I've customized my taskbar quite a bit:
-I've moved it to the top, which moves it out of my direct vision. This gives the illusion of more space working space being available.
-It's double thickness. I can't stand to have the taskbar at a single layer. I often find myself with up to 20+ windows open at once, and hate when tasks get crammed together. I also hate the "grouping" feature that newer Windows OS have, so I have that turned off.
-I use a program called AllToTray which lets you minimize any window to the system tray. Using this in conjunction with the taskbar options of hiding icons in the system tray, I am able to let Outlook Express run hidden in the background and only display an icon in the system tray when I recieve an e-mail.
-I also found a very simple program called Dave's Quick Search Deskbar. It adds just a simple white text entry box to your taskbar which can be move and sized. You can set it to launch your favorite search site (Google, naturally) to search the web by default, and you can create your own tags to have it search other web directories. For example, I can search dictionary.com for a word by typing "dic word" and just hitting enter. It's extremely useful and makes searching a lot quicker. I especially love it because I am a poor speller and very frequently use Google as a spell checker that I want to double check the spelling of so I don't sound so dumb when writing something. All I have to do is type it in there and hit enter and voila.