User Interface: Starting, Launching, and Switching

Where to Start?  In this post, Chaitanya Sareen, a senior program manager on the Core User Experience team, sets the engineering context for the most frequently used user-interface elements in Windows – the Windows Taskbar.  -- Steven

It should come as no surprise that we receive lots of feedback about the taskbar and its functionality in general. It should also come as no surprise that we are constantly trying to raise the bar and improve the taskbar experience for our customers, while making sure we bring forward the familiarity and benefits (and compatibility) of the existing implementation and design. In this post, the we would like to provide some insight into that unassuming bar most likely at the bottom of your Windows desktop. Let’s take a closer look at its various parts, data we’ve collected and how this learning will inform the engineering of Windows 7.

Taskbar Basics

Our taskbar made its debut way back in Windows 95 and its core functionality remains the same to this day. In short, it provides launching, switching and “whispering” functionality. Figure 1 shows the Vista taskbar and calls out its basic anatomy. Notable pieces are the taskband, Quick Launch, the Start Menu, Desktop Toolbars (aka Deskbands) and the Notification Area. Collectively, these components afford some of the most fundamental controls for customers to start, manage and monitor their tasks.

Image of Windows taskbar pointing out names of various regions.

Fig. 1: Windows Taskbar Anatomy

Taskband: The faithful window switcher

The taskband is one of the most important parts of the taskbar. It hosts buttons which represent most of the windows open on the desktop. Think of the taskband as a remote control for your computer—you can switch windows just like switching channels on a TV. The idea of switching windows is the most fundamental aspect of the Windows taskbar. Other operating systems also have bars at the bottom of their screen, although theirs may have different goals. For example, Mac OS X has a Dock which is primarily a program launcher and a program switcher. Clicking on an icon on the Dock usually brings up all the windows of a running program. In 2003 Apple introduced a window switcher known as Exposé which provides a different visual approach to our long-standing Alt-tab interface (Vista’s Flip 3D is yet another visual approach). These dedicated window switchers all aim to provide customers with a broad view of their open windows, but they each require the customer to first invoke them. The taskband on the other hand, is designed to always be visible so that windows remain within quick access of the mouse. This makes the taskbar the most prominent window switcher of the Windows operating system.

Two noteworthy taskbar changes were introduced in the last eight years. Windows XP ushered in grouping which allows taskbar buttons to collapse into a single button to save space and organize windows by their process. Vista presented taskbar thumbnails. These visual representations give customers more information about the window they are looking for. While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window. Their value further degrades when they have to shrink to accommodate many open windows, which is feedback we receive from those that often have lots of running programs x lots of open windows.

The Start Menu: the Windows launch pad

The Start Menu has always been anchored off the taskbar as a starting point for the customer’s key tasks such as launching or accessing system functionality. Microsoft of course used term “Start” and prominently labeled the Start Menu’s button as such. You may even recall the huge marketing campaign for Windows 95 which featured the Rolling Stone’s “Start Me Up”. In all seriousness though, our research showed that many customers didn’t always know where to go on their computer to start a task. When a customer was placed in front of a Windows 95 machine she now had a clearly labeled place to start. And yes, we’ve heard the joke that you click start to shutdown your machine. Speaking of shutdown, we did encounter some challenges with the power options in Vista’s Start Menu. The goal was to bubble-up and advertise the sleep option so that customers enjoy a faster resume. However, we now know despite our good intentions, customers are opening that fly-out menu and selecting other options. We’re looking into improving this experience.

The Start Menu has undergone many changes over the years. One notable change was the appearance of a MFU (most frequently used) section in Windows XP that suggests commonly (well frequently) used programs. The goal here was to save the customer time by not having to always go to All Programs. Since these items appear automatically based on usage, no manual customization was even required. All Programs itself has undergone several iterations. Customer feedback revealed that people encountered difficulty in traversing the original All Programs fly-out menu. It wasn’t uncommon to have your mouse “fall off” the menu and then you’d have your restart the task all over again. This was particularly the case for laptop customers using a trackpad. It also didn’t help that expanding this menu suddenly filled the entire desktop which looked visually noisy and it also required lots of mouse movement. And of course, for machines with large number of items and/or groups it was especially complex, and even more so on small screens.  Vista introduced a single menu that requires less mouse acrobatics.

Search was another important addition to the Start Menu that makes launching even easier. This new feature in Vista provides fast access to programs and files without the need to use a mouse at all. Typing in a phrase quickly surfaces programs, files and even e-mails. We’ve received many positive comments from enthusiasts who feel this is a key performance win in terms of “time to launch”.  It may be interesting to note that Start Menu’s search is optimized to first return program results as this was viewed as the most common scenario among our customers (using some of the Desktop Search technology). Search even permits customers to use parameters to further scope their queries. For instance, one can use “to:john” or “from:jane” to find a specific mail directly from the Start Menu. Our advanced customers also enjoy the benefit of using the Start Menu’s search as a replacement of the Run Dialog. Just as they would type the name of an executable along with some switches in the dialog, they can now just type this directly into the search field. We could (and will) dedicate an entire blog post to search alone, but hopefully you get a sense of how search certainly provides a powerful launch alternative to mouse navigation.

Quick Launch: Launching at your fingertips

Quick Launch provides a way for customers to launch commonly used programs, files, folders and websites directly off the taskbar. It was introduced to Windows 95 by Internet Explorer 4.0 with the Windows Desktop Update. Customizing Quick Launch is as simple as dragging shortcuts into to this area. It saves you a trip to the Start Menu, the desktop or a folder when you want to launch something. An interesting feature of Quick Launch that you may not be aware of is that it has always supported large icons (unlock the taskbar, right-click on Quick Launch and click on large icons under “View”) as seen in figure 2. Of course growing the icons begins to intrude on the real-estate of the taskband which is one of the reasons we have not enabled this configuration by default. As an aside, Windows XP had Quick Launch turned off by default in an attempt to reduce the number of different launching surfaces throughout Windows. Based on your feedback, we quickly rectified this faux pas and Quick Launch was turned on by default again. Don’t mess with quick access to things people use every day! We heard you loud and clear.


Fig. 2: Large Icons in Quick Launch. Large icons on the taskbar have been supported since Windows 95 with IE 4

Desktop Toolbars (aka Deskbands): Gadgets for your taskbar

Desktop Toolbars offer extensible and specialized functionality at the top-level of the taskbar. This functionality also came to the taskbar via Internet Explorer 4.0 back in the ‘90s. You can access toolbars by right-clicking on your taskbar and expanding “Toolbars”. Personally, I like to think of Desktop Toolbars as an early type of gadgets for the Windows platform. Over the years developers have written various toolbars including controls for background music (e.g. Windows Media Player’s mini-mode shown in figure 1), search fields, richer views of laptop batteries, weather forecasts and many more.

One of the original scenarios of Desktop Toolbars was to allow customers to launch items directly off the taskbar. In fact, Quick Launch itself is a special type of toolbar that surfaces shortcuts in the Quick Launch folder. Did you know you can even create your own toolbar for any folder on your computer so that you have quick access to its contents (from the Toolbar menu, select “New Toolbar” and just choose the folder you’d like to access)? Apple’s latest OS introduced similar functionality to the Dock called Stacks. While I think their implementation of this feature is generally more visually appealing, it is interesting to note they recently released a new list representation that matches our original functionality. Seems like we both agree a simple list is usually the most efficient way to parse and navigate lots of items.

After extolling all the greatness of Desktop Toolbars, we must also admit they introduce several challenges. For starters, they aren’t the easiest thing to discover. They also take up valuable space on an already busy taskbar. Most importantly though, they don’t always solve the customer goal. Sure you can have a folder’s contents accessible off your taskbar, but what if the files you want quick access to aren’t located in a single place? These are design challenges we intend to tackle.

Notification Area: The whisperer

The Notification Area is pretty much what you expect—an area for notifications. It was an original part of the taskbar and it was designed to whisper information to the customer. Here you can easily monitor the system, be alerted to the state of a program or even check the time. Icons were the predominant way to convey information until later versions of Windows introduced notification balloons that provide descriptive alerts with text. Also added was a collapsible UI that hid inactive icons so the taskbar would appear cleaner.

With more developers leveraging its functionality, the Notification Area has grown in popularity over the years. Some may observe that it has changed from a subtle whisperer to something louder. Based upon the feedback we’ve collected from customers, we recognize the Notification Area could benefit from being less noisy and something more controllable by the end-user.

Show Me the Data

Earlier posts to this blog discussed how customers can voluntarily and anonymously send us data on how they use our features. We use these findings to help guide our designs. Please note that data do not design features for us, but they certainly help us prioritize our investments as well as validate our approach.  All to often we’re all guilty of saying something like “we know everyone does <x>” or “all users do <y>”.  Given the reliability and statistical accuracy of this data, we can speak with more real-world accuracy about how things are in used in practice.  Let’s look at some interesting information we have collected about how our customers use the taskbar.

Figure 3 provides some of the most important data about the taskbar—window count. On average, we know that a vast majority of our customers encounter up to 6-9 simultaneous windows during a session (a session is defined as a log in / log out or 24 hours—whichever occurs first). It goes without saying that the taskbar should work for the entire distribution of this graph, but identifying the “sweet spot” helps focus our efforts on the area that matters most to the most amount of customers. So, we know that if we nail the 6-9 case and we work well for the 0-5 as well as the 10-14 scenarios, we’ve addressed almost 90% of typical sessions.

Histogram indicating peak number of open windows in sessions.

Fig. 3: What’s the maximum number of windows opened at a time?

Figures 4 and 5 help us understand how customers customize their taskbars. We could probably spend an entire post focused solely on how we determine the options we expose. Perhaps another time we’ll tackle the paradox of choice and how options stress our engineering process yet also make the product more fun for a set of customers. Until then, let’s see what conclusions we can draw from these findings. The most obvious takeaway is that most customers do not change the default settings, which are a simple right-click Properties away. For example, it may be interesting to note how often end-users relocate the taskbar to other regions of the screen—less than 2% of sessions have a taskbar that’s not at the bottom of the screen. We also know that some small percentage of machines accidently relocate the taskbar and more often than not end-users have difficulty undoing such a state—though our data does not differentiate this situation.  This data does not necessarily mean we would remove relocation functionality, but rather we could prioritize investments in a default horizontal taskbar over other configurations.

Image of Taskbar properties dialog indicating percentage of sessions where a particular option is customized.

Fig. 4: How do people customize their taskbar? The red number indicates percentage of sessions in which the corresponding checkbox is enabled.



Bottom (default)








Fig. 5: Where do people put their taskbar?

Figure 6 provides some insight into the Windows Media Player Desktop Toolbar. The Windows UX Guidelines prescribe that to create a toolbar on the customer’s taskbar, you must call a Windows Shell API that asks the customer for permission. Looking at the Windows Media Player usage we found that only 10% sessions show that the customer consented. Even more surprising is that only 3% of sessions see the toolbar at all (you still need to minimize Media Player to see the controls). In other words, 97% of sessions aren’t even enjoying this functionality at all! Since we do believe the scenario has value, we know to look into alternative designs. We’d like to surface this functionality to a larger set of customers while making sure the customer remains in control of her experience.



Toolbar enabled


Toolbar enabled and visible


Fig. 6: How many people use the Windows Media toolbar? Enabled means user consented to the toolbar, visible means the toolbar actually appeared on the taskbar.

Evolving the Taskbar

Before the team even sat down to brainstorm ideas about improving the taskbar, we all took time to first respect the UI. The taskbar is almost 15 years old, everyone uses it, people are used to it and many consider it good enough. We also recognized that if we were to improve it, we could not afford to introduce usability failures where none existed. This automatically sets a very high bar. We proceeded carefully by first looking into areas for improvement.

Here’s a small sample of some things we’ve learned from our data, heard from our customers and what we’ve observed ourselves. One of favorite ways of gaining verbatim comments in a lab setting where we can validate the instrumented data but also gain in-depth context via interviews and questionnaires.  In engineering Windows 7 we have hundreds of hours of studies like these.  Please remember this is just a glimpse of some feedback—this is not an exhaustive list nor it is implied that we will, or should, act upon all of these concepts.

  • Please let me rearrange taskbar buttons! Pretty please?

  • I sometimes accidently click on the wrong taskbar button and get the wrong window.

  • It would be great if the taskbar spanned multiple monitors so there’s more room to show windows I want to switch to.

  • There isn’t always enough text on the taskbar to identify the window I’m looking for.

  • There’s too much text on the taskbar. (Yes, this is the exact opposite of the previous item—we’ve seen this quite a bit in the blog comments as well.)

  • It may take several clicks to get to some programs or files that I use regularly.

  • Icons of pinned files sometimes look too much alike—I wish I could tell them apart better.

  • The bottom right side of my screen is too noisy sometimes. There are lots of little icons and balloons competing for my attention.

