Thinking through a feature

The commentary after my entry on taskbar grouping drifted into people asking for still more features in taskbar grouping.

Writing the code is the easy part.

Designing a feature is hard.

You have several audiences to consider. It's not just about the alpha geeks; you have to worry about the grandmothers, the office workers, the IT departments. They all have different needs. Sometimes a feature that pleases one group offends another.

So let's look at some of the issues surrounding the proposed feature of allowing users to selectively ungroup items in the taskbar.

One issue with selective grouping is deciding the scope of the feature. Suppose the user ungroups Internet Explorer, then closes all the IE windows, then opens two new IE windows: Do the new ones group?

If so, then you now have an invisible setting. How do you configure grouping for programs that aren't running? (How do you configure something that you can't see?)

Suppose you've figured that out. That's fine for the alpha geeks, but what about grandma?

"The Internet is all disorganized."

"What do you mean?"

"All my Internet windows are all disorganized."

"Can you explain a little more?"

"My taskbar used to be nice and organized, but now the Internet parts are disorganized and spread out all over the place. It used to be nice and neat. I don't know how it happened. I hate the Internet, it's always messing up my computer."

What is the UI for selective ungrouping? Anything that is on a context menu will be executed accidentally by tens of thousands of people due to mouse twitching. Putting the regroup onto the context menu isn't necessarily good enough because those people don't even realize it was a context menu that did it. It was just a mouse twitch.

Mouse twitches cause all sorts of problems. Some people accidentally dock their taskbar vertically; others accidentally resize their taskbar to half the size of the screen. Do not underestimate the havoc that can be caused by mouse twitching.

Soon people will want to do arbitrary grouping. "I want to group this command prompt, that notepad window, and this calc window together."

What about selective ungrouping? "I have this group of 10 windows, but I want to ungroup just 2 of them, leaving the other 8 grouped together."

Once you have selective/arbitrary grouping, how do you handle new windows? What group do they go into?

Remember: Once you decide, "No, that's too much," there will be thousands of people cursing you for not doing enough. Where do you draw the line? And also remember that each feature you add will cost you another feature somewhere else. Manpower isn't free.

But wait, the job has just begin. Next, you get to sit down and do the usability testing.

Soon you'll discover that everything you assumed to be true is completely wrong, and you have to go back to the drawing board. Eventually, you might conclude that you over-designed the feature and you should go back to the simple on/off switch.

Wait, you're still not done. Now you have to bounce this feature off corporate IT managers. They will probably tear it to shreds too. In particular, they're going to demand things like remote administration and the ability to force the setting on or off across their entire company from a central location. (And woe unto you if you chose something more complicated than an on/off switch: Now you have to be able to deploy that complex setting across tens of thousands of computers - some of which may be connected to the corporate network via slow modems!)

Those are just some of the issues involved in designing a feature. Sometimes I think it's a miracle that features happen at all!

(Disclaimer: I'm not saying this is how the grouping feature actually came to be. I just used it as a starting point for a rant.)

For another perspective, you can check out KC Lemson's discussion of the feature-design process a few days ago under the topic There's no such thing as a simple feature.

Comments (75)
  1. Regarding the mouse twitching bit, it sounds like a good argument for toolbars (esp those in Office) being locked by default (with the possible exception of floating toolbars).

    While rearranging toolbars can be useful, I have seen far too many people get really confused when their toolbars aren’t where they want them to be. This is epically true in Word where the main application menu can be moved above or below the other toolbars which is hardly ever useful but confuses some people a lot (and if they are going to allow the menu to be a toolbar, why can’t I put a my toolbar on the same line as the menu bar to save some screen space?).


  2. Cooney says:

    This is one of the things that X got right – policy and execution are separate. To apply it to the taskbar question, grouping is logically a taskbar config item, is it should be configured from the same place. What I’d like to see is a basic level of functionality, but add scripting support.

    I’d like all sorts of weird options (or just simple clustering, with app instances next to each other) that I can play with through COM, VBA or whatever, but that require me to install an app to screw with the complicated things. Design it so that, without such an app, things are simple, but the app can add a layer of complexity. Then we can hash out specifics well away from the explorer code.

  3. RichB says:

    I agree with you regarding non-geek users getting overwhelmed by the UI designed for advanced users.

