What is that “Links” item on the Windows 8 taskbar?

The taskbar in Windows 8, and earlier versions of Windows, provides a very convenient place to manage your tasks, keep track of them and launch applications. Links toolbar and menu

You can pin shortcut icons for applications, even documents and folder to the taskbar. In addition there are a number of toolbars than can be placed on the taskbar to make this even more powerful.

The “Links” toolbar is one of these. It provides a quick way to launch Internet Explorer and go to a favorite site.

First you have to have some websites marked as “favorites” so you can get back to them quickly. When you are viewing a site and wish to mark it for future visits, adding a website to Favorites barclick the star near the top right the browser window. Click the down-arrow by the “Add to favorites” command, then click Add to Favorites bar. See the red arrows in the illustration. There are some other ways to accomplish this task, you may prefer another.

The “Favorites bar” will get turned on. This lets you get to your most often needed sites with just a click.Internet Explorer Favorites bar 

Before long you will have more favorites sites than fit on the bar and you need to click on the double-chevron at the end of the bar to see the rest. turning menu bars on/offYou might also prefer to not have this bar take up real estate in the browser window. You can turn it off by right-clicking in the top area and unchecking the tool bars.  Those that are checked will be displayed.

So what good is a “Favorites bar” if it is turned off? enabling the Links barYou still have quick access to your favorites with the “Links” bar on the task bar. If you don’t see it there, right-click on an empty spot on the taskbar. In the pop-up, click on Toolbars. Then click Links so the checkmark shows.

You will now have the Links toolbar. Move the pointer to the area where the double-chevron shows and click, the menu that pops up shows all your sites on the Internet Explorer Favorites bar.

You can edit the names, you can rearrange the order by just dragging the listings up or down. You can, of course, also change the size of the taskbar and the toolbars that are on it. With the taskbar not locked, you can drag the taskbar top edge to change the height, you can drag the dimples at the end of the toolbars to resize them. Here is a view of part of my taskbar so rearranged.over-blinged taskbar

Some things that are possible, are not necessarily good ideas. Having the Links toolbar, however, is very useful.


© 2012 Ludwig Keck

How do I lock the screen for Windows 8 in a virtual machine?

Aha, you noticed that when running Windows 8 in a virtual machine the lock-screen shortcut, logokey+L, locks the host system as well as the guest system. This is true for VMware Player and Oracle Virtualbox.

This shortcut is intercepted by both the host and the guest and you have to sign in to both to get back. It is a very convenient and quick way to blank the screen when you need to leave the computer.image

To lock just the virtual machine here is the long way: Press the logokey, then click on your name in the upper right and click Lock.

If you are mostly working in the desktop you can also place a shortcut on the desktop to allow locking with just a double-click on an icon.

Here is the procedure for setting up a desktop lock shortcutimage

  • Right-click on a free space on the desktop.
  • Click New and in the secondary menu, click Shortcut.
  • In the Create a Shortcut dialog, enter this text: shutdown /l – the word “shutdown” followed by a space then a slash and a lower-case L. Don’t worry, this command will not shut down the system just lock the screen.
  • Click Next.
  • Replace the default shortcut name “shutdown” with lock or lock screen for the name of the shortcut.
  • Click Finish.



imageYou now have an shortcut on the desktop that looks about as shown here. For a better looking icon, right-click the shortcut, click Properties, then  click Change icon. Click OK in the complaint dialog.image

An icon selection dialog opens. imageClick the one you like. I like the padlock symbol.

Click OK to close the Change Icon dialog.

Click on Normal window in the Run box and click on Minimized. This will prevent the command box from flashing on the screen when the icon is double-clicked.

imageClick OK to close the Properties dialog.

You now have a nice looking “lock screen” icon.

To lock the screen, just double-click this shortcut. Only the guest system will be locked down, your host system will not have to be unlocked.


© 2012 Ludwig Keck

Is there a quicker way to shut down Windows 8?

Yes there is. As has always been the case, there are several ways to accomplish any task. Let me review the “normal” procedure when using a mouse: image

Run the pointer into the upper-right or lower-right corner. The “charms” will show up.

  • Move the pointer to the Settings charm and click on it.image
  • In the Settings panel click on Power.
  • Finally click on Shut down.

With just keyboard strokes the procedure is this:

  • imageHold down the Windows logo key and press I (the letter i) – this brings up the Settings panel.
  • Press the up arrow key. This selects Power (shown here).
  • Press the Enter key to bring up the Power options.
  • Press U – note the “u” in Shut down is underlined.

In notation form the steps are:

  • logo+Iup arrowEnteru       image+image  –  image  –  image  –  image

Now for a quicker way: using a shutdown desktop shortcut. This tip comes from Ed Bott at ZDNet (The Metro hater’s guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview).

Make a Windows 8 Consumer Preview desktop shutdown shortcut.

  • imagePress the logo key to bring up the Start screen. Click on the Desktop tile to go to the desktop.
  • Right-click in an empty area.
  • In the menu move the pointer down to New and then to the right to to open a submenu.
  • Click on Shortcut.
  • In the Create shortcut dialog type this text: imageshutdown /p   Note that there is a space after the word “shutdown”.
  • Click Next.

The next dialog allows you to give the shortcut a name. You can accept the presented “shutdown.exe” – I prefer to shorten it to just “shutdown”.image

  • imageClick Finish.

You now have a shutdown shortcut. The icon may not be exactly what you would associate with “shutdown”. image

  • So right-click the icon and select Properties.
  • Click Change icon… on the Shortcut tab (it opened by default).
  • Click OK on the warning dialog to let you choose an icon from the built-in collection.

The new dialog presents a large number of icons. Choose the one you like. You can see in the illustration that I chose the red power icon.

  • imageClick on the chosen icon.
  • Click OK and again click OK to close both dialog windows.

You now have a good looking shutdown shortcut on your desktop. Position it as you prefer.

Now you can quickly shut down the computer from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview desktop. Just double-click the shutdown shortcut and the computer shuts down.

A little bit of background information

imageThe Windows 8 Consumer Preview retains the “Command prompt” program. You can find it on the All apps screen (right-click an empty spot on the Start screen).

This program, us old-timers lovingly call it the “DOS box”, allows you to invoke a large number of computer commands. Just open the app and type help and press Enter. You will se a large number of available commands. One of the commands is “shutdown”. If you type “shutdown” – don’t worry, it won’t execute, it requires a “parameter” – it will show the available parameters or instructions to obtain desired functions. One ot the parameters is “/p” which tells the shutdown program to initiate a “planned” shutdown sequence.

The create shortcut program permit a line of basic computer commands for the shortcut to execute.


© 2011 Ludwig Keck

How do I install Windows 8 Consumer Preview in VMware Player?

Windows 8 Consumer Preview works great in a VMware Player virtual machine, but is a little tricky to install. imageYou need the latest version of VMware Player, a downloaded ISO image from Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO images and a product key – also from that site.

Detailed installation instructions are given in the post Windows 8 on VMware Player on my This ‘n That blog.

Also see my post Windows 8 Consumer Preview – First Impressions for additional thoughts.


© 2011 Ludwig Keck