  • How do I add/remove “X” from the taskbar?

  • I would like Windows to tuck away its features cleverly and simplify its interface.

In the abstract, we can summarize this feedback with a few principles:

  • Customers can switch windows with increased confidence and ease.

  • Commonly used items and tasks should be at the customer’s fingertips.

  • Customers should always feel in control.

  • The taskbar should have a cleaner look and feel.

We hope this post provides a little more insight into the taskbar as well as our process of collecting and reacting to customer feedback. Stay tuned for more details in the future.

- Chaitanya

Comments (131)
  1. oggyb says:

    "# There isn’t always enough text on the taskbar to identify the window I’m looking for.

    # There’s too much text on the taskbar. (Yes, this is the exact opposite of the previous item—we’ve

    seen this quite a bit in the blog comments as well.) "

    The first thing that comes to mind is other manufacturers’ solutions to this problem.  For example,

    in Mac’s Finder, and notably in the audio software scene (Pro Tools’s and Cubase’s track listings)

    the program will print the first and last section of the text, and delete the central portion.  The

    idea is that you recognise your target text-entry by the way it starts, and by the way it ends.  

    This holds true for "Holidays_Beach-03" ("Holi…-03") when looking for a file and for example

    "Backing Vocals 1" ("Bckvls1" or "Back…ls1").

    When Windows simply truncates the taskbar text-entry at "Engineering Windo…" the user does not

    know which document it is; even the taskbar tool-tip for this comments page is truncated before the

    title of the blog entry is given in full.  Granted, for Mozilla Firefox, the new middle-deleted

    version would read "Engineeri…irefox" or something equally useless, but for other productivity

    programs that put the document at the end of their window title, this approach would be very useful

    indeed.  It would certainly make navigating taskband buttons from similar processes quicker.

  2. gkeramidas says:

    here’s my take on the taskbar and one of the reasons i don’t use vista. and yes, i’ve used it enough, used for over a year during the beta process and on and off since it was released. but vista’s ui offers me no advantage over xp, sorry.

    Desktop Toolbars (aka Deskbands): Gadgets for your taskbar

    "familiarity and benefits (and compatibility) of the existing implementation and design"

    "They also take up valuable space on an already busy taskbar"

    why can’t i drag a new toolbar off of the taskbar onto the desktop and autohide it on the right side of my monitor like xp? this is much more useful than  

    gadgets. the sidebar doesn’t even offer the autohide option.

    quick launch:

    why, when the taskbar is set to autohide, do i have to drag a shortcut over the start button to get the taskbar to appear. didn’t have to do this in xp. i  

    could drag it anywhere over the taskbar, then place my shortcut.

    Notification Area: The whisperer

    " even check the time"

    takes more clicks to change the time, sync the time than in xp. i thought the ui was supposed to be easier.

    you also removed the right click options for the network icon, status, open network connections. why, was it bothering somebody? it’s useful when trouble shooting network issues, especially over the phone with novice users. takes more clicks to open the network connections now.

    are you sure you are getting reliable data from ceip? i would think most power users and businesses turn this feature off or click no when presented with the option,  while most novices leave it alone. but that’s just my opinion

  3. AdamZ says:

    The only area I run into problems with, though less frequently since tabbed browsers, is with overcrowding in the taskband. Vista’s added thumbnails helped with this problem but sometimes the thumbnails are too small or the windows are too similar for proper identification as you noted:

    "While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window."

  4. AdamZ says:

    The only area I run into problems with, though less frequently since tabbed browsers, is with overcrowding in the taskband. Vista’s added thumbnails helped with this problem but sometimes the thumbnails are too small or the windows are too similar for proper identification as you noted:

    "While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window."

    There is very little I would change about the Vista Taskbar. About the only thing I have changed is setting most of the Notification Area icons to hide and removing some shortcuts I don’t use from the right side of the Start Menu.

  5. AdamZ says:

    The only area I run into problems with, though less frequently since tabbed browsers, is with overcrowding in the taskband. Vista’s added thumbnails helped with this problem but sometimes the thumbnails are too small or the windows are too similar for proper identification as you noted:

    "While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window."

    There is very little I would change about the Vista Taskbar. About the only thing I have changed is setting most of the Notification Area icons to hide and removing some shortcuts I don’t use from the right side of the Start Menu.

  6. techAU says:

    As a long time multi-monitor user, please give users the ability to extend the taskbar across multiple monitors.

    Whilst there are some 3rd party software (Nvidia used to, no longer does) does provide support for this, I expect it’s common enough to be supported natively.

    Also re-ordering applications would be a nice addition. For the same reasons people want to re-arrange tabs in IE, some people would also like to re-order applications. Those reasons being that the order in which applications are launched, doesn’t necessarily reflect the heavily used or workflow-connected applications.

    For example I may open Outlook, then Flash, the an IM or twitter client, the Fireworks. Well given there’s a lot of back and foward between flash and fireworks, it’d be handy if I could have those 2 applications close next to each other in the Taskbar.

    Looking foward to future developments in Windows.  

  7. AdamZ says:

    The only area I run into problems with, though less frequently since tabbed browsers arrived, is with overcrowding in the taskband. Vista’s added thumbnails helped with this problem but sometimes the thumbnails are too small or the windows are too similar for proper identification as you noted:

    "While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window."

    As a solution to this, instead of just providing a small thumbnail how about bringing the window related to the tab being hovered over to the front. This would have to be done with some transparency effect or dimming of the background to show that it is just a preview of what would happen IF the user clicked that tab. Much like the idea behind previewing font or other changes in Office 2007. This would allow the user to positively identify the window they are looking for with full fidelity, in the same amount of time as using the thumbnail, without breaking their workflow.

    Just a suggestion, anyway. And since this blog is about engineering an OS it would be interesting to know what the next step would be once a Windows developer began to consider this idea.

    Keep the articles coming! They have all been very informative.

  8. Kosher says:

    Radial Navigation, multiple previews of windows, stackable window previews, true 3d icons and ability to arrange in z depth, better mouseover effects, no restriction on content of sidebar or taskbar (this means native WPF support), non restriction on icons (mac lets you copy paste any icon from any file to any file), new liquid/fluid effects, promote 3d tab to ALT+TAB and make it radial windows carousel, better window minimize and maximize effects (think genie), FULL integration with WPF and .NET for toolbars sidebars and taskbars (this means clock area too!), get rid of the windows button (we know which OS we’re using just make it vanilla or change it to greyscale), ability to "DOC" open applications in the sidebar as a smaller preview that is always visible and still interact with it (imagine if Z plane was added or preview on mesh).

  9. says:

    It would be great if tabs where add to Windows Explorer (like whats found in Internet Explorer 7 & 8), that would help with the over crowding of the taskbar.

  10. says:

    Sorry for double posting but I forgot to add this to my previous post. It would be great if the Desktop ToolbarsDeskbands could be moved onto the windows sidebar & act like sidebar gadgets.

  11. barrkel says:

    Some way of enabling the old Windows XP Start Menu is needed. The new search mechanism is welcomed, but the "treeview embedded in a menu" is horrific.

    And I don’t want the Windows 95 menu. I want the Windows XP menu.

    This is one of the biggest reasons I haven’t switched to Vista.

  12. bugwan says:

    I agree – there’s not much to improve on the Taskbar side of things.  Personally, I’d like to be able to move taskbar buttons around.

    I use the taskbar dragged up to three units of height, so I can fit my 24 quick launch shortcuts near the start menu. I have an empty desktop space and all my apps are launched from the QS bar.  This extra height also displays the day and date in the Time area (bottom-right), so I never forget what month I’m in…!

  13. douglashuse says:

    I will go +1 on multimon support.  I will agree with Oggy’s suggestions also. Although I tend to use a replacement for the taskbar to support my needs, still not multimon though.

  14. windowslover says:

    How about addressing some of the fundamental quality and performance and reliability issues in Windows instead of wasting our time with the taskbar?

    There is way too much emphasis on user interface (DPI, taskbar, etc) and not enough on core operating system fundamentals.

  15. OSGuru says:

    You’re not serious, are you? The taskbar? I thought this was going to be about operating systems.

  16. domenico says:

    The taskbar form WIndows 95 is revolution!

    I’m agree with this

       * Customers can switch windows with increased confidence and ease.

       * Commonly used items and tasks should be at the customer’s fingertips.

       * Customers should always feel in control.

       * The taskbar should have a cleaner look and feel.

    But not forget Eye candy

    example Icon Hich res. and animation or effect on icon.

  17. steven_sinofsky says:

    @windowslover and @OSGuru

    Sorry you would prefer other topics–we’re trying to cover a range of topics based on email and the comments.  We’ve spent a bunch of time on boot time, setup, configuration.  We’ve done a post (and followup on high dpi) which is a technically deep topic around something I think of as pretty fundamental (graphics hardware) and this one on taskbar.  We’ll keep trying to keep things balanced to keep everyone hearing things they want to hear.


  18. tmfairt says:

    There are three things I would like to see.

    1. Windows Live OneCare has a wonderful interface (which is hidden too deep) for turning off and on start up programs. I would like to be able to access a similar interface in the Notification area.

    2. When I have many open windows, windows will group the windows together in the task bar. Once windows are grouped you only see one thumbnail preview. In this scenario I would like to have a thumbnail preview of every window in the group shoot up instantly. From there I can see which window in the group I would like to go to and then click on the thumbnail of my choice and that window becomes active.

    3. I would like to see some functionality brought to the sidebar. I am going there for information currently and I feel there are some features which can be created/brought there.

  19. tmfairt says:

    There are three things I would like to see.

    1. Windows Live OneCare has a wonderful interface (which is hidden too deep) for turning off and on start up programs. I would like to be able to access a similar interface in the Notification area.

    2. When I have many open windows, windows will group the windows together in the task bar. Once windows are grouped you only see one thumbnail preview. In this scenario I would like to have a thumbnail preview of every window in the group shoot up instantly. From there I can see which window in the group I would like to go to and then click on the thumbnail of my choice and that window becomes active.

    3. I would like to see some functionality brought to the sidebar. I am going there for information currently and I feel there are some features which can be created/brought there.

  20. Mike Williams says:

    Some of the issues with the Notification Area could have been resolved already in Vista by simply addressing the buggy show/hide behaviour that has persisted since XP. These were dismissed as Not Repro or Won’t Fix in the Vista beta.

    1) There are a number of programs (like Outlook) that have minimise to NA icon options. These are too readily hidden despite not having hide-when-inactive set. It usually takes several goes with the reveal arrow to get such icons to display. Also, when Explorer has to be restarted after a crash (VERY frequent in Vista) then these apps are often left without any visible UI. At this point you have to kill the process and restart, hoping that no data has been corrupted.

    2) Taskbar-mode apps like Media Player which sit near the RH end of the taskar generally have horrible interactions with the Sidebar.

    3) Some notification area apps have popups which popup under the Sidebar (IIRC LiveMesh is one of these) in a manner that means that you have to close the sidebar to read/activate them properly.

    4) Wasted space at the right hand end of the Quick Launch bar. Why not hire some people who can do the simple arithmetic about how much space is required to hold a set of icons, and get them to implement the code for this?

    [PS Is there any reason why this comment field has to be so narrow?]

  21. magicalclick says:

    First I am going to explain how original Taskbar is nice before. Then, I am going to tell you why I am looking for something new.

    A1) Monitor has longer width.

    A2) English words are horizontal.

    A3) Computer is not as quite fast as now.

    What does those mean? Putting the taskbar at bottom is a good idea because it has more room and it fits English language convention. Computer wasn’t all that fast, so, a text description is good enough.

    B1) Wide Screen is standard now.

    B2) Taskbar cannot go thicker because monitor is short to begin with.

    B3) Tons of space on both left and right side.

    B4) Many people using gadget on right, but nothing on left.

    B5) Most people don’t bother to read the text on taskband. They just click through it.

    What does those mean? We are using standard wide screen now. We should be utilizing the side of the screen rather than top/bottom. This is especially true when documents and web pages left with tons of spaces on the sides. Now we have gadgets on the right, but now everything is shift to the left. We no longer read web pages in the middle. We could use something on the left to even it out.

    I propose a task bar on the left. Same thickness as the gadget bar. The task band will display real time thumbnail of the window. You will have large application icon on top of the preview. Try ObjectDock from stardock. Put it on the left of the screen. I am using this setting now. I disabled quick launch on ObjectDock because it takes too much spaces. Should be something like QuickLaunch gadget.

    I hope this can replace the old task bar. We have wide screen. We should put stuff on the sides now.

  22. Rayadoman says:

    I love the taskbar.  Just counted my windows and I indeed fall in the 6-9 group as mention above.

    Some changes I would like to see are:

    1.  Reorder the tabs on the taskband.  I found a freeware out there does it so I know it is possible but I rather have it part of OS.  Pretty Please?

