The standard method to access applications and folders in Windows is through the Start menu. However, there are two other methods that give you quicker access, the Quick Launch toolbar and Desktop icons. The quickest access is provided by the Quick Launch toolbar.
The Quick Launch toolbar is located on the taskbar just to the right of the Start menu. Quick Launch is faster than the Start menu because its never covered by an apllication window (if you've configured the Taskbar to stay on top), and you need only to single-click on an icon in the Quick Launch toolbar to launch the application or open the folder. You don't have to wait for a menu to open and cascade.
Note: On Windows XP, if the Quick Launch toolbar is not visible, right-click on the Taskbar to open the "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" dialog box. Set the checkbox next to "Show Quick Launch". Click on the OK button.
The drawback to the Quick Launch toolbar is that all of the icons on the toolbar may not be visible. The double right arrows on the right side of the toolbar indicate that it contains more icons than are visible.
Note: The taskbar is extremely flexible. You can relocate it to the top or side of the screen and make it much larger. You can make the Quick Launch toolbar larger by using the mouse to grab and drag the handle on it's right side, but I prefer to leave as much screen space available for application windows as possible, and as much taskbar space available for active application icons as possible. Therefore, the best configuration for the taskbar is the default setting; one row high at the bottom of the screen with four Quick Launch icons visible.
To put an icon on the Quick Launch toolbar, drag and drop the application's icon over the Quick Launch toolbar. To remove an icon from the Quick Launch toolbar drag the icon to the Recycle Bin, or right-click on the icon and select "Delete" in the popup menu.
Which four icons should you place on the Quick Launch toolbar? It depends upon how you work and your own preference. I prefer the following four:
1. Show Desktop. This icon is already on the Quick Launch toolbar by default. Clicking on this icon minimizes all windows, giving you access to the desktop, where you should have icons to access your second most important applications and folders.
2. Internet Explorer, or your favorite Web browser.
3. Windows Explorer. A more sophisticated file management tool than "My Computer".
4. Microsoft Word, or your favorite Word Processing application.
The Quick Launch toolbar gives you quick access to your most commonly used applications because its never covered by an apllication window and you need only to single-click on an icon in the Quick Launch toolbar to launch the application.
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