Using Windows without the Taskbar

This blog post provides suggestions for reducing reliance on the taskbar in Microsoft Windows.

The Microsoft Windows user interface seems to encourage use of the mouse, but I prefer the keyboard. While there are specific functions for which the mouse is optimal, in addition to causing physical discomfort and even the potential for injury, moving one hand from the keyboard to the mouse interferes with process flow and can reduce productivity.

The biggest culprit may be the taskbar. It seems logical to click the Start button and the taskbar icons. You can press the Windows key or Ctrl+Esc to activate the Start menu. You can use the following technique to avoid clicking the taskbar icons.

Arrange the taskbar icons in order by the frequency with which you use the programs. For example, I use Windows Terminal, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Visual Studio most, so these are the first four icons on my taskbar. I can activate them by pressing Windows+1-4, so I can always get back to Windows Terminal running a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) Bash shell by pressing Win+1.

Some features and applications require interaction through tray (“notification area”) icons. For example, the tray contains an icon to control the audio volume. I create shell scripts that provide shortcuts to commands that expose equivalent functionality.

explorer.exe ms-settings:apps-volume

In the dialog that appears, the arrow keys control the volume; Home and End mute or maximize the volume; Alt+F4 closes the window.

Here is a command for working with removable devices, for which the tray provides another icon:

explorer.exe shell:::{F5FB2C77-0E2F-4A16-A381-3E560C68BC83}

You can look up codes for functions online, such as at WSL Script: Access Windows Functions by Code (linkedin.com).

To encourage yourself to reduce use of the taskbar, you can hide it.

Win+R

explorer.exe ms-settings:taskbar

Tab,Tab,Tab,Space,Alt+F4

This sequence uses the Windows run dialog (Win+R) to open Taskbar Settings (explorer.exe ms-settings:taskbar), set Automatically hide taskbar in desktop mode to Yes (Tab,Tab,Tab,Space), and close the window (Alt+F4).

When the taskbar is hidden, you cannot see the time. You can press Win+Alt+D, which also shows the seconds, day of the week, date, and the current month.

You can either use the Windows feature that hides the taskbar when the mouse is not near it, or you can use a technique to hide it always. For example, with NirCmd – Windows command line tool (nirsoft.net):

nircmd.exe win hide class Shell_TrayWnd

Unfortunately, this technique prevents the Win+# keyboard shortcuts that activate the first 10 applications on the taskbar. This is OK for me because I generally launch apps with WSL and switch between apps with Alt+Tab, but sometimes I need to make the taskbar visible:

nircmd.exe win show class Shell_TrayWnd

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