Tutorial Thursday

Grouping similar Taskbar buttons in Windows is either a feature you love or hate. It’s nice because when your Taskbar starts to get full it will start grouping applications together to conserve space. For example, if you have 10 Firefox windows open at a time they will only show up as a single button on the Taskbar if you have grouping enabled.

This may not only help reduce clutter in your Taskbar, but for some people it could help maintain their sanity. The only thing is that the grouping of similar buttons will only occur once crowding sets in on the Taskbar. Don’t worry, it’s actually possible to let the feature kick in regardless of how full your Taskbar is. Just look at this screenshot I took after applying the tweak I’m about to show you:

taskbar group

It grouped the two Windows Explorer windows into a single button despite there being nothing else on the Taskbar. Feel free to proceed if you’re running Windows XP or Vista…

–Customizing Taskbar Grouping–

  1. To simplify the process we’ve created this registry file that you can download (advanced users can find the registry information toward the end of the article). After you download that go ahead and extract the file. If you double-click on it right away it will set the Taskbar to start grouping when two or more of the same applications are open.

    If you want to change it to, for example, group only when there are three or more of the same applications open you’ll need to edit the file. To do this right-click on the TaskbarGroupSize.reg file you downloaded, and choose the Edit option. You would replace the “2” with a “3” in this case resulting in the line looking like this:


    Similarly setting the value to “0” will force the Taskbar grouping to return to the default method.

  2. Now you need to enable the setting. If you feel like killing some time you could restart your computer or logoff, but it’s probably easier to just re-enable the option in the Taskbar properties. To do this right-click on the Taskbar and choose the Properties option. Uncheck the Group similar taskbar buttons option if it is already checked, and then click Apply. Now check the Group similar taskbar buttons box, and click OK:
    taskbar group option
  3. The feature should now be enabled. If you didn’t modify the Registry setting in Step 1 you should see that any two similar windows will be grouped together regardless of how much space is being occupied in the Taskbar:
    taskbar group
  4. You can go back and modify the Registry setting in Step 1 at anytime. Running it again will merely overwrite the current value, and setting it to “0” will return the grouping back the Windows default method.

–Advanced Users–

If you’re an advanced user and know your way around the Windows Registry you can create the necessary value yourself. You’ll need to navigate to this location:

HKEY_CURRRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced

Then you’ll need to create a new DWORD (32-bit) value called TaskbarGroupSize there. A value of “0” will disable the feature, while a larger numerical setting (2 or higher) will initiate the grouping when that number of similar windows is open.


So now I’m curious… how many of you use Taskbar grouping in the first place? I generally don’t use it, but I know a lot of people who do. Drop us a comment below with your thoughts.