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Bringing back Windows XP’s Quick Launch toolbar

Quick Launch ToolbarMicrosoft took great pains to tidy up Windows XP’s appearance, leaving the Desktop as bare as possible. The My Computer icon and My Documents icon no longer wait for your click along on the Desktop’s edge, as they did in previous Windows versions. Like everything else, they’re now packed onto the Start menu.

Some programs still attempt to sprinkle their icons next to the Taskbar’s clock for easy access. But Windows XP wants that area clean, too; Windows XP automatically launches a robot to hide the icons — unless you tell it to stop.

Most of all, I miss the Quick Launch Toolbar – that little strip of frequently used icons that once sat next to my Start menu. In the old days, a single click on a favorite icon in the Quick Launch toolbar brought that program to life. Windows XP’s clean new look forces users to click the Start menu and swim through its waterfall of cascading menus to find just about any program.

But when Windows XP takes away a former feature, it usually includes an option to put that feature back in place – if you know how. Here’s how to put the Quick Launch Toolbar back to its spot next to the Start menu.

  1. Right-click an unused part of your Taskbar. (Even the clock will do.)
  2. When the menu appears, point at the word Toolbars.
  3. Choose Quick Launch from the slide-out menu.

The Quick Launch Toolbar reappears in its rightful place next to the Start menu, where it remains. The two pictures below show the Taskbar with the Quick Launch Toolbar (left) and without it (right). If you don’t like the toolbar, by the way, repeat the above steps to remove it.
Windows XP's Quick Launch Toolbar
When the Quick Launch Toolbar first appears, it automatically displays three icons. Two are fairly obvious: Internet Explorer and Media Player. (Holding your mouse over any Quick Launch icon reveals its name and purpose.)

The middle icon, Show Desktop, is a personal favorite. Give it a click to immediately minimize all your open windows, providing you quick access to an icon you may wish to select from your desktop.

Since Quick Launch icons are merely shortcuts – pointers to programs and places – you can add Quick Launch icons for nearly anything: folders, programs, Web sites and pages, or even frequently used icons from your Control Panel. To add your own frequently used icons, “drag and drop” them onto the Toolbar.

For instance, if you frequently use Windows XP’s Shared Documents folder, try this:


  1. Open the My Computer program and point at the Shared Documents folder icon.
  2. While holding down the mouse button, point to a spot between two of the Toolbar’s existing icons. (As the mouse pointer hovers between two existing icons, a little line appears, showing where the new icon will appear.)
  3. Let go of the mouse button, and the Shared Documents icon appears on the Toolbar.

The Toolbar automatically converts dragged and dropped icons into shortcuts, leaving the original Shared Documents folder in its normal spot. Feel free to drag and drop a favorite program’s icon from the Start menu and onto the Toolbar, as well.

If your newly added icon pushes the right-most icon out of view, there’s a quick fix. To see all your icons again, make the Toolbar wider by dragging its border – the little dotted line on the right of the last Quick Launch icon – to the right. Can’t see any border? Then right-click an unused part of your Taskbar and click the checkmark next to the words, Lock the Taskbar. That unlocks your Taskbar, letting you rearrange its contents easier.

Feel free to rearrange your Quick Launch area as your work habits change. Right-click any icons on the Toolbar you no longer need, and choose Delete. Then drag and drop a new one into its place.

The Quick Launch Toolbar provides a handy spot to store frequently used shortcuts without having to clutter up your desktop. And that keeps both you and the tidy-minded Windows XP happy.

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