Basic Guide to Windows – Windows Objects and How To Customize Them

Basic Guide to WIndows Article Cover
Basic Guide to WIndows Article Cover

Introduction:

This page provides an overview of how the Windows desktop looks in all versions of Windows.

The Windows desktop in any version of Windows provides a number of components that can be fully customized based on your needs and how you use the computer. The next section details the specific components that comprise the Windows desktop. Here below, you will see my Desktop. At first glance, you may say to yourself, that’s way to unorganized, or you may ask yourself, “Why does he need all those Windows open?”.

Have a look, here’s how my Windows desktop works while doing my blogging:

Technology World Desktop
Technology World Desktop

Well to answer your questions about the Windows desktop is my entire focus. Yes, my desktop may look not like yours, but it doesn’t matter. The concepts you will learn apply to all versions or flavors of Windows out there. Just because I have a variety of Windows open, don’t get confused, you may be just starting out into the world of Windows. So take it easy and learn while opening new apps, to control what you do on the computer. Also, the less Windows you have open the faster and less glitchy your computer will run.

Without further ado, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty, and start learning what comprises the Windows Desktop.

Windows Objects and
How To Customize Them:

There are numerous components that contribute to the architecture of the Windows desktop. Whether you choose to use these features to enhance your productivity or make you a more experienced Windows users is your choice, but this section provides detailed overviews of each component broken down as part of the Windows Desktop. Each component is illustrated and explained in greater detail within the various pages that comprise the remainder of these pages.

The Quick Launch Menu Bar

The Quick launch bar located to the right of the Start bar makes it simple to launch your favourite programs without having to go through the Windows Start menu to find the program you need to run. 

Here is what the Windows Quick Launch Menu Bar looks like in all flavours of Windows:

The Quick Launch Menu Bar
The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows XP Pro (listed as archival screenshot)
Quick Launch Menu Bar is not visible by default in Windows 7. But with this tweak you can get it back easily.
Quick Launch Menu Bar is not visible by default in Windows 7. But with this tweak you can get it back easily.
Adding the Quick Launch Toolbar back is easy with the New Toolbar Tweak
Adding the Quick Launch Toolbar back is easy with the New Toolbar Tweak in Windows 8/8.1
The Quick Launch Menu Bar
The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 10 Pro
Windows XP Professional
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 8.1 Professional
Windows 10 Professional

The Task Bar

 

The Task Bar
The Task Bar
This area called the Windows task bar is the main blue application bar located near the bottom of the Windows desktop and shows you any running programs on the system. You can easily minimize, maximize, and shut down any open program windows using this task bar.

The System Tray

 
System Tray in Windows XP
System Tray in Windows XP

The system tray in the lower right hand corner of your screen gives you quick access to open programs. It also displays the current date and time. Each program opened is represented with a small icon in the system tray. You can customize this system tray by right clicking an area and then left clicking Properties menu item from the popup menu that appears.

Windows XP has a built in feature that automatically hides your inactive icons. You can easily choose which icons to hide or un hide by right clicking anywhere in this area and selecting properties.

System Icons On The Windows XP Desktop

There are several different system icons normally placed on the Windows XP desktop which can be configured that enable you quick access to programs, files, and folders and your computer. These icons are labelled:

  1. My Computer

  2. My Documents

  3. My Network Places

  4. Recycle Bin

By default. Windows will not automatically display these icons. You have to customize the feature to show them on your desktop. The process differs depending on the Windows operating system, but here is a table of steps that summarizes how to accomplish the task of display these icons.

Windows XP

Instruction set to be added soon.

Windows 7 Professional

  1. Right click an empty area on the desktop.
    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default)
    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default)
  2. Select Personalize from the drop-down menu. The Personalization window will appear.

    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default) - Step 2
    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default) – Step 2
  3. On the left side select Change Desktop Icons link. The Desktop Icon Settings window will appear.
    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default) - Step 3
    How To Enable Desktop Shortcuts (Disabled By Default) – Step 3
  4. On the left side select Change Desktop Icons link. The Desktop Icon Settings window will appear.

  5. From here, you can specify which desktop icons to show or hide and customize a picture to use for each icon.

Windows 8 / 8.1

Instruction set to be added soon.

Windows 10

Instruction set to be added soon.

These shortcuts described in the previous section are fully explained as to what they do in this section.