    2.  The ability to change tabs in the taskband to small icons. If I have only one instance of Excel running, why can’t it be convert to show the program icon (similiar to quick launch) thus giving me more room on the taskbar for programs that I need the full tab.

    3. Create the ability to group different applications into a single tab.  There is alot of time I want to group programs based on the task I am doing.  That way I can easily switch between tasks without having to search thru all the tabs to find the right instance of an application.

  23. magicalclick says:


    For number 3, I think you better try Virtual Desktop. Not exactly the same as your idea, but should solve your multiple work envirnments.

  24. mark_ms says:

    Removing USB devices should be easier. I don’t want to have to find it in the Notification Area by expanding it, then left-clicking the Safely Remove Hardware icon and selecting my USB device. It takes too many clicks.

    When expanding the Notification Area, it usually retracts again before I have found what I wanted. Maybe this should slide upwards instead of sliding sideways.

    I would also like to have an easier way of knowing which USB Mass Storage Device an entry is referring to (maybe by displaying its capacity).

  25. Xero64 says:

    I wouldn’t change anything fundamental with the windows vista taskbar.  The vista startmenu is brilliant, so easy to use and navigate.  I enjoy having many of my programs pinned to the start menu; although my most frequently used program, namely explorer, browser and email client are neatly side by side in the quick launch bar.

    I would like to see an autofit function for the quicklaunch without the need to unlock, finely move the length of the bar, and lock again, everytime I add or remove an icon from the quick launch.

    Also please bring back enable and disable for network connections as a direct item in the right click menu.

    I also thought of a new UI element.  The windows media player mini-mode does take up some taskbar real estate.  I thought that maybe this mini-mode can be like a tab attached to the taskbar.  This tab can be moved by sliding it up and down the taskbar.  It could be hidden to a small icon on the taskbar and made to exist in front of other windows.  The same could be done with other gadgets of this nature.

  26. canadianmike says:

    As noted in the post, the Windows taskbar is becoming ever more crowded with tasks and icons and other functionality so perhaps it it time to separate certain things from the taskbar and give them their own space.  Specifically, I was thinking that perhaps it is time for Windows to devise its own program dock.  Both Mac and Linux now have docks and while third party docks exist for Windows, a built in dock would likely offer superior performance and functionality while being more than just a copy of OSX’s dock.  

    The taskbar of course should remain where it is at the bottom of the screen so that the new UI is familiar (it should also remain moveable as I am one of the 1.02% that puts the taskbar to the top of the screen).  I therefore think that the new dock should be put at the top of the screen, (maybe I’ll keep my taskbar at the bottom from now on?).  I think that the ‘start’ orb could be put in the center of it and the most commonly used icons on either side of it.  Alternatively perhaps the dock could be some kind of circle with the orb in the middle and quicklaunch icons around it.  In that case it could go in the center of the desktop and be brought to the front by some kind of key stroke, perhaps the windows button on most keyboards?  The dock should of course have animations to make it visually appealing and it should also be highly customizable.

    The benefit of including a dock in Windows would be in alleviating some of the strain now placed on the over worked taskbar.  By removing the program launch functions from it there would be more space for viewing aplications and tasks that are already running as well as other system information like notifications.

    The taskbar is nice and while it may be efficient and utilitarian it lacks visual appeal and elegance.  Windows needs to bring us into the future and, as the post said, the taskbar is 15 years old and hasn’t changed visually or fundamentally very much in that time.  I realise that it can’t change drastically and must remain familiar but that should not prevent it from evolving and growing (with offspring!)

  27. hh10k says:

    I often place WMP in the mini toolbar mode, but only because it takes up just as much space as its normal task button.  However I would definitely prefer it to minimise to an icon in the notification area, much like most other media players can do.

  28. bluvg says:

    One of my hopes for Windows 7 is better handling of window positions when switching from multiple monitors to single, then back to multiple (e.g., when using a laptop with a docking station, when logging into a multiple-monitor setup via Remote Desktop, etc.).  Currently, the workaround for off-screen windows is a set of keyboard commands that no one outside of IT can remember: Alt + Space Bar (!), press M, press an arrow key, then move the mouse.  Since the menu appears off-screen as well, it does not help at all.  It would be wonderful if the window manager "knew" that it was now dealing with a single screen, and to move off-screen windows in the viewable area.  I realize there are some apps that depend upon being able to render something in an "invisible" window, but I believe those are typically using coordinates well outside of the range of any current monitor, plus that seems a bit kludgy and probably should be handled differently anyhow?  The reality is that many are taking the advice of Microsoft and others and going with dual- or multiple-monitor setups, but the OS (not to mention app) support isn’t fully fleshed-out yet.

    (Multi-monitor Remote Desktop also, pretty please! 🙂

  29. bluvg says:

    I’m guessing/hoping you’re considering this as well, but a concern came to mind when reading this statement:

    "Please note that data do not design features for us, but they certainly help us prioritize our investments as well as validate our approach."

    One thing the data also cannot do, unfortunately, is give any reasons "why" the data is what it is.  This isn’t the best example, but consider even the graph shown–that the majority of people run 6-9 windows per session.  What if the UI itself was a reason that people didn’t run more than 6-9 windows?  In other words, what if the UI has a window number upper bound of effectiveness?  Prioritizing around that 6-9 scenario would be taking away the wrong conclusion from the data, if that were the case.  The UI itself would be dictating the data, rather than being driven by user demand.  Further development around the 6-9 "sweet spot" would simply be contributing to a "UI-driven UI"–creating more UI elements to deal with broader UI limitations–rather than responding to true user need.  Granted, this is a big "what if" scenario, but hopefully you can see my point….

  30. mx.2000 says:

    Very interesting statistics, thanks for that.

    Do you have any data on how many people actually know these options exist and consciously choose the default? Many feeling is that the majority simply doesn’t know. I agree with bluvg that 6-9 is probably not the actual sweet spot for users, but the practical limit of the default single-row task band. Open more windows and window titles are not visible anymore. Personally, I don’t find grouping useful either (it’s one of the first things I turn off), because I can’t see what I have open anymore and have to do more clicks.

    I’m one of the 0.36% that have their task bar on the left side. I’m using a 1680×1050 laptop display, so I have plenty of horizontal screen space anyway. With this config there’s enough space in the task band for about 25 windows, with enough space window titles, and I probably have 15 windows opened on average, much more than I did on XP with the task bar at the bottom. Personally I think its a big boost in productivity.

  31. PhilCaetano says:

    I can tell you one reason why I don’t have the taskbar on the top.  That’s because it breaks things!

    I tried having the taskbar at the top, but because windows doesn’t protect applications from falling behind the task bar.  MANY time the window falls behind, and you can’t move, or close the window since the title bar is hidden.  If windows prevented a window from getting stuck behind it, I would use the task bar at the top. Or at least prevent the tittle bar from falling behind the task bar  when a new window is created.

    Also some applications would not restore the window exactly where I closed it.  It would offset it up by about the size of the task bar, which eventually would make it fall under the task bar too.

  32. Dan.F says:

    "Vista presented taskbar thumbnails. These visual representations give customers more information about the window they are looking for. While valuable, interfaces like the taskbar, Alt-tab and even Apple’s own Exposé reveal that thumbnails are not always large enough to guarantee recognition of a window."

    Are you joking?!?!? The windows thumbnails are tiny, and I’m talking about using a 1920×1200 screen, on the other hand, on my 1280×800 laptop, expose shows large enough thumbnails even if I have 20+ windows open.

    Sounds like you guys don’t actually check out the competition very thoroughly. An expose-like feature is something I think the next version of windows really needs. Otherwise I won’t go back to it as my main working OS. Flip 3D is virtually useless because you can only see one window at a time, and you aren’t even proposing a better solution.

    Phil Caetano:

    "I can tell you one reason why I don’t have the taskbar on the top.  That’s because it breaks things!"

    Absolutely right – I tried having the taskbar at the top because it feels more natural, and for the most part, I was happy with it. But I had to switch back because windows kept getting lost behind it, and there were loads of graphical glitches because the taskbar obviously wasn’t tested enough in the top/left/right positions.

  33. justausr says:

    The lack of multi-monitor support is just about a crime.  We’ve seen pictures of Bill Gate’s office and his use of 3 monitors.  Most developers have 2 monitors these days.  Why was multi-monitor support for the taskbar missing?  Once again, this is an example of the compartmentalization of the Windows team and the lack of a user orientation in defining and implementing features.

    The fact that this is even a "possible" and not an "of course we’re going to…" shows that you folks STILL don’t get it.

  34. snaven says:

    For a long while Apple have offered iLife for their customers. When will you offer something like that?

  35. Hairs says:

    I would second the view that the Experience Improvement metrics are going to be heavily weighted in favour of the novice user – particularly corporate users aren’t going to be given an option to allow that sort of anonymised snooping on their system, and expert users are too paranoid about data mining and covering up their torrenting to allow it (same deal with Alexa web stats, really). While it’s interesting, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily representative.

    This post indicates to me another of the problems Windows dev managers must face with such large dev teams and such a large user base: Replicate functionality.

    A lot of this post is about the richness of the taskbar experience, and how the taskbar can be extended to further deepen this with deskbands, eg: WMP mini-mode.

    while this is a noble idea, all it does is point to schizoid development: If you’re going to bring those sorts of functionalities into the taskbar area;

    Why did you develop the sidebar?!!

    All this is very interesting, it smacks of a team pushing for more resource time to be targetted at *their* area, rather than at the *customer’s needs*. Surely the sidebar was developed specifically to enable "gadgetised" easy access non-essential services, and to reduce taskbar clutter where every app and its children were spamming the notification area with icons, taking away space from the taskbar’s true functionality – or at least this was how it was presented. Now we have discussions putting forward the position that the taskbar should get even more cluttered with stuff that should be in the sidebar. It’s this sort of cross-purposes development that resulted in Vista’s delays, feature loss and inconsistencies in the first place, in my opinion (which means I’m probably wrong).

    If nothing else comes out of this blog, then at least one thing has been clear: Users have spoken loudly about the desire to be left to their own devices, given a clear, *consistent* UI, and the ability to change the UI to their own specs *easily* – without having to dig around in the bowels of the system or look up obscure TechNet articles. The less unnecessary functionality is *forced* upon us, the happier we generally are. Telling us you’re planning on shoving a lot more into the taskbar space is not the way to do that.

    PS: Vista’s explorer is a POS, bring back the clear, concise, original view. I don’t need fancy sliders to switch between icon views. I need to see where my stuff is.

  36. thecolonel says:

    please please please can you stop windows from nagging me with irrelevant bubbles that pop up in the bottom right corner? 95% of them never tell me anything i didn’t already know, and they seem to always require an extra clock to make them go away

    oh yeah, shiny plastic is a bit passe now, how about something a little sharper? maybe more metallic. plastic says cheap to me, go for something that echoes build quality!

  37. Tihiy says:

    You’re on right direction!

    I would give my 2$ for those guy who removed turquoise border from Aero windows in Win7M3!

    So please, say NO to:

    – Color differentiation!

    – Blurring && || extreme translucency!

    – Flyout tray icons menu; make it optional please!

  38. domenico says:

    hey Tihiy

    M3 is not RTM 😉

    you remember XP m1 ?

  39. anttikarhu says:

    "In other words, 97% of sessions aren’t even enjoying this functionality at all!"

    I know a good reason for this 😀 WMP is not that good media player. There are so much formats it does not support, so many users start using a 3rd party player which supports ALL they ever need to play. WMP is imposes itself to the user, trying to take care the "media library" of the user. It would be nice if applications wouldn’t claim they "own" the files. Much too many applications claim that today. iTunes, WMP… You name it.

    And the WMP toolbar is much more hard to use than the actual player, tiny buttons, located in ackward location (yes, bottom left corner is not the most comfortable to look at). In my opinion, it is much more easier to just bring up the actual player that to move ones focus to use the toolbar.

  40. kaib00 says:

    I agree with CanadianMike.  I have been looking for ways to increase productivity on my windows machine, and have found ‘dock’ alternatives seem to be one of the best thing for quick access to programs.  I do use the quicklaunch (with vista’s new WIN KEY + # shortcuts) but that only allows for a limited number of programs, and isn’t very customizable)  For the rest of my programs, and other mini apps, I use Rocketdock ( Which not only allows users to place short cuts on it by drag and drop, allows minimize to dock, multiple monitor support, among other features.  I think that this would be a good basis for the new ‘Windows Dock’ The fact that it allows for plugins (open-source) is a great plus too, especially the ‘stacks’ plugin.

    I like the way that the taskbar has come, it may need some cleaning up still, but overall it is great.  Dont change too much about it. Especially dont add more functionality without expanding its usage (i.e. through a ‘dock’ etc.)  I also do prefer to have my taskbar at the bottom, and dock auto-hidden at the top of my screen.  

