will move with the onscreen cursor.
Now hold down the mouse button and drag the Taskbar to your preferred area of the screen, and let go.
You can only place it around the edges of the screen.
Step 2 - Add a toolbar to the Taskbar
A toolbar is a row, column, or a block of buttons or icons representing tasks you can perform in a program.
Some toolbars, such as Windows Media Player, can appear on the Taskbar.
To add a toolbar, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar and point to Toolbars.
To try this out, select Links - this will add the favourite web links from Internet Explorer to the Taskbar.
To remove it right-click and point to Toolbars. Click on Links again.
Step 3 - Hide the Taskbar
To hide the Taskbar, right-click on a clear area of the Taskbar and select Properties from the resulting window.
Ensure that the Taskbar tab is selected and put a tick in the box that says Auto-hide the taskbar.
To see it again hover your cursor at the bottom of the screen and the taskbar should appear.
Right-click on the Taskbar and select Properties as before then untick the box.
This is one reason why the Taskbar seems to suddenly disappear, especially if someone else has been using your PC and may have turned off the Lock the Taskbar option. Also, it may have been accidentally minimised (see below).
Step 4 - Resize the Taskbar
To resize the Taskbar click on an empty space within it. If Lock the Taskbar has a tick beside it you won't be able to move it.
Unlock it by clicking Lock the Taskbar, which removes the tick mark.
Now, point to the edge of the Taskbar until the pointer changes into a double-headed arrow.
Drag the border up or down to make the taskbar bigger or smaller.
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Task C: pin and preview
Step 1 - Pin a program for quick access
The Quick Launch bar is no longer a feature of the Windows 7 Taskbar.
Instead, you can pin programs, or any file, to the Taskbar. A program that has been pinned in this way will show on the Taskbar as an icon or button, similar to the way buttons were displayed in Vista's Quick Launch bar.
To open a pinned program, click on its button. One big difference in Windows 7 is that you can position and move the pinned button anywhere on the Taskbar.
To pin Windows Media Player for example, click on Start > All Programs > Windows Media Player, and drag it onto the Taskbar.
Step 2 - Open recent documents
To unpin a program or file from the Taskbar, right-click on its button and select that option.
In Windows 7 this right-click menu also contains a list of all the recently opened documents for that program, making it quicker and easier to edit files.
In addition, depending on the type of program, the menu may also contain shortcuts to tasks a program can undertake, such as Open New Tab for Internet Explorer.
This new right-click menu is also available on any icon that is visible on the Taskbar, not just those that are pinned.
Step 3 - Preview your documents
Hover the cursor over the button on the Taskbar, and if there is a file open, a preview will appear.
Although these previews are larger than standard sized thumbnail images, they can still be too small to see enough detail.
If you move the cursor over the preview, however, it will appear in the main window.
Move the cursor back to the program button, or off the preview altogether and the preview will disappear from the main window. To jump straight to the file you are previewing, just click on it.
Step 4 - Customise buttons on the Taskbar
By default, when more than one file is open for the same program, the Taskbar will combine them under the one button.
When you hover the cursor over the button, previews will appear of all the open files. In addition, only the button is displayed, without any file labels even where just one file is open.
To change this, right-click on a clear area on the Taskbar and select Properties.
Click in the menu next to Taskbar Buttons, and either select Never combine, or Combine when Taskbar is full.
Note that with both of these options a label also appears with the button.
This guide originally featured in Which? Computing magazine. Sign-up for your trial for more helpful computing tips and tricks.