1.

The My Computer Shortcut
The My Computer Shortcut
This icon labeled “My Computer” is a shortcut that provides quick access to system files, programs, and accessories. You can use My Computer to access the Windows control panel as well as manage files and folders. To view information about your computer right click this icon and select Properties from the drop-down menu.
2.
The My Documents Shortcut
The My Documents Shortcut
The “My Documents” shortcut provides quick access to your personal documents on a system. You can store any number of pictures, music files, and other documents within this folder. To change the default location for this shortcut right click the icon and select properties from the drop-down menu.
3.
The My Network Places Shortcut
The My Network Places Shortcut
The “My Network Places” shortcut provides quick access to network drives and resources. You can also connect to your Internet provider using this icon. To configure network properties right click this icon and select Properties.
4.
Recycle Bin Shortcut
The Recycle Bin Shortcut
The “Recycle Bin” is a temporary storage area for recently deleted files. Files are permanently deleted when the recycle bin is emptied. To permanently delete files in the recycle bin right click this icon and select Empty Recycle Bin. For more information about the Recycle Bin 
5.
 
Shortcuts
Desktop Shortcuts
A windows shortcut is probably the easiest way to launch a program or view a file or document. A shortcut is simply a type of file that links to another file such as an application, Word document, or web page. Shortcuts can be placed anywhere on the Windows desktop Start menu, or Quick Launch bar. You can easily identify a shortcut as compared to an actual file or executable, because a shortcut will have an icon with a small arrow near the bottom left hand corner of the icon.

The Windows Start Menu

The Windows Start menu is your key to access information and resources on the computer. You can launch programs through the Start Menu, access frequently used documents, and customize the computer through the Control Panel link. You can also log off the computer or shut it down. This section provides a history of what the Start Menu looks like in all flavours of Windows.

The Windows Start Menu as Referenced Using Windows XP Professional
The Windows Start Menu as Referenced Using Windows XP Professional

Dissecting The Windows Start Menu:

Each area on the Windows Start Menu is briefly explained in the following table.

1This area shows the user account currently logged into the computer.
2This area provides shortcuts to the web browser, e-mail client, and various other frequently used applications on the system.
3This links provides a listing of all software installed on the computer.
4This area provides shortcuts to various document folders installed on the computer.
5This area provides shortcuts to network connections installed on the computer and also points to the printers and faxes folder.
6This area provides a link to the Windows Start Menu run command.
7This area provides a link to logging off the computer.
8This area provides a link to shut down or restart the computer.

Just for your reference, here is what the Start Menu looks like in other Windows operating systems:

The Windows Start Menu in Windows 7 Professional
The Windows Start Menu in Windows 7 Professional
The Windows Start Menu in Windows Vista Home Premium
The Windows Start Menu in Windows Vista Home Premium
The Windows Start Menu in Windows 8 / 8.1
The Windows Start Menu in Windows 8 / 8.1
The Windows Start Menu in Windows 10
The Windows Start Menu in Windows 10

The Quick Launch Menu Bar

The Quick Launch Menu Bar area provides a toolbar containing shortcuts to your frequently used applications. With the release of Windows Vista and 7, Microsoft removed the Quick Launch, (although it can still be added manually through the operating system).

The Quick Launch Menu Bar
The Quick Launch Menu Bar

The Windows Quick Launch Menu Bar looks different in the various flavours of Windows. For your reference an image depicting how each looks in different operating system is shown in the table below:

The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows XP Professional
The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows XP Professional
The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows 7 Professional
The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows 7 Professional
The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows 8 / 8.1 Professional
The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows 8 / 8.1 Professional

 

How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar In Windows

If your Quick Launch menu bar cannot be accessed through the desktop, chances are it has not been initialized in your version of Windows. To list all programs in this toolbar folder left click the double arrow symbol at the end of the toolbar.

The Quick Launch Menu Bar Close Up View In Windows 8
The Quick Launch Menu Bar Close Up View In Windows 8

The Quick Launch folder is located at the hidden path below.