    Which has always made me wonder what on earth possessed the Office team to design a toolbar/menu structure that:

    a) allowed the toolbars to be moved around without first putting the UI into a "customize" mode first.

    b) allow the menu to be moved anywhere other than the top – I mean come on – who in their right mind would think this was useful? And even if you did think it was useful, what did the usability testing results say?

    I remember seeing the HR manager at a company several years ago work on a 640×480 screen and only seeing 2 inches of Microsoft Word because she’d accidently moved the Word toolbars into such a configuration that the toolbar area took up 60% of her desktop. She’d been working like this for weeks until I pointed out how to sort it out.

    And no-one think that people don’t work on 640×480 screens – my father runs his TFT at 800×600 despite it having a native 1024×768 so he can have larger icons and larger text. We tried to alter the Windows scheme into an accessibility setting and also tried to alter the DPI but he wasn’t satisfied with either of these. Roll on virtual pixels!

  4. Raymond Chen says:

    Cooney: Imagine if Program Manager had that degree of scripting and people used it. Now Windows 95 comes along and wants to do a UI overhaul. But it can’t because everybody has Program Manager scripts that they refuse to let go of. Or can it? Would people have gotten upset that Program Manager got thrown away and replaced with something else?

  5. So take the feature off the context menu and put in some registry key :).

  6. Eric Lippert says:

    There’s always a balance to be found between making something easy and risking accidents and making something hard and risking that no one ever finds the feature.

    Sometimes that’s what you want — some features are inherently rarely used and then only by very advanced users, so it doesn’t make sense to make a slick UI to turn it on. But in those cases, it had better be an incredibly important feature for those rare users, important enough to justify stealing dev/test/pm/doc/loc time from features that benefit millions of people.

  7. Zirakzigil says:

    I am infinitely grateful that someone is considering mouse twitching during feature design. For some reason, in Outlook, I twitch my mail folders into new mail folders at least once a month. (think moving "Personal" under "From The Boss" accidentally)

  8. Cooney says:

    Imagine if Program Manager had that degree of scripting and people used it.

    I dunno, how did this play out on the macintosh? I recall that quite a lot of stuff was scriptable.

    > Would people have gotten upset that Program Manager got thrown away and replaced with something else?

    IDGI: are you arguing that we shouldn’t make it too useful so people don’t get attached to their environment? In my scenario, I expect that there would be 3rd party software vendors (provided that MS didn’t kill them all again) offering various packages that provide extended functionality. They would either adapt their utilities to whatever new thing came along or they’d sell something for the new thing.

  9. Mat Hall says:

    My proposed simple solution to the problem — let me drag items out of the grouped lists, a la dockable toolbars, and keep that specific window out of the grouping. When the window gets closed, forget about it…

  10. Raymond Chen says:

    Mat: Okay, that’s where you draw the line. (You don’t even care that there is no way to get the window back into its group, say if you dragged the wrong one ouy by mistake.) Other people will draw the line somewhere else.

    Cooney: So you’re arguing that it’s okay to break backwards compatibility for UI scripting? What does that say to all the people (and corporations) who used that scripting? Will they just stop upgrading so they can keep their scripts?

  11. dd says:

    How about adding an option to specify the max number of windows to group before starting a new group? For example, if set to 3, the 4th IE would start a new group.

    Could we not also have this configurable per process just like "Customize Notifications" for the "notification area"?

    But, I guess, from the discussion, there is never a simple feature.

  12. Cooney says:

    So you’re arguing that it’s okay to break backwards compatibility for UI scripting? What does that say to all the people (and corporations) who used that scripting? Will they just stop upgrading so they can keep their scripts?

    I’m saying that it’s a reasonable thing when introducing a major UI shift. Microsoft hasa had 2 that I recall. 1 was windows 1.0, 2 was windows 95. By the way, are the file manager or program manager still supported in windows XP? I just opened progman, and it was empty.

  13. Cooney says:

    I have a logitech usb mouse that XP has been playing with for a few months. Every few days, XP detects it again and I tell it to stop looking for a custom driver. What’s the deal? I should be able to just use the standard drivers (which work fine) without having XP bother me constantly.

  14. mikew says:

    re twitching: I frequently undock toolbars and Visual Studio windows by mistake, and then I have trouble re-docking them. For some reason the "undock" gesture is much easier to trigger than the "dock" gesture, at least for me. Or they dock in the wrong place.

