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Windows 8 : Getting Around the Windows Desktop - Using the Notification Area (part 1) - Responding to notification messages

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12/14/2014 7:59:30 PM

Over on the right side of the taskbar is the Notification area (also called the system tray or tray). Each icon in the Notification area represents a program or service that’s running in the background. For example, antivirus and antispyware programs often show icons in the Notification area so that you know they’re running.

To conserve space on the taskbar, Windows 8 gives you the option of hiding inactive icons. When inactive icons are hidden, you see a button with up and down arrows on it at the left side of the Notification area. Click the button to see icons that are currently hidden.

As with any icon or button, you can point to an icon in the Notification area to see the name of that icon. Right-clicking an icon usually provides a context menu of options for using the item. Clicking or double-clicking the icon usually opens a program window that’s associated with the running background service.


Note
A context menu is a menu that offers commands that are in the context of the selected item. In other words, the commands apply specifically to the selected item, not to other items. To open a context menu, right-click an item (such as an icon).

For example, the Volume icon provides a simple service: It lets you control the volume of your speakers when sound is playing. To change the volume, you click the icon and then drag the slider (shown in Figure 1) up or down. Optionally, you can mute the speakers by choosing the button at the bottom of the slider. Click it again to remove the mute. The Mixer option opens a window in which you can control the volume of different kinds of sounds independently.

FIGURE 1 Volume control slider

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The icons in the Notification area don’t represent programs that you can run. They represent programs that are running. The icon simply serves as a notification that the program is running, although in most cases, the icon also provides options for closing the program or changing how it runs. Different computers have different Notification area icons. The following are some common examples:

  • Network Connections: You might see an icon that lets you disconnect from the network, view and connect to wireless networks, and open the Network and Sharing Center.
  • Security programs: Programs that protect your system from malware (such as viruses and spyware) often display icons in the Notification area.
  • Updates: An icon notifies you when updates are available for downloading or installing.
  • Safely Remove Hardware: If you have a USB device connected to your computer, the Safely Remove Hardware icon lets you disable the device before removing it, which you do to make sure that the device doesn’t disconnect while it’s still in use.

Showing/hiding notification icons

You can choose for yourself which Notification area icons you do and don’t want to see at any time. You rarely need to see them all, so you can hide some from yourself just to conserve the taskbar space they would otherwise take up. To make choices about those icons, right-click the clock or blank area of the tray and choose Customize Notification Icons. The Notification Area Icons dialog box, shown in Figure 2, opens.

FIGURE 2 Notification Area Icons dialog box

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The Notification Area Icons dialog box lists items that are currently active, as well as inactive items that were active in the past. You can choose if and how you want to display an icon by selecting a choice from the Behaviors drop-down list to the right of an item’s name. Your options are:

  • Show Icon And Notifications: The item is always visible in the Notification area.
  • Hide Icon And Notifications: The item is always hidden.
  • Only Show Notifications: The icon is visible only when it’s active and serving some purpose.

As always, what you choose to show or hide is entirely up to you. Just make your selections and click OK in each of the open dialog boxes.

If you always want all Notification area icons to be visible, follow these steps:

1. Right-click the current time in the lower right of the screen and choose Customize Notification Icons.
2. In the Notification Area Icons dialog box that opens, select Always Show All Icons And Notifications On The Taskbar check box.
3. Click OK.

Responding to notification messages

Icons in the Notification area may occasionally display messages in a speech balloon. Many messages just provide some feedback and don’t require any response from you. These kinds of messages generally fade away on their own after a few seconds. But you can also close the message by clicking the Close (X) button in its upper-right corner.

Icons or messages that show a red X icon, like the one in Figure 3, are security-related. You can click the balloon or message title to get more information about the items.

FIGURE 3 A security warning from the Notification area

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