    The Start menu has also come a long way since its inception.  The ability to customize and add/remove the menus/shortcuts on the right side of the start menu would be nice (even though vista customization programs allow you to do this, I would rather windows already allow me to do this) The new ‘All Programs’ is MUCH better than the old flyout. (and being able to pin shortcuts to the start menu is nice)  The search function (even with indexing turned off) included into the start menu is one of the best things about it, I use it a lot.  

    Now, the sidebar…It could have been so much more.  When I heard that vista would have ‘gadget’ functionality I was excited.  It looks nice and all, but is so limited . Again I think this is something that OS X has that I like: the dashboard.  The ability to hide the gadgets right in the middle of your desktop (even being able to move them around anywhere) is essential.  Yahoo’s widget program emulates the mac dashboard functionality, and allows your gadgets to be visible, or hidden, users CHOICE.  It even has a sidebar-esque dock for people who prefer the Sidebar UI.  (Not me) Again like Rocketdock, this third-party program is a great basis for a way to improve upon windows functionality, that I feel should be integral.  

    I have never really liked the Mac operating systems, though with the creation of the new dock, dashboard, and to an extent expose; I felt they might actually have something going for them.  A ‘Windows’ take on these functions (with more customizablity and integrated functionality, of course) would make for a much more productive, and IMHO, fun interface.  (I have to admit I still like to play with the dock by sliding my mouse across it…)

  41. Tihiy says:

    Right, Domenico, they can screw all things several times before release.

    And yeah, many people (me too) find decoy pre-beta-2 XP interface better than Luna.

  42. Computermensch says:

    The problem with this "analysis" (show me the  data) is that you’re only managing current activities surrounding the taskbar. So with respect "to evolving the taskbar" you’re only developing it within its current operational framework while developing or evolution of really should refer to developing the taskbars concept. Within its 15 years of history the taskbar became as everything mostly a functional concept. Today, everybody speaks role, organisation and collaboration.

    As you already put it the taskbar is 15 years old. So it needs to grow with the rest of Microsoft software. If not it will have a major impact on the use collaboration features. I.e. How to really use business processing if the desktop or main user interface does not basically support it?. The taskbar is the one single place where events are initiated with respect to collaboration and human-machine interactions. I’ve seen a project here in Denmark, developed by folks with references to University of Aarhus, that treats the taskband as a concept of tasks. It seems to be an important delegate with a compositional sw design to support workflow within the health care sector here. I.e. you can suspend tasks etc. – just as in normal operations within processing. I’m refering to business taks etc and not technical concepts of tasks, suspend, etc. So you should look into that. The concepts as a whole is Activity-Based Computing. I think this should really be provided by a modern operating system around 2010.

    I know such a feature may probably not make it into your product – however to just enhance the user experience about very old stuff that will not support current and upcoming use of it seems a waste of time to me.

    Except that  – I think the possibilities for extending the desktop-band are great.

  43. Computermensch says:

    Of course – an issue would whether your team is concerned with all variants of the taskbar?

    I.e. may be consumers should keep an enchanched legacy taskbar while business user could have one where they could suspend i.e. outlook or some of several other open tasks. Advanced consumers to choose to configure the taskbar likewise. Bascially the grouping/ungrouping refers to a lot of activities technical going on at the same time, however users can only be concerned with one or few activities at a time. So task processing would help them collaborate with the system on that. Additionally the desktop space could be reused more effectively based on such facts. This would also mean a software factory goes into the configuration of the taskbar.

  44. Computermensch says:

    Also having something like this I could put out a reference solution connecting applications into a workflow.

  45. says:

    Some input:

    -Allow the window preview thumbnail size to be configurable.  This one sounds easy enough to me.

    -When you mouseover an app on the task band, have it display the full window title immediately, instead of after a brief delay.  Also, if I remember, I don’t think it shows the full name if it is too long…maybe just have it wrap.

    -It might be nice if you could do ALT+Space (for example), and have it display the window thumbnails of all open windows at the same time (like IE’s Quick Tabs).

    -As suggested by someone already, the ability to have tabs inside Windows Explorer would really reduce my window count as a developer.

    -I like the latest start menu, but the common user likely has no idea how to customize it.  Maybe you need a start menu item that says "Customize" that takes you to the "Task Bar and Start Menu Properties".  Just make it so people that read this blog can hide it. 🙂

    -Task bar multiple monitor options.  I would just want the task band to be visible on all monitors.  It would only display applications running on that monitor (this is probably getting into multiple desktops actually).

    As a developer, I never turn on the customer improvement option, since I need as little extra items running on my machine as possible.  I do, however, use it on my home machine.

  46. Computermensch says:

    This also answers any productivity issues concerned with the desktop. You basically need to start handling workflow.

  47. Computermensch says:

    The start menu should also be based on roles and subclassed from there dealing with the clutter.

    The role concept should be a theme i.e. work across the entire set of user interfaces so you i.e. could uninstall any applications and tools subclassing i.e. developerweb role, artistgraphics etc.

    Some of this profiling or factoring have already made it into when you install using server manager in Windows Server 2008.

    With Windows Installer you can currently only use something like mutating the arp comment to represent app classification and then try to use sort-by arp comment in the Vista uninstaller to see any custom classifications. The basic problem is that when you open the uninstaller you usually have no idea what applications are used for. You need to infer that based on your knowledge.

  48. Computermensch says:

    So you need a new conceptual layer above the application layer concerned with roles, organization etc.

  49. Gavinrouse says:

    I extensively use the Desktop Toolbars in XP, however I can’t seem to use them in the same way on Vista.

    I undock the toolbars from the TaskBar and dock them to the edge of the screen instead with them always on top and auto-hidden (my taskbar auto-hides as well).

    As far as I can tell you can no longer undock the toolbars from the TaskBar in Vista which will be a pain when I start using it.  It seems their functionality has been replaced by the SideBar which might be ok if you could Auto-hide it.  As it stands it’s either behind everything so that you have to keep minimising all your apps, or on top of everything so it gets in the way.  I also don’t know if you can add random links to it.

    The toolbars I use are ‘My Computer’ (for easy access to drives), Quicklaunch, Desktop Icons (so I don’t have to keep minimizing applications to run a new program), and toolbars with links to folders, batch files, and other programs.  I have enough to fill the height of a 1600×1200 display :-).

  50. Computermensch says:

    Againg, taking history into account the quantity of open windows should be perceived as a change in the user context. If we do not help user organize their work the system will be perceived a less and less productive or effective work environment. Also with Mac and Linux – however currently Windows is the productivity platform of choice and should be concerned with this position. Handling that complexity could also allow for more software to come into the platform (i.e. currently workstations may get positioned into a role – however different for consumers – they need to virtualize what they have … and in many ways companies are seeking to do that too … roaming or mobile users etc – we have ms desktop application virtualization (softgrid) as well coming up).

  51. PsironTech says:

    Like tab-sorting, a popular feature in browsers, we need to be able to re-arrange our taskband buttons (simple click-and-drag).

    This is one of the most basic features we’ve been missing in Windows for quite some time.  

    The ability to drag toolbars off the taskbar is nice, but we need more functionality added to that as well.  Color coding them, allowing them to contain their own nested toolbars, slide-out menus, and customized "start menus".

    Much of the second option might be considered "advanced" functionality, but if combined with a wizard when doing something (like making a new toolbar or moving the start-bar), many people in many environments would not doubt find it incredibly useful.

    (Tabbed toolbar containing Excel files/word files/shortcuts/links, all organized and sorted by whatever arrangement suits the user.)

  52. gkeramidas says:


    "I undock the toolbars from the TaskBar and dock them to the edge of the screen instead with them always on top and auto-hidden (my taskbar auto-hides as well)."

    i do the same, as i mentioned in my comments and no, you can’t do this in vista. i have my computer and my network places toolbars docked on the right and autohidden. i have 1 click access to any of these resources. this is a lot more productive than some gadget that shows a slideshow of my pictures folder.

  53. then begin says:

    I am part of that one-percent of users who places the task bar at the top of the window. The ability to place the task bar at the top of the window is very important to me as a user. I hope that the development team continues to keep the preferences of user’s who may do things differently from the majority in mind.

  54. dpellerin says:

    Personally I like the taskbar. Can’t complain about it, it gets the job done. I would love to see a few improvements, some of which have been mentioned here.

    1. Span multiple monitors, or better yet, give me a new taskbar on the second monitor that only shows windows open on that monitor.

    2. Don’t allow any popup windows down by the clock. Supremely annoying because software vendors abuse it.

    3. I want a multi-desktop manager like Apple and Linux have.

  55. vistisen says:

    I am one of the few who has the taskbar on the left hand edge of teh screen (widescreen monitor and old dekstop publishing habits) this works fine and allows me to have a lot more programmes open before you can’t see them on the bar. I don’t like grouping. What does annoy me is that having the bar on the left means that you can not drag programs from the start menu to quick launcher as it is covered up as soon as you click on start. Why does this have to happen ? it is not the case when the taskbar is on the bottom. One other thin it would be nice to have the option to flip the bar so that the start button can still be at the bottom of the screen even if the task bar is vertical.  

  56. jrronimo says:

    I love the taskbar. I really think it’s THE best solution to giving a user access to various items while not taking too much real estate away. I think the taskbar in KDE for Linux is too big; The taskbars in Gnome take up too much space; the Dock in OS X isn’t useful enough. The Windows Taskbar is COMPLETELY where it’s at. 🙂

    I agree with the first result of your study: Allow users to rearrange taskbar tasks. I use 3rd-party software to accomplish this and it works fine, but it’s really something that’d be nice to have built-in to the OS. Look at Taskbar Shuffle or Taskix for examples.

    One thing I don’t like about the Windows Media Player Toolbar is that you have to minimize WMP to use it. I would like to see it there all the time when WMP is open. I would also like to minimize WMP to the System Tray (Notification Area) so that I can see that it’s open and go to the next random song without opening the giant window. But if I want WMP open, it’s nice to see the song that’s come up before I click next. I have been a long-time user of Winamp and I had a Winamp Deskband that worked well for a while. Unfortunately it’s old and causes the Taskbar to be not translucent because the programmer hasn’t updated it for Vista, so I don’t use that anymore. What I’m getting at is that it’s nice to have the option of having controls ALWAYS on the taskbar.

    While I use the ‘Recently Used Programs’ list in the Start fly-out, one thing about it I don’t like is that the order changes. Obstensibly, it’s supposed to be the items I use the most, I understand that, but I feel like it would allow quicker access to start programs if I could define the order (Sort by Name?) or perhaps even define the programs that get listed there (Like a ‘Favorites’… something slower than Quick Launch, but faster than ‘All Programs’). Of course, customizing it then becomes another level of complexity that isn’t present at the moment since that area defines itself. Looking through a list of programs is nice, but since I have to mentally take-in every program listed there before I can choose the one I want to start, it feels slower than either Searching (which I *love*) or going through All Programs where everything IS sorted alphabetically.

    (While I’m on the topic of Alphabetical sorting, here’s something I’ve wanted since XP first started the ‘grouped Control Panel’ look. PLEASE allow a user to sort the Grouped Control Panel view alphabetaically. Alpha sorting makes things SO much easier to find for me. I’m sure tha’ts not true for someone else, though…)

    The only thing I can think about changing in the Taskbar would be to allow a user to define an order to the icons in the System Tray (Notification Area). It owuld be nice if I could define an hierarchy that would always put the icons in an order of my choosing. It seems to happen now for the most part, but there are times when the icons are in different orders than I’m used to.

    Overall, I love the Taskbar and think it’s a great solution. Please don’t change it *too* much. 🙂

  57. Typhoon87 says:

    I for one would LOVE to see Dual Monitor setups given some extra tlc in Windwos "7" It is just awful that the taskbar does not span, the windows size is funky if you turn one monitor off, ect.

  58. woodycodeblue says:

    I would like to echo a few things that have been said here in regards to places the taskbar can improve, plus add a couple of my own.

    Taskbar Customization:

    – Interaction with the sidebar.  Being able to drag the Quick Launch, notification area, various toolbars, or Time/Date display over to the Sidebar would be nice and make a lot of sense.  They could default back to the taskbar when the Sidebar is closed.

    – Window rearranging.  Being able to reorganize the buttons for the window would be nice sometimes.  Implementing a manual grouping functionality would help to visually fence off a particular task.  Perhaps by way of making your own group similar to same-program groups, naming it, then dragging items to it.  Perhaps via a tab system.

    – Full customization.  Let users position the start menu and notification area if they want.

    – Resizing.  Give an accurate feel while resizing things of how it will look locked.  Currently I need to resize until just after two quicklaunch items are forced into the extra menu to get a Locked size that fits snugly and shows everything.