  15. Wayne says:

    I think the whole taskbar grouping was a horrible UI in the first place! It’s only necessary because Microsoft ditched MDI in favour of every document in every application being it’s own top-level Window.

    Office applications are the worst: Word has TWO close [x]’s and 90% of the time they both do exactly the same operation (close the current Window). Only when there is one Word window left to do they do something different. That’s just terrible UI.

    I’ve always wondered why the Windows 95 GUI didn’t do anything to improve MDI? What would have been cool is to put a mini-taskbar at the bottom (or top) of the MDI space. This would have made it consistent with the desktop. Minimizing an MDI window now gets you that weird small window titlebar — who’s idea was that?!? At least one application I know, Eudora, actually has a taskbar for it’s MDI space — and it works great.

  16. Raymond Chen says:

    dd: And then people will attempt to read mailcious intent into the grouping. "IE grouped an Orbitz popup ad with Expedia, how interesting." And of course programs will insist on being able to manipulate their own groups. (And what happens if that program stops responding?)

    Cooney: Program Manager and File Manager shipped with Windows 95, precisely so that people could upgrade and gradually shift to the new UI over time. Thank goodness File Manager is finally gone; Program Manager is still there though. You can create groups and everything.

    You might have better success directing your driver complaint to somebody who works on Plug and Play. I have no idea what’s going on either.

  17. Raymond Chen says:

    Wayne: I find your remarks amusing, because there are probably more people who claim that MDI was the stupidest idea ever. (The Mac doesn’t do MDI after all.)

  18. Cooney says:


    > And of course programs will insist on being able to manipulate their own groups. (And what happens if that program stops responding?)

    Ick. It’s bad enough that a program has final say over its termination. Now it can hose a whole group of proggies.


    > Office applications are the worst.

    Yeah. If I open a Word doc and another one is already open, it switches to that one, then opens a new window. Screws the hell out of tab-order.

  19. Cooney says:


    > At least one application I know, Eudora, actually has a taskbar for it’s MDI space — and it works great.

    Add textpad to the list. It’s got a list of open docs on the side. Works a treat.

  20. Chris McKenzie says:

    You guys are all proving his point. Every one of you has a different conception of how the same feature should be implemented, and where "the line" should be drawn.

    You should update this blog entry with the comments that people have posted here as an example of exactly what you’re talking about.

    Great post!

  21. Wayne says:

    "Wayne: I find your remarks amusing, because there are probably more people who claim that MDI was the stupidest idea ever."

    It seems MDI is back in fashion — it’s just in the form of "tabs". Even Mac applications have tabs now…

    I believe it’s just the poor implementation of MDI on Windows that’s the problem. It’s really too bad that Microsoft abandoned MDI rather than refining it.

  22. ATZ Man says:

    Don’t. Mess. With. Alt. Tab.

    I tend to run up to 60 browser windows at once and I have a lot invested in the existing behavior of alt-tab and alt-escape. The tab grouping feature was a great upgrade from what I had before, where the buttons were so small that all I saw was 60 browser icons (in two or three rows!)

  23. Scott says:

    Sometimes I’m stunned any new features get added to Windows. It does kinda explain why they tend to change things wholesale rather than just tweaking. With tweaking, you can raise all sorts of little objections that are hard to deal with. But you don’t notice the small things when you change things completely.

  24. Any new feature which does not serve a large percentage of users is essentially stealing valuable resources that could be spent implementing features, fixing bugs or looking for security vulnerabilities that DO impact the lives of millions of people.

  25. Dan Maas says:

    I think "tabbed browsing" is a better solution to taskbar crowding, at least for web browsers (which seem to be the biggest problem).

  26. Andreas Häber says:


    If you use multi-monitor you’ll like how Office handles multiple documents :) It’s so nice to have two Word windows open, so you can have a monitor for each of them. I wish Visual Studio would be the same way…

  27. Cooney says:

    I wish Visual Studio would be the same way

    How often are you debugging two separate programs at the same time? ^_^

  28. Florian W. says:

    The alpha geek in me thinks: Where is the interface, so I can make my own tabbing manager.

    But I’m also employed in a company that writes software for artists and so my thought is: Hey MS, with your cool interview techniques you get all the alpha geeks, but you don’t get the stupid people, that is required to write software for stupid people.

