How to improve and improve the Windows 11 taskbar

Tweak the taskbar with a third-party tool

Like the Start menu, the taskbar in Windows 11 has gotten a thumbs-down from many people, mainly because it’s much less customizable than its Windows 10 counterpart. In Windows 10, you can move the taskbar to any of the four sides of the screen, combine taskbar buttons, resize the buttons, and increase the height of the taskbar itself. None of those capabilities are available in Windows 11, at least not in the current version.

If you want a more robust and easy-to-use taskbar in Windows 11, there are several changes you can make to the operating system itself. If that doesn’t work, you can try a third-party tool to further improve the taskbar. Let’s take a look at your options.

Tweak the taskbar

First, you should check out the different ways to customize the taskbar so that it looks and works according to your preferences. Right-click an empty area of ​​the taskbar and select Taskbar Settings. Here you can remove icons for certain programs you never use so that they don’t waste space. These include Search, Task View, Widgets, and Chat. Turn off the switch for those you don’t want to see (Figure 1

Enable or disable taskbar icons

Scroll further down. In the next section, you can add a pen or stylus menu, touch keyboard, and virtual touchpad to the taskbar. If you’re using a hybrid touchscreen PC without a mouse or keyboard, you may want to enable these features. Otherwise leave them disabled (Figure 2

Enable options for hybrid touchscreen device

Next in the list is the notification area, which appears on the right side of the taskbar. Normally, you need to click the up arrow in the system tray to view and access the icons for all your startup programs and other functions. But if there are certain ones you want to see right away, turn on their switches. For example, I like to see the icon for OneDrive right in the system tray so I can check file sync and other elements of the program (figure 3

Manage the system tray

Then you can manage the behavior of the taskbar. I like to change the alignment to the left and automatically hide the taskbar. Those are the two most important settings for me, although I leave the others enabled as well (Figure 4

Change the alignment and hide the taskbar

Pin icons to the taskbar

You cannot currently drag and drop icons to the Windows 11 taskbar as you can in Windows 10. But you can pin your favorite programs to the taskbar. Click the Start button. In the Pinned apps section, locate the program you want to add to the taskbar, right-click it and select Pin to taskbar. In the All apps list, right-click the program, go to More, and then select Pin to taskbar. You can then drag and drop icons across the taskbar to arrange them in the order you want (Figure 5

Pin icons to the taskbar

Change the color and appearance of the taskbar

But wait, you can do more with the taskbar, especially in terms of appearance. Go to Settings > Personalization > Colors† To make the taskbar translucent against your current wallpaper background, toggle the transparency effects switch (Figure 6

Make the taskbar transparent

Then you can add an accent color to the Start menu and taskbar. Click the drop-down menu for Accent Color and change it to manual. Then select your desired accent color from the palette (Figure 7

Choose an accent color

To paint only the Start menu, taskbar, and certain elements dark, click the drop-down menu for: Choose your mode and change it to Custom. Click the drop-down menu for: Choose your default Windows mode and set it to Dark. Leave the setting for Choose your default app mode to light (Figure 8

Switch to dark mode

Third-party tweaks

Some registry hacks claim to change certain elements of the taskbar such as its position and height. But they don’t always work reliably or consistently, especially as Microsoft continues to tweak Windows 11 to prevent certain tweaks. If you want to do more radical operations on the taskbar than the icons and appearance, it’s best to use a third-party tool.

You can change certain aspects of the taskbar with two Start menu replacement programs, namely Start11 and StartAllBack, which I wrote about in my column on “Replace your Windows 11 Start menu with a third-party app

But another program that I especially like is ExplorerPatcher, which offers several useful ways to enhance the taskbar. To download this free utility, browse to its GitHub page and click on the link for Download the latest version of the installer† Once installed, open the program from the All apps menu.

The first option in ExplorerPatcher’s Properties menu is for the taskbar. Here you can change the style of the taskbar in Windows 10, choose how and when to combine taskbar buttons, resize taskbar buttons, and move the taskbar to one side of the screen. After making your changes, click the link for Restart File Explorer and the changes will take effect (Figure 9

Tweak the taskbar with a third-party tool

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