Do you know that you can minimize desktop apps in Windows to the notification area (system tray) since Windows 95? Even if the feature isn't exposed in the Windows user interface, it's been possible and there have been dozens of tools written to minimize programs to the notification area. One of the best ones is TrayIt! Let's see what makes TrayIt! so cool.
The notification area as its name indicates is actually intended only for showing notifications. It was never designed to be the place for long running programs. But it is just the convenience of having a constantly running program work from the tray and not interfere with the Taskbar buttons that makes so many program developers use the tray. It saves precious taskbar space when you don't want to interact with the running program constantly but need to control it once in a while.
TrayIt! is an old abandoned app that still works for this purpose. TrayIt! can be downloaded now from Winaero. It's original website seems to have gone down and it was last updated in 2008. Not all features of TrayIt! work perfectly on newer releases of Windows but its core features work well, with 64-bit processes too. TrayIt! is portable, meaning it has no installer.
- Download TrayIt! from Winaero. Extract the ZIP to some folder on your hard drive such as C:\Users\<your user name>\AppData\Local. It can be any folder, even the Desktop.
- Run TrayIt!.exe and its window will open when launched for the first time, explaining how to use it.
- Click OK and TrayIt!'s main window will show displaying all the programs you have open on the taskbar.
- Now we need to configure it optimally for newer versions of Windows. Click the Edit menu and click Options.
- Set the following options:
- Check 'Always start minimized' so the main window does not show when TrayIt! opens
- Also check 'Load TrayIt! at Startup
- Under the Tray Icon section, check 'Use single-click on the tray icon'
- Under the Quick Minimize section, uncheck 'Hold <Shift> instead of <Ctrl> minimizing a window to the tray
- TrayIt! has many other features such as permanently placing windows in the tray when they start, hiding their taskbar icon even when they are not minimized, app profiles, and some other features to modify window attributes. We will not be covering all of them - only the minimize to tray functionality.
- After you've set the above options, click OK to save the settings and click the red close button to close the TrayIt! window. Note that even when you close it, it now runs in the background as a hidden app and will load at startup silently.
- Now can right click on the Close button of the window of any desktop app to send it the notification area (tray)! To restore the app that you sent to the system tray, just click it once in the notification area.Try opening Calculator and right click its Close button:
It will be minimized to the tray at once.
To restore it, left click its icon. Right clicking a maximized window is also convenient as you can simply shove the mouse pointer to the top right corner of the screen and right click to quickly send any maximized app to the tray.
- To uninstall TrayIt!, just run its EXE again to show the main window. From its File menu, click Uninstall so it removes its window hooks. Now you can delete the application's files manually.
As you would have realized, TrayIt really saves precious taskbar space and can free up clutter. You can also hide the icons you minimize to the tray by dragging them towards the little triangle and into the overflow area. Minimizing a long running app to the Taskbar is a feature that should have been exposed in the Windows user interface. TrayIt! makes it easier.