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Windows 7 hints and tips

Customise the notification area

The notification area is the right-hand side of the taskbar where icons are displayed for programs running in the background, like anti virus software. It's sometimes called the system tray and Windows Vista enables you to hide or show the icons, which can be useful, but Windows 7 goes just a bit further and offers extra customisation features. It's worth taking a look to see what's on offer.

To customise the notification area you should right click an empty part of the taskbar and then select Properties from the menu that is displayed. Click the Customize button on the Taskbar tab and a large dialog is displayed. You'll see from the breadcrumb trail (the path) at the top of the window that this is actually a Control Panel item, so you can get to it that way too.

The window lists the icons that can appear in the notification area, such as the speaker (volume control), Windows Update, the network icon, Action Center and so on. Others depend on what software you have installed.

Alongside each icon is the name and the current status. The status depends on the icon, and to give an example, the speaker shows the percentage volume, which ranges from 0% to 100%. Any Action Center messages are displayed too.

Windows 7 notification area

On the right of each icon and name is the behaviour, which is a drop-down menu of options. This consists of Show icon and notifications, Hide icon and notifications, and Only show notifications. This is an improvement on Vista's simple hide and show options.

There's a link near the bottom of the window to turn system icons on or off. Clicking this displays a list of items including the clock, volume, network, power and Action Center. There is a simple on and off setting for each one. How you configure notification icons is entirely up to you and it's nice to have more control because they could get out of hand before and notification icons could stretch across the screen.

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