Tip: Quickly access your desktop by pinning a desktop menu to your Windows taskbar

You are working very hard on something really important (e.g. watching… Hulu) and all of a sudden you need to do a task that requires you to access your desktop. Or, maybe you aren’t working very hard on anything important (e.g. trolling dotTech) and you decide to do that one job you have put off for days. Or [insert ridiculous or realistic scenario here]. Whatever the case may be, there are times when one wants to access files, folders, or shortcuts on the desktop but does not want to actually go to the desktop. That is what the Desktop Toolbar is for.

Not Another Toolbar

Desktop Toolbar isn’t really a toolbar. Rather, it is a menu that shows all the files, folders, and shortcuts on your desktop plus a few niceties like Control Panel, Recycle Bin, My Computer, and your Windows user folder. This Desktop Toolbar can be pinned to your taskbar, allowing you quick and easy access to your desktop (plus the extras).

How To Get Desktop Toolbar

This trick is confirmed to work in Windows XP, Vista, Win7, and Win8. It may or may not work on earlier versions of Windows.

Getting the Desktop Toolbar is extremely easy. All you have to do is right-click on an empty space on your Windows taskbar, go to Toolbars, and check Desktop:

Once you do that you should see a Desktop >> appear on your taskbar — that is the Desktop Toolbar

…and clicking on the >> brings up your desktop in a menu (as shown in the first screenshot of this article).

If you don’t like the position of the toolbar, right-click on your taskbar and uncheck Lock the taskbar; then you can move Desktop >> whenever you want on the toolbar. Remember to re-lock the taskbar when you are done by right-clicking the taskbar and checking Lock the taskbar.

Conclusion

The Desktop Toolbar is nothing ground shattering but it is something that is very useful for those that need it.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this tip in the comments below.

[Thanks .TechBill!]

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13 comments

  1. Ed

    This is amazing! I have always been picky about my desktop, wanting it to look a clean as possible, but couldn’t help but have icons on it for ease of access. I had resorted to keeping all shortcuts in one folder, and a couple other folders to organize stuff in a few fairly complex trees. I’m glad I can finally just hide all the icons and have a completely clean desktop!
    Thanks dottech!

  2. Betty

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    Some how a while back I “lost” the desktop from quicklaunch. It was in the desktop toolbar, but not as convenient as from quick launch. Because of lack of knowledge/terminology, I had no idea how to get desktop back to where I liked it. Thanks to this posting, I have it back where it belongs!

  3. jevvv

    Thanks for reminding me of this Ashraf – I was looking forward to it when I graduated from Win98 to WinVista, then forgot about it in the push to learn other new stuff that had been “adjusted”

  4. Patara

    @James:

    There are a couple of options James.
    In Win7 that narrow bar on the far right of the Tray area is for the Desktop. If you hover over that bar everything becomes transparent. If you click on that bar the desktop is cleared off. Click it again to bring items back.
    A shortcut to peek only at Desktop is Win + Space
    Of if you want all clutter gone except for the active window then use Win+Home. That removes all clutter and only leaves the active window available. Repeating the shortcut brings them back.
    Another Taskbar tip is with Win+T the focus moves to the Taskbar and then use arrow keys to move along the list of icons. When the correct one is reached, hit Enter and it will open.

  5. Patara

    @Paul:
    The normal Taskbar can be moved from the bottom position in Win7. On my Laptop I have it on the right side of the screen, in Vertical position, giving me more height as only 12 in . I have the normal Start Icon etc at the top, under that is the Win7 Pinned Icons then my restored Quick LaunchBar, then my Folder Toolbars and then the Tray as normal at the bottom.
    What can’t be done in Win7 is place a Folder on it’s own as a Toolbar Menu like previous OS. I used to have My Docs sitting as a Toolbar Folder on the right edge in Vista and XP. That isn’t possible now as the edges have other uses in Win7

  6. Paul

    @James:In answer to your question, in vista it’s an icon on your Quicklaunch Bar – Show Desktop.

    To take my previous post a bit further, on my Vista machine, my Quicklaunch Bar is detached from the Taskbar, which is as usual at the bottom.

    I have dual monitors, and my Quicklaunch bar and 7 other launch bars including Desktop run across the tops of my two screens. Start Menu? What Start Menu?

    One reason I haven’t upgraded to W7 is that I would be no longer able to do this.

  7. James

    Why take up space on your taskbar? I simply dragged the Desktop icon (which I subsequently hid) so it is not on my desktop) onto my Quick Launch bar, which is on the right-hand side of the screen, with “Always on Top” and “Auto-Hide” options enabled. So, just like any new program I wish to start, if I need an item on the Desktop, I move my mouse to the right, the QuickLaunch bar pops up, and I click on the Desktop icon. So the only thing that I cannot do is view my desktop background without minimizing all open windows, but I almost never “need” to see my desktop, just a file or folder that is on the desktop..

    The question that I have, though, is I thought a previous version of Windows (I have Vista and 7 on my computers) had an option, when you right-clicked on the toolbar, of “Minimize All Windows.” Am I just imagining that? If not, what happened to that option? Or was there a third-party freeware out there that added this capability?

    Thanks for your great posts. I do like this tip, though I’m not sure I’ll use it, as it gives you a menu, rather than opening up a window as following my tip does. Some might prefer the menu, even losing the taskbar real estate, to opening up a desktop folder window.

  8. Patara

    I forgot to add that if you bring the old style Quick Launch Bar back in Win 7 then you can place the normal Desktop Icon on there. Along with all the other default ones like CP, Computer , Windows Update etc. as well as my Fav programs. I have also placed Icons for all my Drives, Internal and External and that isn’t possible on the Win7 section.
    It is the same Quick Launch Bar that is in XP and Vista.
    I didn’t like the Win7 setup so it was the first thing I researched when I installed Win7 so I could get it back like in Vista. I followed the instructions on the link below. I have had it set up for approx 2 years and never had any problems. Also did the same thing on my Laptop but on there I made it Vertical.
    I have the bar area sitting next to the Start Icon and the bar sits underneath the normal Win7 Larger Icons Taskbar Area. I use very tiny icons as have set to small. Under 1/4 inch in size. If I click on that Desktop Icon the Desktop Folder opens up.I got the Icon on there by making a shortcut of my Desktop Folder and then dragged and dropped it onto the beginning of my Quick Launch Bar.
    Next to the Quick Launch Bar section I then place my Folder Toolbars like Ashraf’s example above. So in the space that a Desktop Toolbar Folder would take I have been able to place Icons for approx 5 items.
    http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-7/add-the-quick-launch-bar-to-the-taskbar-in-windows-7/

  9. Paul

    I use Iconoid to hide all the icons on my desktop, combined with this tip to access them from the desktop toolbar. Thus I have a totally clean visible desktop, but still have instant access to everything on it.

  10. Patara

    I used to always have a Desktop Toolbar along with my other Folder Toolbars but now I find I don’t require that on Win7 with the default Desktop Bar Link that is on the far right of the Taskbar. If you hover on that it makes all open items transparent but if you click on it, all open items are hidden/removed and the Desktop is free to be used. Click it again and the open items are returned. For me it is better because it takes up a lot less space than a Desktop Toolbar, plus it is there anyway.