    Multiple Monitors:

    – Multiple monitors, which are becoming more common, can make things much easier.  It is an area that can be capitalized on.  Mainly this centers around customization.

    – One aspect is the taskbar.  Extend it across the second monitor and have it relate to the first taskbar.  Allow users to specify if it shows up on the extra monitors at all, and how it behaves.  Does the notification area show up on one monitor at a time?  Multiple?  How about the system clock?  Do the open windows spill over when one window is full?  Does the user want the same ones available on all screens?

    Start Menu:

    – Frequently used programs.  It would be really nice to be able to peg a program on the list regardless of how often I open it.  I (and presumably others) put my most used programs on the quicklaunch and it’s nice to have certain less frequently used programs avaible within two clicks even if I don’t open it as often as others.

    – All Programs.  Just as having the entire huge list expanded in a tree can be daunting, having the whole thing confined to a relatively small box can inhibit visibility.  I prefer the Vista approach, but being able to resize the box would be nice.  Maybe have it resizable (and remember how it was last sized) when in All Programs and revert to normal when in default or search modes.  Width for long names, height and maybe a second column would be valued customizations.

    Notification Area:

    – Remember choices of what is hidden.  Not so much an issue for me now that internet connections can’t be customizable in this way, but I got it a lot with my laptop’s ethernet connection.  Whenever I plugged into a network or unplugged, the icon would pop up no matter what I had set.  If you give the option to customize, make sure it’s obeyed.

    – Revert to having Properties available on right-clicking a network icon.  There are only three things I have ever wanted to do from the network icon’s context menu: Connect to a wireless network, cycle power on the thing by choosing Repair (should really have a more informative name, by the way), and go to Properties.

    – Show Hidden Icons.  Particularly on a default-height taskbar, it takes a while to get your bearings when the [often myriad] icons fly out across half of your screen.  Ensure that there is enough time for the user to find the one they need.  Maybe implement a setting for Minimum Time Expanded.  Maybe expand the Hit Box for the mouse in determining if the user is still looking through the list for the desired icon.

    – USB peripherals.  It’s not uncommon to have more than one USB drive/stick connected to the system at one time, and it’s easy to forget which drive letter was assigned to which.  Better identifiers for the devices would be handy when using the Notification icon rather than right-clicking the drive from My Computer.  Maybe use the names assigned to the drives, maybe display the capacity.

    Whew.  Long list.  I hope it’s helpful and brought up some good, actionable points for you guys.

  59. nahals says:

    I love the taskbar.  However, I am one of those users who frequently have 50+ windows open, turns off window grouping, and docks my taskbar on the left.  Unfortunately, when working at this scale, there are two changes in Vista from XP that have significantly degraded my user experience with the taskbar:

    1) The windows no longer stay in a well-defined order when windows grouping is disabled.  In XP, the windows were arranged by the time they were opened.  However, in Vista, if a program stops responding for a few seconds (usually due to a network IO call on the UI thread), the taskbar re-arranges the order of the windows, or sometimes even hides them!  This means I take 5-10 times longer to find the window I am looking for, which is incredibly frustrating.

    2) With 50+ windows open on a regular basis, the desktop window manager becomes an resource hog, and the thumbnail preview often fails 🙁  

    I’ve since disabled the previews (and Flip3D) and seen very significant perf gains on my machine as a result.

    Any hints on if these problems can be adressed in Vista (or if they will be addressed in future versions)?  Both are distracting enough to make me want to switch back to XP + Desktop Search.

    Thanks, and please don’t over-optimize for the 99% case.  Those of us in the 1% bucket would like to believe we still matter 🙂

  60. marcwickens says:

    Here are some ideas I have.

    – Task Thumbnails

    Why not have the thumbnail animated? It would quickly zoom from the top to the middle and then out of the window, and varying speeds depending on the speed of the mouse.

    This would let me see what web page or document was open for a few split seconds, and then show me the overall picture.

    Maybe this wouldn’t look as good as I imagine in practise, would be interested to see it though.

    – Notification Area Icons

    Please introduce a standard API to remove icons. So any icon can be dragged out of the notification area, and whatever program would stop placing it there.

    – Task Bar Height

    I am surprised hardly anyone I observe have more than one row on the taskbar. Use two rows! You get much more space and you even get the day of the week !

    Lack of space is why I think people don’t like desk bands. Having a Media Player control vs. suddenly having a popup menu for all of IE’s windows is for me a no brainer, I’d rather switch to media player to change song and keep quick access to other windows.

  61. Cartman05 says:

    For the most part, I like the taskbar the way it is. Perhaps Microsoft can add the option to use dual taskbars, one on the top and one on the bottom of the screen to give it more room. I would also like the ability to have a window open that does not appear on the taskbar and a key combination or button that easily allows me to switch back and forth between two windows (similarly to the recall function on a TV).

    The main problem with the taskbar is many times, people are just flipping back and forth between windows while working. If Windows included a virtal desktop solution or a grid-like view where many windows could be open on one screen at the same time, many of these issues would be solved.

  62. bret_anderson says:

    >> I would like to see an autofit function for the quicklaunch without the need to unlock, finely move the length of the bar, and lock again, everytime I add or remove an icon from the quick launch.

    You can double-click on the  resizing gripper for it to toggle between autofit sizes.

    >> – Frequently used programs.  It would be really nice to be able to peg a program on the list regardless of how often I open it.  I (and presumably others) put my most used programs on the quicklaunch and it’s nice to have certain less frequently used programs avaible within two clicks even if I don’t open it as often as others.

    You can right click and choose "Pin to Start Menu" to pin items to the top of the MFU.

  63. says:

    I don’t use the Start Menu because it is painfully slow to open folders in Vista and I cannot find anything anyway.  Most folders will list the software company, say, Good Software, then in the folder is Super DVD maker v3.2.3, plus uninstall, help, etc.

    Mostly, I cannot remember that Good Software company make Super DVD maker v3.2.3 when looking for that program.

    No, I use Quick Launch ALWAYS. Drag the actual program exe shortcut there and also create folders.  I have at least 200 items there that I can find quickly.  Except, that lately, the pop-up menu takes several seconds to appear and I’m wondering if there is a LIMIT to how many icons (shortcuts) can be added.  Without affecting performance.

    I like Search very much, although as a trade off for speed I suppose, am unable to find the things I want sometimes. Good for quick launching also. Type mou -> get all mouse stuff.

    Also, if I search for say ‘Microsoft’ and get Micro.jpg, Microsoft.jpg, MS.jpg and am not sure which one I’m looking for, clicking on one – the wrong one perhaps – means I have to type ‘Microsoft’ into search again and try another one.  Search will not hold up the 3 found items so I can preview them, in this case, in an image viewer.  It could be text items you’re searching for.

  64. Juan Antonio says:

    I use my own toolbars for folders, but when I want add a shortcut, I can´t drag and drop it on the toolbar. I have to open the folder and paste the shortcut on it.

    Too, Start Menu at top is usefull. All the menus at applications are on top, so when I want search something I must always to look at top screen.

    Sorry, I’m spanish and not speak english well.

  65. Fredledingue says:

    Hi, it was a very nice reading indeed. It looks like you finaly get the attention on "simplifying" rather than "adding new functionalities" or "increasinguser experience".

    What I’m very glad for is that you admited that the taskbar as we knew it from w95 era was/is good enough.

    I would like to add that personaly I found XP taskbar worse than w98 taskbar for several reasons, some of which, not all, have been improved in Vista.

    1/grouping: Not a good idea (at least by defaut), it put things more clicks away while the goal of the taskbar is the oposite. +We never have any idea of what’s open currently.

    2/thumbnail preview in Vista is certainly the most silly ever imagined: It doesn’t give any clue on the window conent, it distract our attention, eats resources, make the click less safe as something pops-up unexpectedly etc.

    Same can be said with the thumbnail preview on drag-drop in Explorer. A real nightmare.

    3/All Program in start menu:

    I think there should be a different philosophy on how softwares installer create shortcuts on the start menu. Every new program installed will create a new group adding to a list already a contry mile long. these groups are full of useles shortcuts like "register your freeware version", "help", "home page", unistallers etc while we are looking at the exe file.

    There should be a way to sort, with a new type of installers or without, all the executables out and sort them in theme groups instead of vendor group.

    For example all programs linked to video editing under "video", other under "office" inclding Notepad, Wordpad, Foxit, etc and of course the MS Office suite, etc

    Then another groups for all the help and home page stuffs and another group for all the uninstallers.

    I did it for myself and it improved greatly the accessibility of all softwares, not only the most recent used. Unfortunately every (re)install destroy this order.

    The most recent used programs is of course very useful. But as soon as a less often used program is needed, it’s more complicated.

    4/ search, run and vista improvements

    This was very confusing for me: run and search at the same place: First we never know whether we are in "run" or "search", secondly, when we want "search" we don;t ant necessarly to "run" and vice versa.

    5/ Notification area

    This is what turned Windows to Hell on Earth! Or the give a visible aspect of this Hell should I say: dozen of services and crapwares running in the background, eating resources and distract our attention with useless pop-ups and icons.

    On our w98 machine we have three (3) icons near the clock, no more. On XP we have about 8 or 9, on Vista it looks like a christmass tree! It’s ridiculous, and most of it is useless or redundant. Here also, this is something that should be seen with software makers. It’s not only a Microsoft issue.

    The pop-ups notification should be easily disabled. At present it’s not obvious.


    It’s interresting that you mentioned w95 because in fact that was the OS which made Microsoft famous and Bill Gate the third largest fortune in the world.

    So it’s important to keep in mind that this concept was a good one and that there is no need to change a working concept. (Sorry if that means less jobs for your team).

    Working on w98 was like playing on a piano, with XP and Vista it became a daily guessing game on how disable stuffs like those above. 😉

  66. possan says:

    i’d like to see an api for consuming notifications also, or writing an custom "handler" for notifications, so i could for example send an email with the notification-information, or show it on an auxillary display (or computer) etc – or just style it, like what "growl" does on osx

  67. Jalf says:

    The notification area isn’t just "a bit noisy". It’s the single biggest source of annoyance in Windows. My favorite feature of Windows XP is the registry setting that disables balloon notifications. The balloons are bad enough, but even without them, everyone and their uncle apparently feel that they need to put at least one icon in the notification area. Why do I need to be notified at all that I connected a USB device? Aren’t the odds pretty good that I *know* this already?

    As for toolbars, and in particular your Media player toolbar which, as you point out, only 3% actually use, why the hell is it in the taskbar at all? Isn’t this precisely what Vista has gadgets for?

    Perhaps all the "system notification" stuff can be moved to be part of the desktop or something? Having 20 icons and a balloon notification every 30th second taking up space at the taskbar where it’s *always* taking up space is just not cool. By all means, the information should be there if I need it, but can’t we just assume that if I don’t actively look for the information, it’s probably because I don’t want it. Sometimes it feels like balloon notifications are the primary debugging aid for the Windows team, and they forgot to disable it before shipping…. ANd of course, the rampant abuse by every 3rd party app doesn’t help, but let’s be clear here, Microsoft started the trend.

    Ever since balloon tips were introduced, they’ve been used to keep us informed of *everything* that happens on the system.

    You’ve installed Windows, we’ve got a neat guided tour for you, you’ve installed a firewall, you don’t have antivirus, now you do have antivirus, now you don’t have antivirus again, the firewall blocked something, there are Windows updates available, it’s time to clean up your desktop and so on and so on. Oh, and you connected a USB device. And you just installed new hardware. Oh, and there’s some hardware you haven’t installed a driver for.

    How much of this do I actually need to *know*?

    A few things perhaps. But how much of it do I need to see the instant it happens, *no matter what else I’m doing*? Precisely none of it. None of it should intrude if I’m playing a game, if I’m programming, if I’m watching a movie or working in MS Word or anything else.

    Tell it to go away! Please! 😉

  68. mackintire says:

    Flip 3D is close to useless.   Expose lets you see more than one view at one time. A SmartFlip like version would also work.

    Come on Microsoft you can do better.

  69. WindowsFanboy says:

    I’m surprised no one has brought this up yet – when you minimize a window, the taskbar thumbnail for it is no longer live.

    For instance, I start installing a program, then minimize the installer while I do other stuff. But when I mouse over its button in the taskbar, it seems that nothing is happening because the thumbnail preview is no longer live.

    Please make thumbnail previews stay live even when you minimize a window, otherwise this feature is useless much of the time.

  70. lyesmith says:

    I love the Vista toolbar. Sure i need some of the stuff that have been mentioned earlier.


    – Rearrangeable taskbar buttons. Pretty please?

    – Long lines should be truncated in the middle.

    – Tooltips should appear immediately.

    – Virtual desktops.

