How do I minimize a group of windows in Windows 7 from the taskbar?


The Windows 7 taskbar automatically groups similar windows, and when you right-click on the grouped icon, you may get fancy stuff like a jump list or a task list, but you will also get a very small repertoire of window management options. In particular, the only option that operates on the group is Close all windows. What about the other group options?

To get a list of more group window options, hold the shift key when you right-click on the grouped icon. Then you'll get more options like Cascade and Minimize all windows.

Since the contents of the regular right-click pop-up window are dynamic, when you hit "C" for Close all windows, it still waits for you to confirm by hitting Enter. On the other hand, the shift+right-click menu auto-executes Close all windows when you hit the "C" hotkey. Doesn't save you any more keystrokes (trading an Enter for a shift key), but you do get predictability since the shift+right-click menu is pretty stable.

Bonus tip: To get the System menu for a window, you can right-click on its pop-up thumbnail.

Comments (37)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome tip! I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that since the RC came out. Unfortunately, I’ve had to hover the mouse over the taskbar button until the thumbnail shows up, then right-click on the thumbnail to get that menu.

  2. Anonymous says:

    On a related note, could you explain the circumstances under which it’s permitted or forbidden to pin an item to the taskbar? In XP any shortcut can be put in Quick Launch, but in 7 some shortcuts seem to simply refuse to show the option to pin themselves in their context menu…

    (and apologies for not using the suggestion box; it seems to be closed, and a search of your blog didn’t turn anything up on this topic)

  3. Anonymous says:

    How are users expected to discover the Shift + Right Click feature ?

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Nik: They’re supposed to read Raymond’s blog. Duh. ;)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Stuart: it’s not hard to find http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/9883079.aspx

    Nik: because they’re power users, and thereby qualify themselves as being able to work things out.  It seems to me that the mental overhead of minimising a particular group of windows is more work than it’s worth for most users.  See http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/4500831.aspx#4514264 and http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/4500831.aspx#4512379

  6. Anonymous says:

    In Vista I get all the options without holding shift, why was the behavior change in Windows 7? (In Window Vista there are ONLY window management functions).

  7. Anonymous says:

    But how are power users supposed to "work things out" ?  Is it expected that power users hold down all possible combinations of shift/control/alt while left/right clicking on every UI element on the screen ?

    Or is there some official Microsoft documentation somewhere that says "This is how the taskbar works, and this is the list of UI actions it supports" ?

  8. Anonymous says:

    @Daniel ZY

    Because they added custom right click menus that applications can use to display recently opened files etc as shortcuts to launch extra copies/tabs/whatever, or whatever the program wants to use that menu for

  9. Anonymous says:

    @Stuart: Only Applications can be pinned to the taskbar, not documents.  Thus, only shortcuts to applications can be pinned to the taskbar.  Jump Lists are the place where documents can be pinned to.  So, for instance, if you wanted to pin "Diary.doc" to the Start menu, you’d pin Microsoft Word to the taskbar and pin Diary.doc to Word’s Jump List.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @Brian: Thanks, but define "application". This is a utility I wrote myself, and it’s just an exe file. I can’t pin it from the application window, nor from the exe file on disk, nor can I pin a shortcut to the exe file if I create one by hand. What do I have to do for my exe to be considered an "application"?

    I guess what I’m hoping for is some kind of strict list of criteria which defines exactly what characteristics something must have to be pinnable… somewhere, deep inside the windows code, somebody must have written that "if" statement, right?

  11. Anonymous says:

    "Doesn’t save you any more keystrokes (trading an Enter for a shift key)"

    That’s true, but you can hit shift with the left hand without moving it from homerow, whereas enter key requires you to either move your right hand from the mouse back to the keyboard, or to look down at the keyboard to find the enter key to hit it with your left hand.

    (At least that’s the case for me. I guess some people have to look down anyway, even to hit enter with their right hand. And some people can probably find enter with their left hand reliably enough that they don’t need to look. And others use the mouse with their left hand. And others control the mouse with one of those eraser-nub things so their hands never leave homerow even to use the mouse.)

  12. MichaelGG says:

    Hmm, so how do you do a tile with diferrent applications? Like tiling IE and Outlook?

