Managing Windows Server 2012 (part 9) - Customizing the desktop and the taskbar - Configuring desktop items, Configuring the taskbar

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6. Customizing the desktop and the taskbar

By default, the only items on the Windows Server 2012 desktop are the Recycle Bin and the taskbar. That’s it. Everything else has been cleared away to allow you to customize the desktop anyway you want. The problem is that some of the missing items—such as Computer, Network, and Internet Explorer—were pretty useful, or at least most of us have grown so accustomed to having the items on the desktop that we expect them to be there. So, if you’re like me, the first thing you’ll want to do to customize the desktop is to add frequently accessed programs, files, and folders and to restore the missing items. Another thing you might want to do is customize the taskbar so that it works the way you want it to. By default, the taskbar doesn’t automatically hide or lock, and it might include items that you don’t want.

6.1 Configuring desktop items

Windows Server 2012 allows you to drag program shortcuts, files, and folders from a File Explorer window onto the desktop. Simply tap or click the item you want to move, hold down the mouse button, and drag the item to a location on the desktop. When you release the mouse button, the item is moved from its original location to the desktop. If you want to copy the item instead of moving it, press Ctrl, tap or click the item, and then hold the mouse button while dragging the item to the new location. On the desktop, release the mouse button and then release the Ctrl key.

You can, in fact, use the copy and move techniques to add shortcuts for your personal folder, Computer, Network, and Control Panel to the desktop. If you installed the Desktop Experience feature, there’s another way to add these items to the desktop so that they appear as standard desktop icons instead of shortcuts. Press and hold or right-click an empty area of the desktop, and choose Personalize. In the left pane of the Personalization window, tap or click Change Desktop Icons under the Tasks heading. This opens the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 8.

In the Desktop Icon Settings dialog box, select the items that you want to display on the desktop—for instance, Computer, Network, and Control Panel. Several uses for Computer and Network aren’t obvious but are great time-savers.

Use Computer in the following ways:

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Manage to start Server Manager.

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Properties to display the System console in Control Panel.

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Map Network Drive or Disconnect Network Drive to manage network shares.

Add or remove desktop icons.
Figure 8. Add or remove desktop icons.

Use Network as follows:

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Open to find computers on the network.

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Properties to display the Network And Sharing Center.

  • Press and hold or right-click and choose Map Network Drive or Disconnect Network Drive to manage network shares.

6.2 Configuring the taskbar

The taskbar is one of those areas of the desktop that most people take for granted. It’s sort of like people think, “Hey, there’s the taskbar. What can I open?” when they should be thinking, “Hey, there’s a taskbar. It tracks all the running programs for quick access, and I can customize it to work the way I want it to.” Beyond the hidden buttons on the left and right, the taskbar has two main areas:

  • Programs/Toolbars Shows icons for pinned and running programs, which can be grouped according to type, as well as the toolbars that are selected for display.

  • Notification Shows the system clock and programs that were loaded automatically at startup and that are running in the background.

You can change the behavior and properties of these taskbar areas in many ways.

Changing the taskbar size and position

In the default configuration, the taskbar appears at the bottom of the screen and is sized so that one row of options is visible. As long as the taskbar position isn’t locked, you can move it to any edge of the Windows desktop and resize it as necessary. To move the taskbar, simply tap or click it and hold the mouse button while dragging it to a different edge of the desktop. When you move the mouse toward the left, right, top, or bottom edge of the desktop, you’ll see a gray outline that shows you where the taskbar will appear. When you release the mouse button, the taskbar will appear in the new location.

With a left-docked or right-docked taskbar, you’ll often have to resize the taskbar somewhat to ensure that you can easily access all its features. I’ve found this approach useful when I am troubleshooting a system and I have lots of programs running and want to be able to switch quickly between them. In contrast, a top-docked taskbar seems to remove the clutter from the desktop, and I’ve found it useful when I don’t want to use the Auto Hide feature.

To resize the taskbar, move the mouse pointer over the taskbar edge and then drag it up or down, left or right, as appropriate.


If the taskbar appears to get stuck in one location when you are trying to move it, simply log off and then log back on. As long as the taskbar isn’t locked, you should then be able to move the taskbar.

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