Windows 95 (aka “Chicago”) introduced us to the wonders of the Windows “Taskbar” as a way of managing open apps. It was a response to people's increased ability and need to multitask in Windows, as previous versions of the OS provided no ready visual indication of how many windows were currently open. Other than a pile of open windows on the screen, obviously.
Windows 7 brought with it some brilliant enhancements to the taskbar that have pretty much remained unchanged in Windows 8 (even the spirit of the Start Button is there, if only you drift your mouse over to the bottom left of the screen…) Useful functions like Jump Lists and the ability to pin Internet Explorer favourites by dragging them directly to the taskbar (see ToW #83 and #86) are all retained in Windows 8.
Like every step forward, however, there was a down side to the changes made in Windows 7 (& by the same token to Windows 8), in the way the taskbar behaves with certain apps that offer no additional functionality by situating themselves on the taskbar (other than cluttering it up). Lync and Skype are examples of ‘always on’ but not as frequently used as Outlook, which has a permanent place on just about all of our taskbars.
There are other taskbar villains out there too – the Windows Live Messenger app always wanted to stick itself there, even if you didn’t sign in – but with the groovy “Messaging” app now part of Windows 8, you could spam FB & Windows Live Messenger, all from a single, chromeless, modern, Windows UI app style UI app, so who needs separate apps to do all those things anyway?
Here’s how to banish those Skype & Lync apps to the ‘tray notification area’ (a.k.a. systray) while they are not in use. [Rumour has it that we’re going to merge Skype & Lync together at some point and call it Slync. Actually, that isn’t true but it would be amusing and certainly better than “Klype”].
If you’re using a widescreen monitor or laptop, try setting the taskbar to the side of the screen – it’s more efficient and allows better navigation for most people. Try it out by checking out this KB article.