  13. Anonymous says:

    @googly

    Wow. As friendly as Windows is sometimes to developers I still get the impression there is an ingrained passive-aggressiveness present against us :(

    The best part of that link is the link in one of the comments of that article: http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2007/06/15/3301004.aspx

    Thus the circle is complete.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is so typical of Microsoft. Making users modify their preferences around the product design instead of the other way round. From Windows 95 to Windows Vista (yes even Vista), the user could SELECTIVELY select which Windows he wants to minimize or close EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE NOT GROUPED!!! In Windows 7, users CAN ONLY DO SO when buttons are grouped, they CANNOT Close All or select windows of their choice and Close them from the Taskbar. Do you want to force us to use grouped windows? Why are all preferences not treated equally? When I asked Steven Sinofsky, he gave me an unsatisfactory ridiculous reply: “This was intentionally removed as jump lists wouldn’t apply to multiple selected windows”. I was like “WTF! Don’t jump lists appear for grouped apps? Even if they’re different apps that we may select, why won’t “Close selected”, “Minimize selected”, “Maximize selected” apply to them?” This was plain laziness on the shell team’s part to not update the classic behavior to work with the new Taskbar and I AM DISAPPOINTED DO YOU HEAR ME MICROSOFT? I would like the feature back in Windows 7 SP1. Of course I could do the same using Task Manager -> Applications tab but wherever there were multiple ways to do things, Windows 7 now reduces it to just one way. When grouping is disabled, the ability to manage multiple taskbar items using multiselect (Ctrl+click) to tile, cascade, minimize or close the selected group of windows is lost and I would like it back please. Don’t destroy Windows classic features.

    [And you wonder why I don’t do Tips/Support topics often. Whenever I provide a tip, everybody goes on a hate-fest. -Raymond]
  15. Anonymous says:

    it’s so ugly. when i read this, i opened 10 ie windows to try out. then i stacked them side by side. it worked. after i groupclosed them all it had changed size of my firefox window where i read this article. if i would not have known about this feature i would not have discovered the bug and my win7 experience would be better :)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m one of those (few?) that doesn’t like jump menus in Windows 7.

    Is it possible to somehow get the normal right click menus to show by default, without holding shift, by a hidden registry setting or something?

  17. Anonymous says:

    @googly – thanks! My app doesn’t have any of those reserved names in it but one of the commenters mentions network shares, and my app *is* on one of those. Perhaps I need to copy it local in order to be able to pin it…

  18. Anonymous says:

    @Anders:

    As was stated somewhere above, use the right mouse button on the preview window (unless you don’t use aero).

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anders, I’m in the same boat. For me the old menu is what I use the most and the jump lists are just "bonus".

    I discovered this little app: http://rammichael.com/?proj=29

    It can reverse the Shift button. So right-click gets the old menu and the Shift+right-click is the new stuff.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Great. What if I want "Close all windows" to always confirm (I have a ton of windows open to various things), but also like to minimize all? One mouse twitch and I’ve closed them all rather than minimize. It’s just like Rename and Delete being just beside each other – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done the wrong thing.

    "Destructive" operations should get a confirmation. Close can be destructive (and Windows should always confirm since it doesn’t know), but minimize almost never is.

    And there are nasty apps the don;’t confirm to save changes… usually the godawful ones Raymond has to support…

  21. Anonymous says:

    the shift+RMB menu isn’t just for power users!

    The default context menu on the taskbar in Vista and prior was often used to move that have been move of the desktop area by mistake.  This happens to normal people all the time!  Swing the mouse a bit, and the title bar of the window is gone to the top of the desktop area, and you can’t grab anything to bring the damn window back.  Many applications remember their positions, so closing the app and restarting isn’t often an option.  Some people have been re-installing windows completely because of this.  Raymond has a blog entry about how to move the window back (RMB on taskbar, choose Move, hit the arrow keys and move the mouse).

    Now those damn steps don’t work in Windows 7.  

    I’ve "discovered" Shift+RMB after googling for a solution.  I was completely stuck for a quarter of an hour two weeks ago because of this.  My mother gets stuck in this state often with her card game.  (I should have bought her a mac!!)

    The ‘new’ RMB menu is completely useless!  Normal users are not going search for special applications verbs in there, that’s *stupid*.  Normal users that want, for example, to change tracks in Media Player will freaking go in Media Player. Same for messenger.  That’s dumb! This is all nerd bullshit like shaking windows to minimize all.  Stuff that interests no one but a PM at Microsoft.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Ivo, thanks for the link to that app, shame it has to remain loaded for it to work though.

    I’m still confused as to why Microsoft didn’t just add an option for the user to disable jump menus. Why force a new way onto users, something that has been the same for 15 years?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft doesn’t change anything!  Windows is stagnant!

    ::One Year Later::

    Why is Microsoft changing things?  Windows was great the way it was!

  24. Anonymous says:

    @RCGodward, MS can always add things to make the product different but not remove stuff. What they are doing beginning with Vista are destructive enhancements (killing off entirely old functionality).

    [“Microsoft needs to ditch this backward compatibility stuff, it’s holding them back.” ::One Year Later:: “Microsoft must never remove any feature, ever. In fact, they must retain the ability to return to any version of the UI since 1995 (selectively on a feature-by-feature basis).” -Raymond]
  25. Anonymous says:

    ["Microsoft needs to ditch this backward compatibility stuff, it’s holding them back." ::One Year Later:: "Microsoft must never remove any feature, ever. In fact, they must retain the ability to return to any version of the UI since 1995 (selectively on a feature-by-feature basis)." -Raymond]

    Unnecessary removal of the features is bad. Holding too long to ridiculous features (like search dog and desktop cleanup reminder) is BAD. Holding forever to dangerous features (like autorun from writeable media, ACtiveX, hiding file extension) is BAD BAD BAD.

