Understanding the Notification Area

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 11, 2015)

1

One of the key elements of controlling Windows is understanding how to use the taskbar. The taskbar actually is made up of several different sections, and the rightmost of these sections is known as the Notification Area. (You'll sometimes see this area called the System Tray, which is what it was called in earlier versions of Windows. These days, Microsoft prefers the term Notification Area. Who knows why!)

The Notification Area consists of small icons that each represent a program or service that is running in the background. (This is an important point—the icons represent already running, active programs.) For example, you may see an icon there for your sound system or for an anti-virus program you have running. You can get an idea of what an icon represents by simply moving the mouse pointer over the icon and leaving it there for a short time. Windows then helpfully displays information about the program, and perhaps some actions you can take with it. You can also see actions (depending on the icon or program) by right-clicking the icon to display a Context menu.

The icons shown in the Notification Area will vary from system to system. The reason for this is simple: Each system will have different programs installed and different services activated. It is also possible for there to be more icons in the Notification Area than what can be easily displayed. If this is the case, look for an upward-pointing arrow at the left side of the Notification Area. If it is there and you click it, then you'll see the other available icons appear and you can select them, as desired.

Since the icons in the Notification Area represent running programs, those programs may have the need to periodically communicate with you. If that is the case, you may see small notifications appear over the communicating icon, or you may see what looks like message boxes appear. Mostly these messages are to notify you of something happening (thus the term Notification Area), and you can often take note and ignore the messages. (Many messages are only displayed for a short time and then they go away.)

It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that since the Notification Area is at the right side of the taskbar, it is also at the bottom of the desktop. This is a no-brainer in Windows 7, but Windows 8 saw the introduction of the Start screen. On Windows 8 you can only see the Notification Area if you first display the desktop; it isn't visible when viewing the Start screen.

 This tip (12432) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Printing AutoText Entries

If you want to print a list of the AutoText entries on your system, you can do so quickly by making one change on the Print ...

Discover More

Fixing the Decimal Point

Don't want to always type the decimal point as you enter information in a worksheet? If you are entering information that ...

Discover More

Hiding Formatting Changes in Track Changes

Word can easily (and handily) keep track of changes you make in your document. You may not want all your changes tracked, ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Pin Items to the Taskbar

You can improve your efficiency at managing your applications through effective use of the taskbar. This tip shows you how to ...

Discover More

Displaying the Start Menu Using the Keyboard

Need to get to the Start menu, but hate taking your hands off the keyboard? Here are two quick ways you can display the Start ...

Discover More

Pinning a File to the Taskbar

In an effort to make your computer use more efficient you can pin non-executable files to the taskbar for easy access. This ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven more than 5?

2015-05-25 05:14:49

Alan Pink

Unlike your last sentence, on my Windows 8.1 system, I can see the Notification Area on the Start screen.
I simply move my mouse pointer to the bottom edge of the screen and the taskbar appears where it is possible to launch programs from their icons, see and use the Notification area etc.
I think that this was not possible in Windows 8.


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.