  29. Phantom says:

    Tabbed browsing was a brilliant idea. Opera was one of the first browser to support it; and in its classic look, the tabs do actually look like taskbar buttons (which is nice from a UI constinency viewpoint). Works great for me, I have about 20 browser windows open at the moment…

  30. IIRC, using tabs for MDI was first implemented in FrontPage 98… with a precursor of it in Excel.

  31. CW User says:

    Mat Hall If I want it back in the group, I can just drag the un-grouped button onto the grouped button, like those floating toolbars we all love so much.

    Mat’s idea is really simple in many ways – it’s easy to develop for MS,

    it’s easy to explain to anyone and it’ would be really easy to use. So

    it’s almost perfect because it covers what most people would like to

    have. Clean taskbar and nice feature for special cases when it

    really matters.

  32. asdf says:

    mikew: you can undo undocking by double clicking on the floating toolbar window’s titlebar.

  33. Raymond Chen says:

    Note however that it violates UI guidelines for buttons. if you click down on a button and then drag off, you cancel the push; you don’t drag the button.

  34. Marc Wallace says:

    I like the idea of a "customize" mode.

    Although I try very hard never to have to use the mouse, I, too, have suffered from mouse twitch. And although discovering hidden "features" (like double-clicking in taskmgr to remove the frame, mentioned here a while back) appeals somewhat to the geek in me, it also appalls me ("what, why didn’t they at least *mention* this in the help file???").

    Put the text ".LOG" at the top of a text file, and open it in innocuous little notepad… voila, each time you open the file it adds a timestamp. Huh? At least that one is documented, but it violates the principle of least surprise.

    Customize mode is kind of anti-Raskin (if you’ve read "Humane Interface"), but then again, customization at all is anti-Raskin. Not all of his ideas are ones I agree with.

    As for just forcing people to go out and find magic registry locations… feh. It irritates me every time I discover that I have to go in there (like to set the autocomplete character for the "DOS" shell). This doesn’t keep me from going in there several times a week, but it’s frustrating to *have* to learn all these magic places.

    (at least regedit has bookmarks in 2kpro. ;-))

  35. Andreas Häber says:

    [This is quite OT, but I’d like to give a response.]

    Cooney wrote: "How often are you debugging two separate programs at the same time? ^_^ "

    Too often I guess, distributed systems are fun to debug :-). More processes (and threads) => more fun!

    But the debug-windows in VS.NET are just great, since you can make them float and then move them over to another monitor. But if you want to edit to source files at the same time it’s a little pain to move one to another monitor (I know a workaround though..).

  36. Wayne says:

    "Note however that it violates UI guidelines for buttons."

    …And the start menu (w/ it’s dragging) violates the UI guidelines for menus!

  37. Raymond Chen says:

    Actually the Start menu with click+drag is perfectly in keeping with the UI guidelines for "menu buttons":

  38. Wayne says:


    I found nothing on that page about dragging menu buttons (it’s a LONG page — so I may have missed it). However, the only place I’ve ever seen dragging menus is the Start Menu. Does anyone have an example other than the Start Menu?

    It seems that so many things violate the UI guidelines (see my above comment on Word’s close button) that why even bother saying "it violates [the] UI guidelines". Exceptions abound!

  39. Raymond Chen says:

    Search for "menu buttons":

    >> Display the menu when the user clicks or presses the button, and allow the user to use arrow keys or drag onto the menu and make menu selections. <<

    So you can drag the mouse from the button into the menu.

  40. Raymond’s talking about figure 8.10 – a button that opens up a menu.

    Are you thinking about something else?

  41. Jeremy Croy says:

    And remember for every feature one off (Like how it handles something, someone’s got to test it, and make sure it doesn’t break something else.) And testing is the most expensive endevour of microsoft’s shipping a product.

  42. Eric Lippert says:

    Re: docking in VS: Whidbey has much, much better UI for drag-and-dock. I too used to find it incredibly frustrating; with Whidbey, you’ll never drop the window in the wrong place again.

    Re: When do you debug two things at once: every day, but I work on Visual studio, so I’m usually debugging Office with the debugger, debugging the debugger with the debugger, and debugging the OTHER office process that’s logically bound to the VS designer with a THIRD instance of the debugger. I don’t know how I lived without two monitors, and I’d really like to have three…

  43. cooney says:

    Too often I guess, distributed systems are fun to debug :-). More processes (and threads) => more fun!

