Show Me the Way to the Next Status Bar

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “status bar”, you might think it’s a nightclub that makes you feel important. Badump-bum-tsh.

Nope. Status bars don’t serve alcohol.

Now that that’s out of the way. Let’s look at what a status bar really is.

What’s a Status Bar?

Many computer programs provide a status bar as part of their window display. The status bar gives the program an area to show brief status messages without opening a dialog box. (A dialog box is what you see when your computer asks if you’re sure you want to delete all the files on your hard drive or if you really want it to do what you just asked it to do.)

If you are using a program that has a status bar it will be located at the bottom of the window.

status bar

In web browsers the most common status bar message is “Done” (More on what this means later). Since you’re most likely reading this in a web browser, look at the bottom of the browser window, you should see an area that says “Done” near the lower left corner. That’s the status bar.

Finding the Status Bar

If you can’t find the status bar it might need to be enabled (i.e. turned on).

view toolbars menuThe usual convention for turning the status bar on and off is to put a toggle under the View > Toolbars menu or directly under the View menu.

In either case, if the status bar is on there will be a check mark next to it (as in the example above) and clicking “Status Bar” will switch it to off. If the the check mark is missing, the status bar is off and clicking “Status Bar” will turn it on.

How Do I Use the Status Bar?

The most frequently noticed status bar usage is found in web browsers. Just after a link is clicked the status message changes from “Done” to “Connecting to . . . ” and then “Waiting for . . .” and then back to “Done”. This shows the status of the attempt to fetch a web page.

A less known but very informative use of the status bar is to a check link target before clicking the link. Hover your mouse pointer over this link and watch the status bar. You’ll see that it links to, our main web site.

This is particularly useful in evaluating email messages that might be spam or phishing. Spammers frequently use innocent looking link text that actually links to a malicious web site. Checking links in this way can often save you from clicking harmful links.

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