How to Restore Windows 11 Taskbar Labels Using Free Software

When Windows 11 launched, many criticized its missing taskbar labels capability. Although the operating system has improved significantly over the years, it still lacks that key feature.

As of the time of writing, Windows 11 doesn’t let you have taskbar labels. Thankfully, there’s a free solution to this: Shell Frosting. This third-party app enables you to bring back the famous taskbar capability to Windows 11.

So, we’ll guide you through installing Shell Frosting on your Windows 11 computer and enabling taskbar labels.

What Are Taskbar Labels? Why Should You Care?

Screenshot showing Never combine taskbar icons

When you enable taskbar labels, Windows makes it clear what apps you have minimized. Taskbar labels functionality is concerned with the ability to ungroup taskbar icons. When you ungroup (or as Microsoft calls “Never combine”) taskbar icons, Windows shows each app window separately on the taskbar to easily spot and switch between them.

What Is the Shell Frosting App? How to Install It in Windows 11

Shell Frosting is a free third-party app developed by the Twitter user and Microsoft watcher Albacore (@thebookisclosed). The app doesn’t do anything other than allow users to manage taskbar labels in Windows 11. You can customize the taskbar buttons by choosing from the three options provided: “Always combine, hide labels,” “Combine when taskbar is full,” and “Never combine.”

When you choose the “Never combine” option, the taskbar will ungroup all app windows that you minimized. If you have multiple Chrome windows open, it will display them separately on the taskbar, making it easier to find the exact window and switch between them quickly.

Screenshot showing Install button in Shell Frosting app

The Shell Frosting app is unavailable on the Microsoft Store—you can only download it through GitHub. These are the steps for downloading and installing the app:

  1. Open the GitHub website and click the Shell Frosting zip file download link.
  2. Right-click on the zip folder and select the Extract all button.
  3. Click the Extract button.
    Screenshot showing Extracting of Shell Frosting zip file

  4. Double-click on FrostingCfg.exe to start the installation process.
  5. Click Install.
  6. Select Yes to restart the File Explorer.

If you use Microsoft Edge to download Shell Frosting, the browser may block you from downloading it. In that case, you will have to force the download. When installing the app, Microsoft Defender SmartScreen will prevent the app from running. And to bypass it, you need to click the Run anyway option.

Now that the File Explorer has successfully restarted, you can use the app to customize taskbar buttons and choose whether the taskbar should display labels for currently open apps. You can also easily fix the Windows 11 taskbar if it stops working after installing the app.

How to Restore Taskbar Labels in Windows 11 Using Shell Frosting

Screenshot showing Shell Frosting Configuration

Windows 11 combines all app windows and does not show labels by default. But to change this behavior, you need to tweak some settings in the Shell Frosting app. Below are the steps to restore the taskbar labels in Windows 11.

  1. Click the Taskbar buttons: drop-down menu.
  2. Select Never combine.
  3. Click Apply.

You will now see the taskbar labels if you have multiple app windows open. Also worth noting is that you can manage taskbar labels for multiple monitor setups. All you have to do is tweak the Buttons on other taskbars: drop-down menu.

Alternatives to the Shell Frosting app

The Combine taskbar buttons drop-down menu in StartAllBack

Shell Frosting is not the only app that helps you manage tabs in Windows 11 taskbar in a better way. You can also use StartAllBack software to achieve the same results. Besides taskbar labels, you can also customize the Windows 11 Start Menu using the StartBackAll app.

However, one major downside of using this app is you need to buy a license after the 30-day trial period is over. The license starts at $4.99 and can go up to $11.99, for which you can install the software on three PCs.

Taskbar Labels Restored, but Be Ready to Face Bugs

Shell Frosting does restore labels and the ability to combine and never combine icons in Windows 11 taskbar. However, you may face some bugs while using it. And sometimes those bugs might appear more frequently than you would like. That said, the app will improve with future updates, and you should see fewer bugs and better performance.

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