    I have the same problem, but I’m solving it through judicious use of logging. And with Log4j, I don’t even have to remove the code when I ship (hell, I can turn parts of it on in production ^_^)

  44. Mat Hall says:

    Raymond: If I want it back in the group, I can just drag the un-grouped button onto the grouped button, like those floating toolbars we all love so much.

    And I *much* prefer MDI to the one document, one button jobby. Things like, say, Access, where I may have anywhere up to 20 windows open at a time REALLY make a mess of the taskbar. Sure, I can group the Access buttons, but I’d much rather they all just stayed in their little box and kept the heck out of my face…

  45. Multimon is the bomb. There is absolutely no way I’d ever do development work without it.

    One of the testers in my group actually has a 4 port multimon KVM switch – I want one too :)

  46. Johan Thelin says:

    This is, IMHO, a problem in the FOSS world. Features getting added like crazy and then someone has to try to bring order and hence pisses of all the happy feature-implementers…

    It is also nice to see that one of the best selling softwares in the world, i.e. Microsoft Office, is an example of the problem – feature bloat. It still sells, and grand-mas still like it. Really odd.

  47. mikew says:

    asfd: "you can undo undocking by double clicking on the floating toolbar window’s titlebar"


    Sure enough! You’ve just saved me hours of future dinking-around time. :-)

  48. Tim says:

    The grouping in the taskbar is a nice feature how about gouping by tabs all windows can be grouped in a top window with tabs? just an idea

  49. Petr Kadlec says:

    Slightly off-topic, but there was already some mention about Visual Studio. :-)

    I love the tabs in Visual Studio, but I hate the way of ctrl+tabbing through them. Am I supposed to remember the ordering of the zillion of open files and just repeat scanning them using tab until I find the right one?

    Is there any checkbox I could check in order to make them cycle in order of their placement in the tab list instead of pseudorandom?

  50. Chris Redpath says:

    Can I just ask if anyone else suffers from the problem I have in WinXP? Not entirely related but in the same ball park.

    I’ve got customised fonts and point sizes set for most of my desktop, and every time I need to reboot my machine (usually only after an update :-) it forgets that I like my task bar to be 2 rows high. I then have to unlock and resize it, and then lock it again because I don’t like the extra decoration when it’s unlocked.

    I’ve not managed to find mention of this defect anywhere…

  51. Regarding all the windows in Visual Studio:

    you should check out

    It’s really useful in Visual Studio 6. Can’t live without it anymore.

  52. Ben Hutchings says:

    Raymond: (The Mac doesn’t do MDI after all.)

    At least before OS X it did have a kind of MDI, only with (effectively) a maximised transparent container window. One would show and hide applications, not documents. One could close every document window without closing the application. I found this very confusing because after closing all the visible windows I would see the desktop of the Finder together with the menus of another application.

  53. Raymond Chen says:

    Grouping by tabs: The app compat issues on this would get rather nasty. Taking a window that the app expects to be top-level and then shoving it inside another window… This changes the behavior of fundamental functions like GetParent…

    Petr: If Ctrl+Tab is anything like Alt+Tab, the windows would be in MRU order.

  54. Wayne says:


    "So you can drag the mouse from the button into the menu."

    Err… that has nothing to do with dragging menu items around to rearrange them — which was my point!

  55. Tom Seddon says:

    The problem with Visual Studio .NET is that the tabs are displayed in any old order, rather than MRU. Result: you have to Ctrl+TAB randomly until you get the file you want. It’s quicker to use the mouse, but WndTabs (which only works in VC6, regrettably) shows that this is a problem with the VS.NET implementation rather than something intrinsic to having tabs.

    On the other hand, WndTabs has a number of options to configure it, and I didn’t like the defaults at all, which kind of gets back to the original subject :)

  56. Tom Seddon says:

    Oh, I should add: "randomly" isn’t quite right, it’s just the discrepancy between the MRU order and the screen order is a bit much. The tabs should be numbered (allowing shortcut keys), or displayed in the Ctrl+Tab order, so you can work out with some accuracy whether this is a job for the mouse or for the keyboard.

