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Tips for Pinning Applications to the Windows Task Bar

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One of the features I've come to appreciate about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is the ability to pin applications to the task bar. As useful a feature as I've found this, it does have some quirks.  For example, have you ever tried pinning an application that runs from the server?

Here are a couple of tips to help you work around these issues.

#1 - Sometimes you might find Windows simply won't let you pin an application to the task bar.  Most often, you can experience this when:

the application (the program's executable / .exe file) is stored on the network
an application has a specific executable name (especially those including the words Setup , Install , Uninstall , and other related names)
shortcuts have names related to documentation, such as help, readme, and similar names
A complete list of the second and points can be found in the registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileAssociation under AddRemoveApps and AddRemoveNames (Note: this is a machine based registry key that applies to all users).

To work around the first problem, you may be able to temporarily copy the executable locally to your computer and then drag it to the Taskbar. Once the local copy is pinned you can right click on it and edit the shortcut to reflect the network path. When I first explored this as a solution I tried using the Calculator utility as a kind of shortcut template, however, while it likely would have been functionally acceptable I could not seem to change the icon.

The solution to the second and third points should be much simpler and obvious -- edit the registry carefully. And remember, if you are not confident and comfortable editing the registry (and even if you are) make a backup first!

#2 - There may be instances where you may want to script the addition of a program to the task bar.  Unfortunately, in an effort to protect against installation program spamming, there is no really simple way of accomplishing this.  But, if you aren't afraid of a little scripting, it may yet be possible.  The Microsoft Deployment Guys Pin Items to the Start Menu or Windows 7 Taskbar via Script blog entry itself discusses how to do it via a vba script.  

For reference, the shortcuts themselves are stored in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar - but just placing a shortcut in this folder will not add it to the task bar.  Windows stores information on the shortcuts in this folder in registry settings, specifically, HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband (Note: this is a user based registry key and only applies to the logged on user).  Unfortunately, these settings are not easily editable.
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Author:Lee W, MVP
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