    – "Group shortcuts" I mean some kind of tool that opens multiple documents and applications with a single click. For example I am working with 10 document then I just CTRL+select them on the taskbar. Right click and select "Create quick launch". Then a new icon appears in the quick launch bar. clicking on that the documents application will be opened/restored.

    Basically something that saves and restores a given work space/virtual desktop.

    – some kind of "expose" taskbar thumbnails are too small to work with.

    The single biggest annoyance in the taskbar is notification balloons. 99% of the notifications are useless. More importantly the balloons covers the bottom-right corner. It is not possible to click there until the balloons are there. I need something more subtle and configurable.

  71. pcolmer says:

    A friend of mine got a Vista PC recently – his first exposure to Vista. I’ve seen him a few times since it arrived and he has given me some challenges to try to help him through his learning curve.

    One point I failed on is how to make the taskbar flat in appearance. He was struggling to read the text clearly because half of it was white text on a graduated white background. The icon for the active window is flat and therefore easier to read, but I couldn’t find a way to make the whole taskbar flat, short of reverting to Windows XP look and feel which is downright ugly by comparison.

    So there is a little bit more feedback for you – curves and white on white are sometimes hard to read.

  72. stodge says:

    Hire some real graphic designers. Vista is hideous, ugly and many more words of that ilk. Also Microsoft’s idea of usability is awful.

    Someone else posted this above, but please stop those damn bubbles that pop up from the system tray. They really, really cheese me off. The interface should work with the user, it shouldn’t shove stuff in your face that forces you to stop what you are doing.

  73. haider_up32 says:

    i always keep the taskbar on top of the screen…just coz the mouse arrow remains on first half of the screen most of the time…dis saves time

  74. babakrezai says:

    I agree with others, balloon tips or bubbles have gotten way out of hand, they should be for Windows OS notifications only:

    A cd/dvd is done burning

    Updates are ready

    Files are done copying


    I also agree with the need of spanning desktops.

    Someone else asked, but I would like to see a roll out safely remove devices also. Like one where you hover to get it to roll out and then double click to remove the device or something similar.

    A response to Jalf, you need to know about the fact you inserted or connected a USB device because sometimes they are defective and dont "attach" (is that the correct term?) would you rather have to go dig around in the device manager? I don’t want to do that 😛 I want to see it happen on the task bar.

    Though going along with the customization theme here I would suppose you would like to be able to remove that notification.

  75. WindowsFanboy says:

    I really wish I could get Dreamscene and other Ultimate Extras without all the business features (Windows Fax and Scan, Bitlocker, etc.) of Vista Ultimate.

    It would make it easier for everyone if there was ONE version of Windows in the store, and at the beginning of installation it would have three buttons: "Home use" (would install Media Center, "Ultimate Extras", and games); "Business use" (would instead install Bitlocker encryption, Windows fax and scan, and other business features); and "Both home and business" (the equivalent to Windows Vista Ultimate). This setting could be changed later from the control panel, or you could mix and match features from the "Add/remove Windows components" dialog.

    Essentially, the only version would be the ultimate version.

    Wouldn’t this make everything easier for everyone?

  76. mikefarinha1 says:

    I never knew the ‘desktop toolbars’ ever existed. Wow. After reading this blog post I turned it on to check it out… a very clever feature, I wonder why it hasn’t caught on? Is Windows Media Player the only thing that uses this feature?

    I’m glad you guys are going to be taking on the challenge to improve this and the other areas on the taskbar… I can’t wait!

  77. toonnyc says:

    Is there any chance at all that we can at least have the option to change searching to work like it did in Windows 2K?  Please?

  78. says:

    It would be useful (at least for me) to have certain Task Manager options available directly through the Task Bar context menu (I guess this also applies to the context menu you get when the title bar is clicked).

    It could be done like the extended Shift+Click menu in explorer. (By the way, would it be possible to get those items highlighted in some way, or grouped together? Just something to make it clear that they are different would be nice.)

    Anyway, the extended menu could have some basic items that are normally only available through the Task Manager like End Task, Go To Process, and End Process.

  79. smartpatrol says:

    The single biggest improvement that Microsoft can make to the taskbar UI is completely re-write of systray and how applications use it. My favorite is when people complain to me about windows being slow on their personal machine only to find the notification bar when expanded in loaded with TSR’s as long as the taskbar itself and those are just the TSR’s you can see. I routinely have to go into the registry and blow away all the garbage memory hogging TSR’s; software updaters, printer monitors, Music software helper programs mouse software etc.. most of which I haven’t missed since deleting them.  How to fix it?

    • Lay out Standards for TSR programs for companies that develop for Windows Operating systems. I.E. I should only have to have one software updater application running where all applications needing this type of service would drop in a Microsoft standardized update package.

    • Systray should be protected I should know when software is try to install a TSR via security popup.

    • Right click menu dialog to view all processes associated with TSR’s running in systray nifty icon or not. Along with dialog to kill/disable them at will.

    Just on a side note 1.5GBs(700Mb without the way I run vista) with all the eye candy UI goodies is not acceptable. The UI should be clean fast and lightweight need an example? try Blackbox 4 Windows for inspiration

  80. Fredledingue says:

    Jalf explained pretty weel how we all (I think it’s save to say "all" in this case) feel about notification balloons.

    These balloons shouldn’t exist at all. Instead we should have a console listing all the events, that we open only when we are interrested into reading them.

    And I disagree with Babakazai who said that we need to be notified of USB devices.

    It doesn’t exist on w98 (unless you install the Maximus Decime’s universal USB driver) and I realy didn’t miss it at all. If a device is not properly attached, you will see it as soon as you open or refresh Explorer. In such a case you can try troubleshoot the problem via the system device manager.

    It’s only use, perhaps is to "safely disconnect hardware". But this is also useless if you are careful of not removing violently the memory stick while something is being written on it. And useless if you don’t want or don’t know that you have to "safely disconnect" first. In fact when the USB stick is iddle you can remove it without doing anything. I did it many times.

    Also, this facility is more relevant on Explorer’s drive icons, than on the taskbar.

  81. psionides says:

    I agree that something should be done to make the notification area less crowded, less noisy, and more readable. I also agree that the unmount device icons should be easier to find and use. Perhaps you could make the icons bigger, make them resemble the device which they’re representing, and move them somewhere else, e.g. to the desktop, like it is done in MacOSX and often in Linux? It’s much easier to click on a big pendrive image on the desktop than on a small generic icon hidden somewhere in the bottom right corner of the screen. Another good place for the icons would be the sidebar.

  82. gothicx says:


    How about to provide the same functionality of Gnome Desktop, to move windows over taskbar. For example in this case, looking at screenshot, move Outlook to after Messenger.

    I really don’t know if Vista has this functionality, but in XP it doesn’t work.


  83. bret_anderson says:

    I originally made a post on about how Vista does support one method of taskbar ordering.  It does not appear to be around any more.

    Anyway, here is how you do it:

    Create a directory "c:usersappdataroamingmicrosoftwindowsexplorer" if it does not already exist

    Create a file named "taskbar.ini" in that directory

    Here is an example of taskbar.ini content:






    Restart explorer.  All outlook windows should now always be the left-most items in the taskbar.

  84. omikun says:

    I agree with the prevalence of wide screen use and the taskbar really requires a new paradigm (excuse the 90’s slang). I have a wide screen and find having the taskbar on the side across from the sidebar is really convenient for many reasons: More vertical space for websites/documents; fits more windows in the taskband; and takes up less total real estate than a double height horizontal taskbar.

    The main gripe I have is when adjusting the screen resolution (either manually or by another application such as a game) the width of the taskbar explodes like crazy.

    Also, though not related I do want to mention the lack of more multimonitor support. Monitors are cheap enough these days that getting 2 is becoming popular. I am very disappointed with the lack of support from the picture slide show screen saver in Vista. In this respect Vista is inferior than XP. Second: games takes forever to start or exit because of Windows going in or coming out of Aero. If possible, can you just disable the second monitor if I go in to a full screen game? There are also corner cases where a game will flicker back and forth and would take minutes at a time.

  85. says:

    What the heck, let me represent the 1% of people who actually are ok with the notification balloons.  I don’t find myself being flooded with notifications popping up all the time.  What is everyone doing that makes them pop up all the time?  For example, I don’t get a balloon message every time when I insert a USB drive, I just get the Autorun window.  And I really appreciate the system letting me know if it could or could not install a driver for a new device, like a new printer.  On the Mac, you plug in a printer, and well, did it recognize it or not?  I had to run to preferences and see.  My backup program pops up a reminder just once a week that it needs to back up stuff so connect your external hard drive.  Hey, that’s useful.

    Since everyone here seems to be pretty expert users, that means you should know exactly what is starting up on your machine.  With programs like autoruns out there, there is no excuse for enthusiasts to not be in complete control of what starts up.  That’s how you control all those icons in the notification area.  Windows can’t do anything magic to make them all go away.  That said, the auto-hiding feature that was introduced in XP does wonders for hiding extra notification icons.  Right now, it is hiding 4 of the 7 icons I have in there.  So just having three visible is not what I would call cluttered.  

    And for the record, I really love the Safely Remove Hardware icon!  Heck, it is so quick, I just need two clicks to dismount my USB drive (though that MessageBox that is left saying it is ok to remove the device might be better as a notification balloon, so I don’t have to click OK to make it go away).

  86. kanno41 says:

    Hmm, I have a pretty good guess to explain a lot of these statistics.

    It could be that a lot of people either don’t know certain features exist or how to get to them or use them once they’ve found them.  

    Something needs to be added to help users understand the interface more.

  87. Mike Williams says:

    @Joemarus: of my 7 current notification icons, the only one showing is one that is supposed to be always hidden, whereas others that should be shown, are not.

    As for Safely Remove Hardware – it doesn’t distinguish between many of the simultaneous USB connections, and especially between multiple USB drives.

  88. Kosher says:

    For everyone that says Mac OSX does this, Mac OSX does that, etc.  Get a Mac.  No, seriously, get a Mac.  I think it’s the only way that Microsoft will actually change its ways.  Come back in 10 years and maybe by that time their revenue will have fallen off so drastically that they will have realized that they’ve been forcing customers out of their products.

    If it were not for the game industry, which is sadly still a Direct X based industry, most likely we all would have switched when Apple moved to Intel.

  89. Kosher says:

    I still think MS and Apple are in 4th century BC when the world was flat.  These companies are too scared to push the desktop into 3 dimensions and have a true 3D file manager, desktop, icon doc, and workspace.

  90. burgesjl says:

    Ooofff… where to start with all the problems with this article….

    First, you can’t make assumptions about how many windows people have open on the taskbar as the number of windows they WANT to have open. First, they are constrained by the fact that the default taskbar is horizontal, and it has to fit in enough text for you to identify the item you want. By definition, on most screens and font size choices and resolutions, thats about 6 items. Go figure. So, you’ve ARTIFICIALLY constrained users to a particular number, because its too confusing to see any more. Second, the number of open windows is usually primarily constrained by the amount of available RAM. Its just about impossible to have more than 3 or 4 apps available and with docs loaded on a 32-bit machine with 1-2Gb RAM. Again, its a CONSTRAINT which is determining how many windows people have open. Your statistics are leading you down the wrong path. All they are telling you is how people use your current design: they aren’t telling you what people might do with a different one.

    Next: there’s a real need to find out both what is already running and what is available to run. Do people want to edit a document, or run a program? I’d say, the answer is ‘it depends’ and now you’ve got a conundrum on your hands. If you want to run a game, there is no document as such. Do I want to run Excel, or edit a spreadsheet? And do I want to do it by means of a command and file dialog in Excel, or just find/create a document? What if Excel is already running? Wouldn’t I be better off with a single ‘New’ command somewhere on the taskbar to create a document? And wouldn’t it be better to see what is running via some visual means, e.g. a different colored icon (or background to an icon or glow around it, or pulse it like a heartbeat or something)? This needs to be combined with the Notification area which is a dogs breakfast and needs to be urgently retired. Again, all this does is display some running application or service interface with a different way to activate it. Its all the same stuff, running code, and shouldn’t be distinguished different if ‘running in background’ or ‘running in foreground’ or switchable from one to another. Another set of nonsense notions you’ve foisted on us.

    Finally, if you think about the orientation of the taskbar, the most logical position to have it is on the left or right edge, since we are getting widescreen displays and there’s more entries you could fit if you ‘roll-out’ horizontally and not vertically. Again, you’ve constrained users by your initial design choice and because, in fact, people DON’T want to experiment with this stuff in most cases – they just use the defaults you design. Which is why its important you get it right with the defaults…

  91. I would like to defend balloon tips.

    If they occurred every 30 seconds as some if you are suggesting, then yes- they would be annoying. But in my experience, they only ever occur when my Antivirus software is outdated, or there is an update available that Microsoft deem critical. Or when a device installation *goes wrong*.