  57. Anon says:

    Johan Thelin wrote:

    "This is, IMHO, a problem in the FOSS world. Features getting added like crazy and then someone has to try to bring order and hence pisses of all the happy feature-implementers."

    There is ONE major difference ( actually there may be more but ..) with FOSS in that features get added like crazy and then the ones that aren’t used/not liked *eventually* rot away – at least in non-commercial FOSS (if you know what I mean) . That is, supposing the project actually lasts that long ;)

  58. Raymond Chen says:

    Wayne: Oh, you meant menu rearranging by drag/drop. Yeah, I don’t like it either. Too much geekiness in your face.

    Tom: I think this is just a victim of conflicting goals. Ctrl+Tab uses MRU because that’s how Ctrl+Tab has historically worked in MDI programs. Change it and you get MDI-loving oldtimers mad at you. But if you reordered the tabs to match the MRU, then you get people saying, "Why does Visual Studio keep screwing with the order of my tabs?"

  59. Petr Kadlec says:

    Of course I know that the order is MRU, not random — which is why I wrote "pseudorandom", which is exactly what it is: completely deterministic, yet looking very random. :)

    The main problem I have with the tabs is that there is no cue what the order is. When I am searching for a specific tab, the only thing I can do (when I don’t want to use mouse or menu) is slowly Ctrl+Tab, because I don’t know when the searched tab will come up. Just to display a simple list would really help here (e.g. a kind of that window shown when Alt+Tabbing; Opera can be configured to display this when using tabbed browsing).

  60. Raymond Chen says:

    I thought there was a way to call up a list of all windows. Something like "More Windows"? I don’t use Visual Studio myself.

  61. Wayne says:

    "Oh, you meant menu rearranging by drag/drop. Yeah, I don’t like it either. Too much geekiness in your face."

    I don’t like the drag’n’drop in the Start Menu either — it’s so hard to get it right. Although it does make rearranging items possible. For big Start Menu jobs I right-click and use explorer — but you still need to drag’n’drop to get things in the order you want.

    However, my original point (does it matter anymore?) is that there is this exception for the Start Menu so you could also have a drag-to-rearrange exception for the taskbar. With all the dragging to rearrange already in Windows it might even seem logical!

  62. Raymond Chen says:

    More exceptions is not what the world needs.

  63. ATZ Man says:

    Yes, ctrl-tab is confusing to the uninitiated, of which I am not. But someone saw me using ctrl-tab adroitly and said, "How can you do that? It’s confusing." I said, "When you can snatch the pebble from my hand…" and then more seriously I described the rules, which are the same as the alt-tab rules. One thing people fail to notice, especially with ctrl-tab, is that it is different when you hold down the modifier than when you let go. Holding down ctrl or alt and pressing tab one or more times is a single gesture, with feedback of intermediate states. When neophytes don’t consciously control the modifier key state they get really confused because they interpret their actions as two ctrl-tabs when they have done either ctrl-down/tab/tab/ctrl-up or ctrl-down/tab/cntrl-up/ctrl-down/tab/ctrl-up.

  64. J. Edward Sanchez says:

    In Windows, there are two ways to choose an item from a menu with the mouse:

    1. Click to pop up the menu; move the mouse pointer over the desired item; click again to choose the item.

    2. Click and hold to pop up the menu; drag the mouse pointer over the desired item; release the mouse button to choose the item.

    The first method requires two separate mouse clicks, but might be easier if the user is browsing and trying to study the menus, since it doesn’t require that the mouse button be held down the whole time.

    The second method (i.e., Mac-style) is more efficient because the whole operation can be done in a single click-drag-release motion; however, it requires more dexterity, and is more suited to a user who already knows what he or she wants, and wants to do it quickly.

    While we’re on the subject of the Start menu, I want to mention that the second method is broken in the Windows XP Start menu. It is not possible to choose a top-level item in the Windows XP Start menu using the efficient click-drag-release method. For some reason, the user is forced to use the relatively cumbersome two-click method instead.

    When I first discovered this, I thought it might have something to do with the new drag-and-drop-rearrange functionality in the Windows XP Start menu. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case after all. Although the click-drag-release method is broken within the top level of the Start menu, it works just fine once the user goes into a submenu (such as "All Programs") — even though that submenu also supports drag-and-drop rearrangement.

    I’m inclined to think instead that this is an oversight.