%UserProfile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

To enable the quick launch menu bar follow these instructions:

How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1
  1. Right click an empty area on the taskbar.
  2. From the drop-down menu that appears, select Toolbars.
  3. In the next drop-down menu left click “New toolbar“.
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 - Step 2
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 – Step 2
  1. In the folder input box, type the command %appdata% and press Enter or left click the “Select Folder” button.
  2. Browse through the C: drive and locate the folder
  3. Double left click the Roaming folder.
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 - Step 3
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 – Step 3
  1. Double left click the Microsoft folder
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 - Step 4
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 – Step 4
  1. Double left click the Internet Explorer folder
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 - Step 5
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 – Step 5
  1. Double left click the Quick Launch folder or left click once to highlight the folder name and left click the Select Folder button.
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 - Step 6
How To Enable The Quick Launch Menu Bar in Windows 8/Windows 8.1 – Step 6
  1. Windows will make the new Quick Lauch menu bar appear on the desktop.

Notes:

  • You can add shortcuts of items to Quick Launch by using one of the methods described below:
  • Drag any shortcut, file, folder, drive over the Quick Launch toolbar on the taskbar until you see either Move to Quick Launch or Create link in Quick Launch, then drop the item to create a shortcut of it in Quick Launch.
  • Open the hidden Quick Launch folder above, and move or create a new shortcut for the item in it.
  • To Remove a shortcut from Quick Launch, you can right click or press and hold on the shortcut from either the Quick Launch toolbar or folder location, and click/tap on Delete.

The Windows Taskbar

This Windows Taskbar provides an at a glance look at all open programs running on the system. The image below shows what the Windows taskbar looks like in Windows XP Professional.

The Taskbar As Used in Windows XP
The Taskbar As Used in Windows XP

Here is what the Windows Task Bar looks like in other versions of Windows:

Windows 7 Taskbar
Windows 7 Taskbar
Windows 8 / 8.1 Taskbar
Windows 8 / 8.1 Taskbar
Windows 10 Taskbar
Windows 10 Taskbar

To activate a running program simply left click on the name of the program.

To minimize the active program left click again on the program name to hide it.

To close a window right click on the name of the program and select Close or Exit from the drop-down menu. You can also close an open program using the ALT + F4 key stroke combination.

The Windows System Tray

The System Tray provides quick access to all open programs running on the system. It also provides a way for your to minimize, maximize, or close the running programs.

The Windows System Tray in Windows XP Professional
The Windows System Tray in Windows XP Professional

You can view the date and time currently being used on the system in the area next to the open icons.

To customize the System Tray components, right click an area and select Customize from the drop-down menu.

Congratulations!  You now know how to customize various Windows Desktop Components in basically all versions of Windows. Remember the principles remain the same, no matter what version of Windows you are running.  You can also understand now how the different desktops look in all versions of Windows as well as understand how the Start menu, Windows Taskbar, and System Tray components work.

Software

This section will provide you with answers to general problems covering a wide range of software applications.

Windows Customization

This section will provide you with answers to problems associated with customizing a Windows environment.

Windows Driver Issues

This section will provide you with answers to help resolve device driver issues with hardware components.

Web Publishing

This section will help you troubleshoot web and ftp publishing problems.

Internet and Web

This section will help you troubleshoot common Internet and World Wide Web browsing problems.

General Windows

This section contains reference materials that will help you troubleshooting a wide variety of windows problems.

Computer Hardware

This section will provide you with answers to PC hardware specific problems such as a sound card or video card not working properly.

Multimedia Troubleshooting

Troubleshoot problems related to a specific multimedia problem in Windows and other operating systems.

Codec Troubleshooting

Troubleshoot complex problems associated with playback and encoding of digital media files in a wide variety of digital video codecs including Xvid and DivX.

Application Troubleshooting

Troubleshoot problems related to specific software application issues.

Networking

Troubleshoot problems related to computer networking in Windows.

About Mike Casimir 147 Articles
Technical artist rising upon his client tell. We cater to all audiences in hopes of creating harder working team learning environments, and want to succeed in information technology fields of study or job experiences. We shed light on spirituality, and the heavens are directed as we show choose. Our primal strength is the brain. We acknowledge all absolution from negative behaviours and even life's imbalances, we exist to charge our futures with hope and endeavours. My time is end nearing, but thought I would put the word out there to interested audiences. Please feel free to contact myself in whole through the contact form. I am a technical specialist with emphasis on creating online learning modules. We exist to become better people through learning and creative innovation. We have basic computer literacy with strong computer skills.

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