  26. Anonymous says:

    MS has done things post XP to deserve that hate-fest and still not rectifying lots of Vista annoyances in Windows 7. If MS shows any signs of commitment to making sure features from an older release are not inadvertently lost moving forward and fixing the current feature-trading, there won’t be a hate-fest.

  27. Anonymous says:

    groups similar windows

    Haha. It doesn’t "groups similar windows", it groups windows from the same EXE, which is a pretty flawed idea. Which is obvious after you endure the two-clicks-to-switch thing for more than 5 minutes, if you are unlucky enough that the window you use all the time comes from an EXE that happens to own some other windows.

  28. Anonymous says:

    “Whenever I provide a tip, everybody goes on a hate-fest.”

    Maybe MS should stop making dumb decisions.

    “::One Year Later:: Microsoft must never remove any feature, ever.”

    BS. It was just another dumb decision. The old functionality didn’t hold back progress. Little or nothing to do with code compatibility. By removing important things in Vista, MS has REgressed. Ability to choose what’s in your backup? Nahhh, you don’t need that. A defrag that actually shows something? Pfft, let’s display a stupid ‘minutes or hours’ message instead that I’d expect from Linux command-line wrapping lameness.

    [“Maybe MS should stop making dumb decisions.” Should I just stop posting tips until then? -Raymond]
  29. Anonymous says:

    "Close can be destructive (and Windows should always confirm since it doesn’t know)"

    I have to disagree there.  Sure, closing a window can be destructive, but it is the application being closed that should confirm the operation, not Windows.  The app knows if you have unsaved changes, or whatever.  All Windows knows is that the user wants to close the window application.

    The last thing I want to see is a confirmation box every time I try to close a window.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and back on topic, I don’t think extending the functionality of a UI via keys such as ALT, SHIFT, and CTRL is a bad thing.  They are called modifier keys for a reason.

    As a developer, I find myself checking for them all the time when there is a feature I think should be present (either from a user’s perspective or a programmer’s perspective) but isn’t immediately obvious.  As a recent example, I’ve been playing Oblivion in my spare time lately and in that interface when you want to sell/drop an item that you have multiple of, it prompts you asking how many you want to sell/drop.  I assumed for sure that holding a modifier key while clicking the mouse would automatically do a sell/drop one or sell/drop all.  Turns out this isn’t the case and I had to find a game modification that does this for you.

    As a programmer I think that anymore this line of thinking should be obvious to other developers.  That said, I haven’t used Windows 7 a lot yet, so I can’t say whether or not I like this particular change.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Ah!  I got the system menu back.  Thanks for the tip.  Shift+Right-click on the button works too.  Let’s see what happens when I shake it…

  32. Anonymous says:

    To summarize things, we would like to have Ctrl+window selection back since it doesn’t come in the way of any other feature. MS actually has to start acting on feedback and do something about fixing them in the next Service Pack when it concerns regressions/step back from previous version.

  33. Anonymous says:

    @Nick: "I have to disagree there.  Sure, closing a window can be destructive, but it is the application being closed that should confirm the operation, not Windows.  The app knows if you have unsaved changes, or whatever.  All Windows knows is that the user wants to close the window application.

    The last thing I want to see is a confirmation box every time I try to close a window."

    I was referring to "Close all windows" requiring confirmation in the normal case, but shift-right-clicking not requiring it. Given one has to shift-rightclick to minimize, a twitch can easily select Close All rather than Minimize all.

    Now, unless the rename/delete thing has never affected you in explorer (to give an example), it’s easy to mis-click. Mis-click, boom, all your browser windows are closed. Mis-click, and that explorer window with all the files you needed but can’t find, gone. Just because you meant to minimize, you instead closed, accidentally. If you rightclicked, you get a confirmation. But shift-rightclick, you don’t.

    And, the apps Raymond are forced to support, may not give confirmation on close, either. But it seems having to have an unsaved document open just to prevent misclicks is a bad workaround. Some apps close unchanged windows too before confirmation.

  34. Anonymous says:

    There really are a lot of idiots who hold dear to “features” that didn’t really do anything.

    We’re talking about a feature that even many power users would never use.  I’ve had dozens of windows open for years and only rarely does Minimize or Close Group help me.  Usually I need a specific window from a bunch or I want to minimize everything but one window in a bunch.

    These comments just sound like a lot of complaining for the sake of complaining.

  35. Anonymous says:

    anon:  You presume to speak for all users? "We" want this to happen…

Comments are closed.