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Creating a new toolbar in Windows XP

Creating a new toolbar in Windows XP

Here’s something that a couple of people recently have asked about when they’ve seen my desktop, either on my laptop or on my home PC. Many of you may know about this; this is posted for the benefit of those who don’t.
You may see from the screenshot above that I have an extra toolbar on the right-hand side of my screen, which holds icons for my most commonly-used programs. The toolbar is always on top, meaning that when I’m running a maximized application (that is, full-screen), such as Outlook, the toolbar is still visible on the right-hand side of my screen.
The reason I do this is three-fold:
  1. I like to keep as few icons as possible on the desktop and Quick Launch bar
  2. It is quicker to access these applications from my new toolbar than via Start > Programs
  3. It is less system resource hungry than using an application-equivalent such as the Microsoft Office 2000 toolbar or Lotus SmartCenter.
Here’s how to do it.

1. Create a new folder

The first thing to do is to create a new folder. On my laptop I created this on the C drive, e.g. “C:\ShortcutsToolbar”. On my home PC I have 10 partitions, so have created this on drive H. It doesn’t really matter where you create it, so long as you remember where it is and it doesn’t get in the way of other applications.

2. Copy icons into the new folder

Next, copy your favourite icons from the Start menu into the new ShortcutsToolbar folder. You can either right-click Start and select “Open All Users” and drag and drop icons from there, or hold down Ctrl and drag the icons from the Start menu itself.
If you know at this stage which order you’d like them to display, from top to bottom, you may rename them with a numeral prefix, e.g. 01 MS Money, 02 Psion SDK, 03 DigiGuide, etc. That way the icons will by default appear in numerical order.
As a rough guide a 1280 x 1024 pixels resolution screen will accept 25 icons, a 1024 x 768 pixels screen will accommodate 18. Don’t worry if you don’t fill up the toolbar at this stage, you can always drag icons onto the toolbar at a later stage.

3. Unlock the Taskbar

Next, right-click on an empty part of the Taskbar and if there is a tick against “Lock the Taskbar” click on it once to unlock it.

4. Create a new Toolbar

Right-click the taskbar again and select “Toolbars > New Toolbar…”. This will bring up the following dialog box:

In this box browse to the location of your ShortcutsToolbar folder, select the folder and click OK.

5. Reposition new toolbar

Your new Toolbar will be created on the Taskbar. Click on the new toolbar and holding down the mouse button drag the toolbar off the Taskbar. You’ll be left with a free-floating box called ShortcutsToolbar, like this:

 Click and hold the title bar of this new window (click on the words ShortcutsToolbar) and drag the window until it docks on the right-hand side of the screen.

It’s not perfect yet, but we’re nearly there.

6. Customize toolbar

Right-click on the newly docked toolbar to make the following adjustments:
  • View > Large Icons
  • Untick Show Text
  • Untick Show Title
  • Tick Always on Top
If you have not already determined the order of the icons by renaming them with numeral prefixes you can now reposition the icons using the good old fashioned drag-and-drop method.

7. Lock the Taskbar

Right-click the Taskbar and select “Lock the Taskbar” once again.

8. That’s it

And that’s all there is to getting a customized, always-present toolbar for launching your favourite applications. There are a few icons that I always, always have on the toolbar, while there are others that get changed depending on what I’m doing. I also have developed my own guidelines for determining what sits on the ShortcutsToolbar, what sits on the Desktop, the Quick Launch bar and which icons are pinned to the top of the Start menu.
Similarly, you don’t have to have the toolbar on the right-hand edge of your screen. You could dock it to any other sides (top, bottom, left or right) or simply keep it docked to your Taskbar, as shown in step 5 above. Whatever suits you best, make it yours.

Another quick tip: take a screenshot of it, just in case you need to reinstall Windows or you have to recreate the toolbar again sometime. That way you can always be sure of the order of the icons. You’d be surprised how quickly you get used to certain icons in a particular location. I’m often getting caught out moving between my laptop, home PC and work PC.

UPDATE: Removing a toolbar

To remove a newly created toolbar, simply right-click the Taskbar, click on Toolbars in the context-menu and then click on the toolbar you wish to remove, clicking on the ticked item will de-select it.
This will simply remove the Toolbar from display, but the underlying folder will still be there so you can easily restore it at will.