Customizing Windows

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Using and adjusting program grouping

Customizing the Taskbar
The Windows XP taskbar has many new features, such as the ability to group programs and the new system tray that automatically hides icons that are not active. On top of these new features, there were enhancements such as new animations and graphical refinements that make the taskbar look so much better.

The taskbar normally is used to switch between active programs and provides some system information, such as the current time and other system events in the system try. Now it can be used for so much more, as you will see in the next few sections.

Using and adjusting program grouping
The program grouping feature can be very useful, or it can be an annoyance.When you have more than just a few programs open, the taskbar can become cluttered.To fight this, as the taskbar fills up, programs that have more than one window open are grouped together. If you have a bunch of Internet Explorer windows open, they will all be grouped together into one entry on the taskbar. Then, if you want to switch between them or close one, you have to select the entry on the taskbar and a new menu will pop up showing you all of the different windows open for the specific application.

One great feature of grouping is it gives you the ability to close several windows at once.When all of the Internet Explorer windows are grouped together, you can just right-click the entry on the taskbar and select Close Group. Doing so will automatically close all of the browser windowsat once.

The downside to this is it takes an extra step to navigate through the grouped program items. Some people do not like this option very much and would rather have a taskbar that is more cluttered, because they will be able to switch between programs faster.

You can do a number of different things to customize this feature. Using a program called Tweak UI, which is a PowerToy released by Microsoft for Windows XP, you can easily change the behavior of how programs are grouped. But first, I am going to show you how to enable program grouping, if it is not set up on your computer. You’ll also find out how to disable it, if you do not like it. Follow these steps to enable/disable program grouping:

1. Right-click a blank part of the taskbar and select Properties.

2. This will bring up the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window that you used previously. This time, you are going to be concerned with what is on the Taskbar tab. Locate the Group Similar Taskbar Buttons item in the taskbar appearance section.

3. Check the box to enable this feature and uncheck to disable.

4. Click OK to save your changes.

Now that you have the feature turned on, you are ready to use Tweak UI to customize the way
it behaves. First, download a copy of Tweak UI from Microsoft’s PowerToys Web site, located at Make sure that you download the normal version of Tweak UI and not the version for Itanium-based systems unless you have a 64-bit system.When you have Tweak UI installed, follow these steps:

1. Launch Tweak UI by clicking the Start button, selecting All Programs, and then PowerToys for Windows XP.

2. When Tweak UI is started, expand Taskbar and Start Menu and select Grouping.

3. You will be shown three different options that determine the behavior of the grouping feature. Group Least Used Applications First will group the applications that are the oldest on the taskbar and have more than one window open. Group Applications With The Most Windows First will just group programs that have the most windows open when the taskbar starts to become cluttered. Group Any Application With At Least X Windows is the setting that gives you the most control over grouping. Select this behavior and then enter the number of windows an application must have open before they are grouped. I personally prefer this feature and set it to a value of 4 so that when I have a lot of Internet Explorer windows open, I can still switch between them quickly when I have a few open, but it groups them when I have a lot open so my taskbar is not all cluttered.

4. Once you have selected the behavior you prefer, click the OK button on the bottom of the window to save your changes.

Once you log off and back on or reboot, your changes will be active.

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