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Windows 7 – Pinning Applications to the Task Bar



In Windows XP you could pin shortcuts to your favourite applications to the start menu. Windows 7 has taken that concept a couple of steps further. I’m lumping the discussion of this set of Windows enhancement under the title Pinning Applications to the Task Bar because I became aware of that capability before I found that Start Menu shortcuts share some features with taskbar shortcuts.


Windows XP had a Recent Documents folder on the Start menu. Well-behaved applications added the name of each document you worked on with the application. That way it was possible to re-open recent work without a lot of hunting. Recent Documents worked well enough, unless, you worked a larger number of different of, say, Word documents, regularly and perhaps only the occasional Excel Workbook.  In situations like that, the Excel Workbook may have been forced off the Recent Documents list because the list contained a large number of Word and other non-excel entries. In that case, it took just a bit longer to open the file you want to work with because you would first have to open the application and then locate the document you want in the application’s internal recent documents list.

In Windows 7, if you pin an application to the task bar, you will always see a shortcut to the application on the task bar. You don’t have to have it pinned to the start menu (although you can, if you wish). The secret lies in right clicking the application icon on the Task Bar.

The graphic shows the shortcut menu I get when I right-PinToTaskBarclick the Excel icon that I have pinned to the taskbar. Notice that the list is divided into three parts. The recent section lists the last few Excel workbooks I have worked on. Just as with the Windows XP Recent Documents folder, this list can fill up so that if I work on enough different workbooks, the one I want may no longer appear in this list.

That’s where the top section comes into play. Right now, I have three workbooks pinned to My Excel recent documents list. I edit the Spammers one almost daily so it is not likely to disappear. The other two, on the other had, I may not need to work with for extended periods. I have pinned them to this menu by right-clicking on the one I want and selecting Pin to the list. You don’t even need to right click an entry to pin it. When you point you mouse at an entry, you will see a push-pin icon on the right. Click that icon and the document is immediately pinned to the list.pushpin

In my opinion, this feature is a great innovation. Instead of having a single Recent Documents folder, Windows 7 gives you separate recent document lists, each dedicated to a single application.

This idea carries over to the Start Menu. However, instead of requiring you to right click an application icon, the list is available as a cascaded menu that appears when you hover over a Start menu item. Look of the little black triangle to the right of the application name.

Here is a graphic of my Start Menu where I have hovered my mouse over the Microsoft Excel entry. Notice that this is the same recent documents list that I opened by right-clicking the Excel taskbar icon.

pinned Start Menu

On a document by document basis, the application pinning and dedicated recent documents lists feature of Windows 7 won’t save you much time per document. But if you work on a large number of different documents from a variety of applications, those tiny per document savings can add up leaving your more time to do productive work on your documents and less time just trying to track theme down so you can work on them.

2 Responses to “Windows 7 – Pinning Applications to the Task Bar”

  • However a problem can arise when the user pins an Access FE file which is updated by the developer on a server. This, of course, depends on what tool is being used to update the Access FE file. Bob Larson’s Auto Updater should handle this situation as is. The Auto FE Updater will handle this “opportunity” in the next few days with the next release of the utility.

  • GlennLloyd:

    Thank you for pointing that out Tony.