10 tips to reduce clutter and to get the most out of the taskbar

Clear the Notification area

A thing that strikes me is how quickly the notification area of the taskbar can become a mess, filled with apps trying to grab our attention.

Illsutrative. A view of my desktop with a wallpaper of the earth photographed from the moon, and a taskbar filled with icons in its notifcation area.

If I don’t know any quick solution to avoid apps stuffing their icons in there—some will provide an option to turn their icon off (thanks so much, guys), many won’t (booh!)—Windows itself provides an easy way to decide which icons you want to see and which must stay hidden until you decide otherwise.

Illustration. A close-up view of the tasbar with a cleaned notification area.

This is how my notification area usually looks like on my desktop, showing only the apps I want to check on a regular basis: the status of my VPN, the status of OneDrive sync and the volume button.

All other icons are kept hidden, but still quickly accessed, behind the up arrow, on the left.

Illustration. Teh same view, showing a popup window with all the hidden icons.

The selection of icons will be slightly different on my laptop, showing also the Battery status indicator, which also lets me quickly switch between the power saving or power hungry modes.

How do you change that?

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Fast Audio Output Switching With Windows 10 May Update

One of the things I never liked under Windows 10—not to say I hate it—is the audio management. It’s too easy to screw things up, and it’s a pain to use be it to manage multiple audio sources (something I often need while I’m streaming: mixing my microphone, plus Discord, music and, of course, the game’s audio itself), or just to switch rapidly between my speakers and headset.

Or so I thought.

I don’t know if it is something that has been added in the latest May update or if it was already there, but I just noticed that it is as easy to select an audio output on Windows 10 than it is on macOS:

  1. Click the sound icon in the Taskbar,
  2. Then, click the little arrow on the right of the actual output source to select another one in the Select playback device list.
  3. Done.

That’s really cool! Now I can easily send my audio through my headset or to the speakers.

The only remaining issue is the lack of meaning of the names in this list. The “Speakers (3 – USB Audio Device)” is just my USB headset 😉

Edit: As Antoine pointed out, it is possible  to rename your devices. Go to Settings-> Sound Settings. Select the device you want to rename in the drop down, and then click Device properties:

Updating Windows Without Waiting?

The way Microsoft releases Windows updates means you are not certain to get them as soon as they are available: Windows own update tool will simply not see the update for as long as Microsoft don’t think you have to.

If you don’t want to wait, install Windows 10 Update Assistant, a free tool from from Microsoft that’ll install the latest update as soon as you run it, no matter what.

Disappearing icons in the Start menu?

Do you have Tiles missing their icon in your Start menu? I do, all the time. Making the Start menu slightly less useful:

The good news is that there is a simple workaround. The bad news is that you still need it, after all these years—it’s so irking it feels like the bug has been around for a million years or so.

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Old vs New Windows: the contextual menu

Microsoft is slowly pushing Fluent, its new design philosophy, through Windows and all of its other apps. It’s doing it too slowly to my taste, but I do like this design very much.

If you’re not familiar with Windows, here is a screenshot of a standard/non-Fluent contextual menu, it’s a right-click on some file on the desktop:

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