    The problem is that there are too many icons in the system tray, and so it’s old purpose of notifying people no longer works, as people just ignore it, or expect it to represent running programs.

    Look at the current beta for Windows Live Mail. It has an envelope there all the time. It shows TWO envelopes (as one icon) when you have new mail.  Brilliant.  An icon just to reassure me that, yes, I am successfully running Windows Live Mail. WHY??!??!

    So while developers like this abuse the system tray, Microsoft must turn to Balloon tips to grab our attention when it’s actually required.

    Windows defender is a great example of a program that does it right. It only shows an icon when something needs your attention. NOD32, despite being the best AV software out there, insists on constantly telling "you’re OK", as does Norton, AVG and almost every other AV product. I suspect it’s just a case of getting the logo on the consumer’s screen, certainly in Norton’s case who’ve had their own bright yellow deskband for a while.

    I would rather get companies to stop over-using the system tray, AKA notification area, and then we won’t need balloon tips.

  92. says:

    burgesjl: Your comment about the number of windows open is ill-informed.

    I run XP, 32 bit with 2GB RAM.

    I regulary have about 5 notepad windows open, Outlook, Visual Studio, Expression Web and RAD Studio, a few Firefox windows, IE Windows and my Google mail open in Chrome.

    The system is a Core 2 Duo and it runs nice and fast (unless I’m compiling something obviously) and of course I have a two-line taskbar. I can even stretch to Virtual PC, but that does start slowing this down !

    I simply disagree that 1-2GB ram constrains users to 5 or 6 open windows. It doesn’t.

  93. psionides says:

    Another suggestion, regarding the taskbar: on Linux (KDE at least), the windows which are minimized are displayed different in the taskbar than those that are on the desktop, just not active at the moment – e.g. the font is gray instead of black. I miss that sometimes on Windows, because it’s difficult to tell if a window is minimized or just hidden behind others. It would be nice to have this in the next version of taskbar.

    (Unless Vista already has this – I haven’t used it much so I’m not sure – in this case, ignore this comment…)

  94. psionides says:

    Kosher> For everyone that says Mac OSX does this, Mac OSX does that, etc.  Get a Mac.  No, seriously, get a Mac.

    That’s exactly what I did 🙂 How else would people know how Mac works if they didn’t have one?… I’m keeping Windows XP only for games.

    > I think it’s the only way that Microsoft will actually change its ways.

    In my case the switch rather impacted Canonical…

  95. yeehaamcgee says:

    It really saddens me to see so many supposedly ‘advanced’ users commenting on this blog, asking for features, or functionality that already exist, and have done for a while.

    for example, ability to peg a program to the list of recently used programs.

    This has been available since at least XP. – just drag a shortcut onto the start menu.

    The ability to customise the winkey-number quicklaunch shortcut – just drag the icons to the order you prefer.

    Ability to hide right hand-pane options in start menu, click start button – choose properties

    etc etc etc.

    What this suggests to me is that there’s a fundamental problem that people do not know where features are, or if they’re there at all.

    Didn’t this problem occur in Word, where people were begging for features that had always been there? If it’s true that the word scenario resulted in a major overhaul to the office UI, then maybe it’s time to really, REALLY look at windows’ UI from a discoverability standpoint.

    I know a lot of people who switched to a mac, and found some really obscure features, simply because they "had" to learn almost everything from scratch, forcing them to discover things they never knew before.

    I think people have become so comfortable with windows, that they don;t venture to find out what’s new, and what’s changed, they just take it at face value.

  96. cajhin says:

    After playing around with several alternative shells, I truly appreciate the reliability of the Windows taskbar.

    Minor changes I would like to see:

    1. Drag’n’drop files to minimized apps in the taskbar. I have learned that this is not possible, but why not? It works almost everywhere else, e.g. with the quicklaunch bar.

    2. I have lots of space on my 30". Why is the start menu still constrained to 4" and thus requires lots of scrolling?

    3. system-provided right-click options on EVERY traybar icon: "Exit" and "[x] autostart". This would allow non-experts to remove obnoxious junk, like the Java updater.

    Most people I know are completely helpless about the traybar, and learn to ignore those 15 icons. You can ‘hide inactive icons’, but that is a rather poor way to deal with applications you don’t want running.

    4. I agree: sortable app icons. The feasability of going to S3 sleep these days makes this one important – if an ‘always running’ app is in the wrong place, it might stay there for the next three weeks. (To illustrate: if Outlook crashes at work, I actually close all 10-15 applications, start Outlook, then restart all applications. Outlook must be next to the Start button, opening it is a muscle memory thing for me).

  97. yeehaamcgee says:


    "2. I have lots of space on my 30". Why is the start menu still constrained to 4" and thus requires lots of scrolling?"

    Right click start orb, shoose properties

    click to customize start menu

    increase the number of recent programs to display.

    This will change the size of your start menu.

    See? how many of you, honestly knew that? There’s hidden, or at least undiscoverable  functionality everywhere.

  98. yeehaamcgee says:

    Also, cajhin , dragging and dropping files to minimised apps works here. I’ve done it for a long time with minimised eplorer windows, and I’ve just tested it with office, and the GIMP, and it works there too.

  99. Eghost says:


    "Sorry you would prefer other topics–we’re trying to cover a range of topics based on email and the comments"  the task-bar though a worthwhile discussion, I venture to guess most people would like to see a discussion on the real UI, The  changes you made to Vista, were controversial even in the early beta’s.   The ribbon interface is what all the buzz is about, and explorer is what people want to talk about.   Would love to see Microsoft take, "DOWN THE WALLS." On the planned changes for the UI in Windows 7 and open it up for discussion.  In stead of like Vista where by the time the beta came out Microsoft would not budge on the UI. If you look at IE 8 beta 2 General Manager Dean Hachamovitch and Microsoft has decided on what the UI should be and there is no discussion as of yet on the IE 8’s blog.  So for all intensive purposes please have some real discussion on the UI….

    "Vita per Moenia"

  100. spivonious says:

    This blog is always a pleasure to read, even if it doesn’t meet my expectations.

    I agree with some of the other posters; it would be nice to hear about the engineering of Windows 7 in addition to background information on the general development processes at Microsoft.

    Please don’t get rid of the Vista start menu.  It is 1000x easier to find programs on than the 95/98/ME/2000/XP start menu.

    The only things I would like to see are the reordering of items on the taskbar and a multi-monitor aware taskbar.

    For the next entry, I’d like to some details on how WPF is being used in the Windows 7 UI.

  101. marcinw says:

    I’m looking into this post and comments and have few own:

    1. it looks, that Microsoft people are ignoring important topics. We can see some easy info only – how does look taskbar, what is DPI, etc. No info about it, what Microsoft think about ideas repeated many times (not only by me) like making decentralized Registry, separating applications, less DRM… I’m asking my self – does it mean, that Windows 7 will not provide revolution in these "difficult" areas ?

    2. there are people, who don’t like (like me) Vista color scheme and interface…

    3. tooltips from notification area can be disabled using 3rd party tools, people want it for concrete applications (maybe not only in properties for taskbar, but also in properties available in application shortcut). I agree.

    But it must be more intelligent than for example disabling unused icons in notification area in Windows XP – I can’t disable it for example for some applications (not for icons) and set action for all other…

  102. WindowsFanboy says:

    I have an idea of how to make resising the start menu more discoverable: make it so you can click the top edge of the start menu and drag it up to make it taller. Note: this would do the exact same thing as changing the number of recent programs in the start menu properties, it would just be more discoverable.

  103. DOStradamus says:

    I’d appreciate an "Icons Only" taskband option.

    "Stacked" buttons are connter-intuitive for me. The way I think when I task switch is (example) "get me to the second instance of that particular app I’m running", and then click the "second one of those from the Left".

    Extra clicks to scroll the taskban up/down, or to unstack stuff are *extra clicks*, but worse, my feeble, 45-year old mind has to deal with my running Apps being indexed by something more complex the the simple, linear, "launch order".

    I’d rather put that kind of thought into the code I write, than having to deal with it to write code.

    That *is* a rant, admittedly, but the productivity increase I’d get from it would rival that, which I  gained when I started using Windows/386 eons ago.

    If Alt-Tab would list apps in launch order, rather than last active, as an option, that would be nice too!

    AND, make them available under Windows Classic theme in Server 2008 R2 (nee Windows 7 Server). "server" has been the primarily-used OS on my "main box" since NT4.


  104. Computermensch says:

    It should be an easier and a more integrated experience to do toolbars or actually just organize access to programs on the front of the desk top. Quicklaunch is just a too tiny thing. So the toolbar stuff should be an alternate view of the content in the start menu – including filters … and extendable. But the experience right now is that you have to create folders to hold the shortcuts etc. And if the system fails and you end up in safemode then the memory of your toolbar layout may vanish or get mixed up because the explorer cache seems to do so (it has to be more persistent than that). So in that case it also need to perform better. 3rd party toolbars are just not ok to rely on. 3rd party toolbars often have problems with maximized windows, resolution changes, games or media center starting etc. the built-in toolbars are just too less an integrated experience. I.e. Again Quicklaunch is old stuff – you need to classify the programs, have several groups etc. More complexity today beyond Quicklaunch.

  105. CRMMario says:

    For readability of the taskbar, you can use a zoom effect. Take ObjectDock like a good example, this is a dock, taskbar (with thumbails with zoom), notification, if you add a Stack DockLet (for group programs shortcuts), this replaces enterely the windows taskbar and in a very visually way. Something like that witll be an improvement to the Old TaskBar…

  106. darrenj1 says:

    The primary reason I do not use the Media Player toolbar is the volume control.

    I use Media Player in the office and need quick access to the volume control, so I have mini player enabled and on top of other windows.

    It would be better if I could sit it in the toolbar. I have expanded my toolbar to 2 rows so it could also use this space more effectively.

  107. says:

    I think including object dock or something similar might get the legal team at Apple excited at the though of lots of overtime.

    I’ve used OSX since version 1, ans the dock SUCKS as an app switcher (it is btw an App switcher, not a window switcher) this is why Apple had to fix it with Exposé. You can’t easily see what windows you have open, only what applications are running, and what windows are minimised (by way of a thumbnail that’s way too small)

    The dock does do a nice job of accommodating long running apps with it’s System Tray like functionality, icons can change, and there can be entries added to the context menu. It also does s superb job of handling gazillions of running programs, by shrinking.

    So the dock is certainly not perfect, and nor is it an original idea, I think it takes a lot from RISC OS.

  108. DWalker59 says:

    If you have a large enough screen, a two-row-high taskbar solves many of the problems with the QuickLaunch are not being big enough, and not having enough area to show icons.  I think I entered a comment to the followup blog post on this.  Two rows high could be a default for some screen size or other.

  109. Knipoog says:

    In 99% of the times I use the Taskbar, its the Tasband part.

    On the most left side I always have a button "Programs" that opens a folder I always make on any computer I use with the programs I most use. With that I can start that program with two mouseclick’s, with Start >  All programs > MS Office > Excel (for example) its four. Two more than needed 😉

    Furthermore I always open the programs I use in the same order to get them in that order (from left to right) in the taskband.

    Its the map Programs, then my Chat-program, than e-mail and than the internet browser.

    If they are on the taksband in an other way I get confused 🙂

    Regards (XP User) Knipoog

  110. Evil Overlord says:

    I think you guys are on the right track (though of course you have to balance all these needs against bloat).

    On specific point – I use the taskbar on the left of the screen rather than at the bottom. (I’m with [magicalclick] on this.) This is because I generally need more vertical room (for text documents) than horizontal.  This is exacerbated by the shift to widescreens.  However, the interface is not always consistent – some maximized windows go offscreen.  Not sure if this is a Windows or application flaw, but it does mean time spent re-sizing rather than working.  I’m betting most people don’t know they can move the taskbar at all.

    In addition, the width of the taskbar is not finely flexible, especially when trying to lock it.  With XP, I had a long struggle – I could get the width right, but it re-set every time I restarted (possibly related to DPI setting?).  I haven’t noticed this with Vista, but frankly I’ve kind of given up trying – not the kind of user experience I think you’re aiming for.

    Finally, on a tangentially related point: I often work on a document, realize I want to open Excel, Firefox, Word, etc, so click on a Quick Launch button, then go back to my document.  In the new program’s startup, it steals focus SEVERAL times.  I could see it once (after all, I opened the program), but I want to decide when to use the new app, not have it insist that I do it now.  Microsoft programs seem to be the worst offenders.  Why not pop to the top of the heap ONCE, then go back in the pile, if I don’t want it right away?

    PS I think the whole discussion of WMP is exemplary of what’s wrong with Windows – what we want is an effective operating system, not ‘required’ goodies.  What does a specific media player have to do with an operating system feature?  Maybe just a convenient example, but it sounds like you work on both – that’s the problem,

  111. Bjartr says:

    The one real critique of the Programs Menu, in any of its iterations, is that there is a whole lot more than just programs on it. There are help files and uninstallers to name just a couple common items.

