Quite often you might come across a piece of software that you don’t necessarily want sitting in the system tray or showing itself on the taskbar when minimized. It can be set to autorun whenever Windows is booted up, but there is no way to hide it from appearing on the taskbar or tray, not every program that sits in your tray needs to have an icon there. There will probably be no useful option in the program settings, so you’re pretty much stuck with it. If you’re someone who likes to keep their desktop clean and free from clutter, it’s a little frustrating.
One of the most common ways to close open application windows but keep the program running is by using something known as “boss key” software which was obviously originally designed to hide what’s open on your desktop if your boss is walking past your computer. This can be used to hide games or any programs that are not allowed in the office by simply pressing a configured hot key. Some anti boss key software has other extra features such as being able to hide a program whenever it’s being launched and also the ability to even hide itself.
Here we list a number of free tools which can help you hide running programs from the system tray and the taskbar. Some will even allow themselves to be hidden from the average user and optionally supply a password to stop tampering.
Outtasight is certainly a very old tool, and a few of the secondary functions such as hiding the tray and the Start button don’t work in newer operating systems, but the window hiding functions still work well. Something this tool has that even newer programs don’t is a Magic Wand option you can drag onto a window to hide it. Outtasight also has other useful options like hiding itself completely from the average user, hiding windows based on the executable file name and a password protect lock to stop windows being unhidden or the settings window being accessed.
Windows Running Applications Protector (WinRAP) is a program that is able to hide running processes you add to its list, and then only allow them to be unhidden by entering the correct password. In addition to hiding programs, WinRAP can be minimized to the taskbar, system tray or put into stealth mode which will completely hide and password protect it from the average user, with the added option of disabling the Task Manager on the task bar right click to stop the process being killed easily. The Extras menu can quickly hide all or unhide all running applications, or hide the Taskbar and Start button completely. WinRAP is a portable tool that requires the .NET Framework version 2 or above.
3. Taskbar Hide
Taskbar Hide is a program that as well as being able to hide the open windows from the desktop, it also has a separate tab where you can hide or show any number of icons in the system tray. There’s also options to hide the clock, tray, taskbar and Start button completely. Windows themselves can be completely hidden from view or minimized to the taskbar using the configurable hotkeys, while the Taskbar Hide tray icon can be locked from unauthorized changes by means of a password. Although the program is free to use, it does popup a donate nag window every time it’s launched which can be annoying.
4. Tray It!
While Tray It! doesn’t have the more useful options for stealthing or hiding traces of program windows such as hotkeys or password protection, it does have the ability to hide or show individual tray icons in the notification area for just about any application that places an icon there. A valuable addition if any running program places an icon in the tray and you don’t want it to show. This is available from the Edit menu -> Shell Icons. Alike windows can be grouped together for bulk hiding and there’s also a profiling option to setup more advanced settings for each window. A handy quick minimize will allow you to right click on the window close, minimize and maximize buttons for instant minimizing. Tray It! is also portable.
5. Window Hide Tool
While being quite an old utility, the Window Hide Tool has several options available which allow you to not only hide and show application windows with hotkeys, but also has the added options of setting a password if you want to show a window, close an application and if you want to protect the hide tool configuration window. The tray icon itself can be turned off to stealth it from the average users, or you can leave the icon enabled and have quicker access to hiding and showing all or specific windows.
Hide! is a tiny portable utility of less than 100KB that is able to hide opened windows and also allows them to be grouped together for bulk showing and hiding. There’s also an added option to password protect the showing of any window to stop tampering by other users. What to do with the windows and the grouping can be controlled via hotkeys, most key configurations are using the F1 – F12 keys. There’s also a curious option that when pressing the hotkey (default of F7) will change the title of the active window to the text entered inside the box in the window. There are two different versions, one requires .NET, the other slightly older version doesn’t.
7. Clicky Gone
Clicky Gone is less oriented towards stealthing and protecting your opened windows, but is still good at completely hiding application windows using key combinations or mouse clicks, as well as having the traditional “boss mode” which will quickly close all windows and mute the sound. Clicky Gone can also optionally automatically lower the priority of hidden applications with the ability to also add a priority sub menu, hide and “pin to top” options into the right click system menu many windows have. Both portable and setup installer versions are available.
Unfortunately newer versions of this program are full shareware, but 1.2 has a function limited lite version which can be used for free. What makes this tool interesting is the different ways you can choose the application windows to hide. They can be selected by the currently opened window, by a running process, or browsing for an executable file which will hide any of the windows the process launches. To operate the program you have to select the windows to be hidden and once the Start button is pressed, hide or unhide using the hotkey (default Ctrl+Right arrow).