The permanent blue stripe across the bottom of your screen is the taskbar, one of the most prominent and important elements of the Windows interface (see Figure 3-11).
Figure 3-11. When you see nothing but microscopic icons, point without clicking to view an identifying tooltip.
The taskbar has several segments, each dedicated to an important function. Its right end, the notification area, contains little status icons that display the time, whether or not you’re online, whether or not your laptop’s plugged in, and so on. The main portion of the taskbar, of course, helps you keep your open windows and programs under control. You can even dress up your taskbar with additional little segments called toolbars, as described in the following pages.
This section covers each of these features in turn.
The Notification Area
In Windows XP, Microsoft has chosen a new name for the area formerly known as the tray (the group of tiny icons at the right end of the taskbar): the notification area. (Why use one syllable when eight will do?)
The purpose is much the same: to give you quick access to little status indicators and pop-up menus that control various functions of your PC. Many a software installer inserts its own little icon into this area: fax software, virus software, palmtop synchronization software, and so on.