    Are the shell developers aware of this problem? If so, is it scheduled to be fixed?

  65. Raymond Chen says:

    Yes, it’s known, and it’s hard to fix (since the new Start menu isn’t really a menu), and studies revealed that almost nobody used that style of menu selection.

  66. Centaur says:

    Drag-and-drop-rearrange is a particularly hard feature. It is useful /occasionally/, but very subject to mouse twitching. How does one solve this usability problem?

    Recall Office. Office has toolbars, toolbars have buttons. Buttons can be rearranged — but only in the Customize mode. Or — for convenience — when you hold down Alt. Oops. You cannot extend that to the Start menu. Because Alt closes every menu. Oh well, let it be Shift. Oops. You can’t use Shift, Shift is for moving files across drives, and Start menu items are files, so Shift must mean moving for them too. Similarly, Ctrl and Ctrl+Shift won’t do either, as Ctrl is for Copy and Ctrl+Shift is for Create Shortcut, and one might want to have a real file and not a shortcut in one’s Start menu, and anyway there are plenty of folders and folders definitely need separate Create Shortcut semantics.

    It could be argued that if the user wanted to drag-move an item out of the Start menu into some Explorer window, he should first hold down Ctrl and drag to initiate dragging, then release Ctrl and hold Shift to change the mode to moving, but that would be too geekish. Oh well.

    Recall the taskbar and its toolbars. Before Windows XP, everybody moved it and them on every occasion. Windows XP gave us the “Lock the taskbar” option which is conveniently situated in the context menu. Contrarywise, to get to the corresponding option for the Start menu, one has to do three clicks (right-click Start, click Properties, left-click Customize), one click to toggle (Enable dragging and dropping), and then two more clicks (OK in Customize, OK in Taskbar Properties) to make it stick. What if right-clicking in the Start menu brought up a context menu that would offer “Lock Start menu”? Oops, right-clicking already opens a context menu, and it’s the context menu of a file. And you can’t add a “Lock Start menu” to the top (because people will expect Open there) and you can’t add it to the bottom (because it’s the classic place for Properties).

    Maybe that’s why I rarely use the Start menu. Instead, I use TrueLaunchBar. It’s almost like Quick Launch, but it has a “Lock buttons” item in the *middle* of every button’s context menu, and you can turn any button into a mini-Start menu. That is, you put a directory instead of a (shortcut) file there, and it opens in a menu and it can be rearranged — but it respects its Lock buttons setting which is accessible enough.

  67. Wayne: The context menu for the start button is the same as you described with the Start Panel.

  68. Rob says:

    Grouping is bad. If there isn’t enough space on the taskbar then I have too many windows open and should take some time to clear up my mess.

    The only task where I would typically want to have loads of windows open would be in a web browser, say researching something using Google and wanting to compare lots of different results.

    IE is behind the times here. I use a tabbed browser and open a new result in a new tab so that all of the related pages are automatically grouped.

    There Is No Need For Taskbar Grouping!

  69. Wayne says:

    "And you can’t add a “Lock Start menu” to the top (because people will expect Open there) and you can’t add it to the bottom (because it’s the classic place for Properties)."

    When I right click on the Start Button the bottom *two* places are taken up by "Open All Users" and "Explore All Users". Above that is a line and then properties! Seems that lock start menu could be put there. (I use the "Classic Start Menu" — this is probably different for the Start Panel).

  70. JD says:

    Rob, I put my taskbar on the side. I can handle many, many open windows and see what they all are. (in a nod to the fad of the year, I maximize all my windows and call it "tabbed computing").

    Anyway, when I move my taskbar to the bottom of the screen on a monitor with a different aspect ratio, all of a sudden I’m unclean? I’m uncool, too, I’m so untabbed…

    Actually I use Opera (mostly due to too-easy exploits of IE and shoddy configurability of zones in IE) and tabbed browsing isn’t all that. I still have too many windows open and can’t see the titles (they’ve all got useless numbers on them anyway). I don’t really care if they’re on my taskbar or in a differnt ‘tab-bar’, your argument is full of holes. If you insist on keeping your head clean, don’t open extra windows period, tabbed or not.

    Oh yeah, and grouping, I don’t like it either. Just didn’t agree with your ‘tabbed browsing’ solution.

  71. Channel 9 says:

    I suggest you read Raymond Chen’s blog

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