    When I first used a linux distro the thing that stuck with me was that the application menu only had links to executables! Windows keeps track of uninstallers and has for some time, and in a user friendly manner. An app has its own ways of presenting help.

    The start menu seems so much simpler and cleaner once I’ve distilled it to just application shortcuts. I’m certainly no expert on UI, but this seems like a very positive change, of course it is a rather drastic one too, but it couldn’t hurt to look into.

  112. PeanutGallary says:

    One feature that i realy miss in Vista that XP had is the ability to hide the taskbar PERMANENTLY by unlocking it and then just pull it down.

    That means: not the autohide-feature.

    Speaking of the autohide-taskbar…it is realy annoying because it has a small delay after you’ve moved the mouse to the lowest pixelrow before the taskbar actually pops up.

    Another thing that i find annoying with the taskbar is if you have set it to 2(or more) rows. Then the first programs you start will get placed on the top row of the taskbar.

    This means that you cant just quickly pull down your mouse to the bottom of the screen and quickly pick program, instead you have to hit the exact vertical position of the button.

  113. alpha-centauri says:


    would there be an idea doing the taskbar as in Mac?

  114. alpha-centauri says:

    I don’t know, how MFU will help novice users, but it is not helping at all. people remeber where the icons were. so MFU wont help here

  115. alpha-centauri says:

    The Pinnend out Quicklauch is sitting on the left side of the screen. It carries all my shortcuts to most used tools, and is always visible. This saves me at least one click instead of opening the new-style starmenue and clicking on pinned shortcuts.

    and it declutters the taskbar. the only think i still keep on the taskbar is the "show desktop" icon. some stupid apps somehow always get to the foreground and overlap the quicklaunch.

  116. jeremie-eeckeman says:

    I know it is very difficult to make a GUI ease to use even you have users who use the previous version.

    I think you should make an important change in the app that manages icons in the notification area.

    Like UAC, when an application need to install an icon, most when it need to make a bubble during the installation but managed by the OS.

    Why ? because, most software when you setup them, install without your conscent some icons in the notification area and the first thing i do on a computer’s client is to deactivate some unnecessary icons.

    The advantage : you choose what you want to be.

    About the start menu, i think it is important to make possible to get the menu like xp. Most users I see doesn’t like the new menu in vista.

    Don’t forget, the statistics doesn’t hear people outside their computer getting angry because they are searching how to do someting…

  117. Mina Itse says:

    I think that letting these tool-parts of Taskbar to be separated, undocked to different parts of desktop and docked together again, could resolve quite many usability problems, that people have with it.

    So why just one taskbar?

    Or cource now you can use two lines in Taskbar, to achieve more space for it – but that isn’t very usable, it just takes far too much space – especially with wide screens.

    I’m very convinced that quite many Windows users would like to undock Quick Launch -toolbar out of the Taskbar to separate taskbar, and to drag it on either side of the screen, especially on the left side, upwards over Start-menu. Quick Launch with icons would function very good docked in the side. Also there, situated upwards, the tooltips of Quick Launch icons would sure function most proper way.

    So in that way there would be much more space left in the Taskbar for the taskband area, and one line Toolbar would be quite enough. Windows user could see more of the headings of the minimized windows – that has been problem with the overused, just one, Taskbar.

    I think you should really think about that.

    So at least let user drag, undock, the Quick Launch -toolbar out of the Taskbar to a different place on the screen.

  118. CRMMario says:

    Alfet see PDC Demo i have only two sugestions:

    1).- Icons in quick launch need some type of optional grouping, like stack panels.

    2).- Gadgets should have a way to hide easilly, dashboard o myboard ( is a better approach.

  119. alpha-centauri says:


    I just tested the latest 7 Beta… And sadly, you really messed with the quicklaunch.

    The way I work, I have a folder full of shortcuts to my most used programs. This folder is a quick launch folder, pinned to the left side of the screen in windows xp.

    Please don’t come up with "you can use the starmenü".

    The quick launch on the left side of the screen is much faster and it doesnt fill up the task bar.

  120. says:

    Hello windows 7 Team!!!

    I hope that we are hard job, for absolute perfoemance of windows 7!!!

    The people to be praying you on their knees, otherwise everyone will move to other shores (Mac or Linux)!!!

    So attenction:

    1) Performance , performance, and also performance!!!

    2) No lag on the interface of windows 7, i repeat: no lag on aero interface on windows 7!!!!

    No lag , to open windows , no lag to open applications, no lag to open all!!!!!!!

    3) Reduce, i repeat, reduce drastically the fragmentation of file , and reduce the time necessary to defragment file , very very drastically!!!!!!!!!!!!

    In short, people no longer wants that   windows 7 think when it must work!

    Windows 7 should take, take, take!!!

    Super fast, no lag in interface … lag in all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks !!!!

  121. Haritha says:

    I have a few problems with the Windows 7 Taskbar the new idea is good but I would

    like to know what you would do for the following problems

    1. As someone mentioned before how would we know if a program in the taskbar is already running this is rather important  to get a glance of what’s going on in the computer

    what is consuming memory inside the computer

    2.If you are replacing the deskband with thumbnail toolbars there might be a problem with to interact with applications that are not running

    eg- Encarta has a search bar which is on the taskbar even when encarta is not runnig I find this quite useful to search for something in encarta. Will this not be available

    3.If you are planing to use thumbnail toolbars to repalce windows media player deskband what if the thumbnail goes out of focus while we are playing video. Say you have a ALWAYS ON TOP feature but then WMplayer thumbnail would get in the way of all other thumbnails

    4.Thumbnail toolbars do not look as powerful nor flexible as deskbands ,what will happen to the volume control and the seek(progress) bar.

  122. AtulGupta says:

    first the idea of being able to use Windows Key and 1, 2, 3 etc along with it to launch quick launch menu is good. Personally I prefer to get things done mostly with keyboard without breaking away to use mouse

    on the grouping of similar buttons, thought a good idea from real estate perspective, I for one, always disables it since that i can get to the windows with single click on the task band without having to first open the group and then select the window.

  123. porum says:

    For readability of the taskbar, you can use a zoom effect. Take ObjectDock like a good example, this is a dock, taskbar (with thumbails with zoom), notification, if you add a Stack DockLet (for group programs shortcuts), this replaces enterely the windows taskbar and in a very visually way. Something like that witll be an improvement to the Old TaskBar…

  124. porum says:

    I often place WMP in the mini toolbar mode, but only because it takes up just as much space as its normal task button.  However I would definitely prefer it to minimise to an icon in the notification area, much like most other media players can do.

  125. John Gout Cure says:

    Two steps forward, one step back.  That’s how I consider the Win7 task bar and Explorer.  You’ve fixed some fundamental annoyances and generally moved the state of the art forward but introduced some new annoyances, a lot of it related to breaking functionality that used to work in XP.

    There was no reason to drop the Quick Launch and make it so hard to re-enable.  Shortcut keys for launching don’t work for apps that are on put on the Quick Launch leading to an inconsistent UI (Consistency is where Aqua seems to score more points).  

    On the other hand, shortcut keys now instantaneously launch apps (some sort of race condition seemed to be present in XP making it take forever to launch apps *and* blocking the Explorer in some instances when launching apps via shortcut keys).  This definitely counts as an Hallelujah! moment.

    While generally desirable, I wouldn’t be so proud of the new taskbar features.  Pinning is a great idea and I like it, but it is horribly inconsistent leading to very frustrating experiences trying to pin different stuff in different areas (so different from OS X Aqua The Consistent).  

    Focus follows mouse is STILL not an easily enabled option, which would win you a LOT of Unix fans.  It’s easily enabled with a tiny registry hack though, so not much complaints there.  My REAL complaint is disabling Always on Top for the Taskbar.  This worked in earlier Win7 RC builds and there is NO GOOD REASON to disable it!  [b]<b>Focus follows mouse (no auto-raise for all windows) + non-always-on-top Taskbar (the ONLY thing which gets autoraised…) is actually the fastest way to work.  It’s not consistent from a programmer’s point of view, but not a problem for end-user as the Taskbar has always been special.</b>[/b]

    You’re really pushing Aero at the expense of destroying the Classic GUI which is sucking more and more.  I guess this is a strategic decision so you can eventually drop it, although I don’t consider visual styles much of an improvement up to now.  Aqua is still far more beautiful than either Aero or Win Classic, but I stick with Windows 7 because familiarity breeds usability, although you seem to be doing a lot to try to break that familiarity.

  126. Texas Driver education says:

    Vista’s added thumbnails helped with this problem but sometimes the thumbnails are too small or the windows are too similar for proper identification as you noted.Finally, on a tangentially related point: I often work on a document, realize I want to open Excel, Firefox, Word, etc, so click on a Quick Launch button, then go back to my document.  In the new program’s startup, it steals focus SEVERAL times

  127. skagon says:



    And no, it’s not going to be replaced by any third-party app, because it’s not about having shortcuts; it’s about having the "My Computer" contents readily available, so you can open a drive at once, with a SINGLE click! "Always on top" plus "Autohide", move the mouse to the side of the desktop that the toolbar is hidden, pops out, move over the desired drive, click! ONE SINGLE click!

    Now, the shortest route to opening a drive is either -Start-Computer–Drive or -"Show desktop"–Computer–Drive! Just count the clicks and the double-clicks!

    Way to go, Microsoft! You guys are oh-so-bloody-clever!

  128. CNA Training says:

    Thank you for the awesome link – it really goes into detail as to the features added and improving GDI performance because that was a major let down since Windows Vista which resulted in GDI being unaccelerated. With the acceleration hopefully it’ll mean greater snappiness. With that being said, however, it would be great if vendors invested some of their healthy profits into porting their applications from GDI/GDI+ to Direct2D and DirectWrite.

  129. Another suggestion, regarding the taskbar: on Linux (KDE at least), the windows which are minimized are displayed different in the taskbar than those that are on the desktop, just not active at the moment – e.g. the font is gray instead of black. I miss that sometimes on Windows, because it’s difficult to tell if a window is minimized or just hidden behind others. It would be nice to have this in the next version of taskbar.

    (Unless Vista already has this – I haven’t used it much so I’m not sure – in this case, ignore this comment…)

  130. This is an awesome site. Thanx for all the great info.

  131. Wilczek says:


    I enjoyed reading this article.

    I'd like to add 2 things:

    1. The article says that "Based on your feedback, … Quick Launch was turned on by default again.". Now I'm wondering why Windows 7 comes without a "default" Quick Launch Toolbar? It wasn't a real big issue to create a folder and throw there shortcuts then add it manually to the taskbar (it is also easy to add the Show Desktop "shortcut"), but this is not true for all the users.

    2. I don't really like using the mouse (when I started learning Windows I had no mouse) + I  "miss-click" a lot.

    So, I'm glad that most of the operations can be done by the keyboard. Some examples: Win+B -> you place the focus into the notification area (unfortunately Win9X series lacked this feature). For example when I want to open the change date and time settings dialog I press Win+B, then left, then enter. Or, what is changed and first it was strange in Windows 7, I access a shortcut from the quick launch by pressing the Windows button on the keyboard then ESC (not at once, after each other, in XP press ALT instead of ESC to place the focus on the start button) then tab and use arrows or press the first letter of the shortcut's label. The first letter of label works on all icons/buttons on the taskbar. For example now I have 2 taskbar buttons starting with letter "U". Under Win7 you can press Win+T, Win+T (if you have pinned shortcuts to jump over) then U to jump on the first taskbar button starting with letter U, then U again to jump on the second, and so on. Or I open the Start Menu and Taskbar Properties this way in Win7: Start, Esc (ALT in XP) then ALT+Enter.

    In the old start menu I used the following: for example I want to access quickly Microsoft Excel. I placed an "&" in front of O in the label of "Microsoft &Office" so "O" became a hot key in the programs menu of the Microsoft Office item then I placed "&" in front of "x" in the label of "Microsoft E&xcel". So on an old system using old menus I can access Excel quickly by pressing Start, P, O, X and I don't even have to wait till the system draws the menu, or to move the mouse around.

    Ah, one more thing: this is quite annoying in Windows Explorer in Windows 7: When I'm the focus is in the tree view of folders and the selection is on a folder that its content is not displayed yet and I want to access the system menu pressing ALT+Space then the system menu appears and closes immediately and the space is processed as activating the selected folder which content is not yet shown.

    Thanks for reading,


    PS: it would also be interesting to read about how these keyboard shortcuts were decided and why some of them were not documented. 🙂 For example why Win+B places the focus in the notification area and not Win+N? 🙂 Also, how MS developers use the interface? With keyboard shortcuts or rather with mouse?

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