Windows XP System Tray and Taskbar Properties
Windows System Tray can tell you a lot about your computer. It can show you what is up and running, what the time and date are, whether or not you are connected to the Internet plus a whole lot more! You can adjust your sound volume from the System tray. Isn't that neat? (If you don't have the sound volume icon in the system tray you can easily add it by going to the Control Panel and click on the sound icon and put a check mark where it says 'Place volume icon in the taskbar'.)
You can put your mouse over one of the icons in the tray and find out what program or service the icon represents. You can usually open the program by clicking on the icon. If you right click on the icon you may (or may not) get more options.
Sometimes the System tray gets so full of stuff, there is no room on the Taskbar left to show you what you have open. Then you have to click on the little arrows to see everything. That can get confusing if you are trying to do several things at once and have a number of programs open that you need to switch back and forth. (You can always click on some of the icons and close the program that put it there, but maybe you want them all to stay open.)
By default, Windows XP selected an option to 'Hide inactive icons' in the System tray. That supposedly means you haven't actively used them recently. Maybe so, maybe no. I have an 'always on' connection and usually have one or more of my email clients open. I do keep them minimized when I am not reading email and so I think it is handy to have the email notification in my System tray. But this doesn't always work with my XP Pro. I had to turn this notification on. I didn't want everything to to show in the System tray, so I customized it.
You can see how to customize what to see in the System Tray by clicking on Taskbar Properties. This page has screenshots of the windows in Taskbar properties.
You can also customize your Start. If you don't like the Windows XP 'look', you can make Windows have the 'classic' look here. You can have Windows show just a few programs or all of them on your Start. Play until you have the look you want.
To get into the customization of your System Tray and the Start, just right click anywhere on a free space on your Taskbar and select 'Properties'. (The last item on the popup list.)