You don’t make something easier to find by hiding it even more deeply

Commenter rolfhub suggested that, to help people recover from accidentally going into Tiny Footprint Mode, the Task Manager could display a right-click context menu with an entry to return to normal mode.

My initial reaction to this was Huh? Who right-clicks on nothing? Tiny Footprint Mode is itself already a bad secret hidden setting. Having the exit from the mode be a right-click menu on a blank space is a double-secret hidden setting.

If I had dictatorial control over all aspects of the shell, I would put a Restore button  in the upper right corner to let people return to normal mode.

Comments (28)
  1. Chriso says:

    I agree, its already difficult to explain to some people, what you mean with "an empty space" if you want someone right clicking on an empty spot on the desktop to get the context menu there. :)

  2. Dan Bugglin says:

    Another Thing-You-Never-Knew: Press Ctrl+S in Volume Control in XP.

    Extra Bonus Thing: Do a Tile/Cascade and then press Ctrl+Z.

  3. Dan Bugglin says:

    Addendum: Those are just for people who like having their minds blown by features they never knew existed despite using Windows forever.

    Another thing: In XP/Vista (not too sure about latest patched Vista) hold Shift while selecting Thumbnail mode in Explorer.

  4. Gabe says:

    I'd expect that the right-click would be in addition to the double-left-click. Some people will randomly left-double-click, while others will randomly right-single-click. By having both options, you are more likely to get both sets of people.

    Honestly, though, the "tiny footprint" mode should probably only work for the graph tabs. That way it's all empty space and anywhere you click you'd be able to get back to normal mode.

  5. hagenp says:

    A seven-year and a four-year back reference? What a backlog!

  6. Paulius says:

    From many Microsoft products (Office, at least before ribbon UI) I learnt that often right-clicking on nothing allows to reach some hidden stuff.

    That is why I think, rolfhub's solution would be rather intuitive and would not bother smarter users win unnecessary buttons.

  7. Leo Davidson says:

    Erm, how does adding an additional way to find something make that thing harder to find?

    "Who right-clicks on nothing?"

    More people than double-click nothing, I imagine, given that double-clicking nothing brings up context menus throughout the Windows OS…

    [Let's try that again. Who right-clicks on nothing in a dialog box? Pretty much no dialog boxes respond to right-click on background. There is no reasonable expectation that Task Manager would be different. (The people who doublee-clicked nothing didn't do it on purpose. They did it by mistake, and consequently don't even realize that they even did it.) -Raymond]</DIV
  8. xpclient says:

    Why was the extremely useful Shutdown menu removed from Task Manager? Now if the shell crashes and is stuck in a crash loop or everything else besides the Task Manager starts to hang, we have to use shutdown.exe from its File menu -> New task, something Joe Average is very unlikely to know or try. The Windows team sure likes to "fool around" with the UI and yank stuff randomly.

  9. SimonRev says:

    "Why was the extremely useful Shutdown menu removed from Task Manager? "

    Wow, that disappeared around the time our IT group was turning the thumbscrews with group policy stuff.  I always figured our IT group intentionally removed that the same way they removed Run from the start menu to make it painfully tricky to actually execute an arbitrary program.  

    I guess I never realized it was removed from the OS itself.

  10. voo says:

    Well I can speak only for myself and if I remember correctly (been some time) I pretty much rightclicked around for some time before stumbling upon the doubleclick behavior when this feature "happened" to me back to XP times.

  11. Kay says:

    I think a right click menu would be helpful too. The first time I did this it was an accident, and double clicking a window to get that (or similar) behavior is not a common practice. I had to google the problem before I learned about the double click. Now, should right click be implemented before the million other more important things I'm sure Microsoft has on the to-do list? Probably not. It was a stupid design decision to have the feature in the first place and maybe they will silently remove it in future versions.


    I love when computer admins mess with machines in weird ways like this. The university I went too removed the 'Run' option from the start menu, but Windows+R still worked.

  12. pek says:

    What do you mean "an empty space"? Is the video section of a media player in full screen an "empty space"? Because that's exactly where you would right-click to exit from the full screen (if you are bored reaching the keyboard to ESC). I don't know about you, but the first thing I would try is right-clicking that area just like I do in many "fullscreenable" apps.

  13. Marc says:

    @xpclient there is a a shutdown button on the first screen when you press CTRL ALT DEL, on Win7 you'll need to click switch user to see it.

  14. Anonymous Coward says:

    Mazzter, thanks for that tip. That option should have been in the menu.

    Oddly, it seems that the labels aren't big enough. On my computer it now says ‘ume con’ instead of ‘Volume control’ even though there's plenty space left.

  15. Gabe says:

    Marc: On my Win7 Pro box, Ctrl+Alt+Del gives me a shutdown button too. Of course, that doesn't help in an RDP session.

  16. cheong00 says:

    @xpclient: I believe whether "Shutdown" menu of Task Manager exist is depending on whether you joined domain (or have "Welcome screen" enabled) as in WinXP.

    @Gabe: I don't have remotable machine within my reach now, but won't Ctrl-Alt-End do the job? I think that's Ctrl-Alt-Del in RDP.

  17. James says:

    I don't really understand the criticism.  It'd seem like a strict improvement if it were done in addition to the current, confusing double-click behavior.  Would there be even better, more discoverable ways?  Sure.

    As for who right-clicks, I've seen user tests where people start randomly right-clicking out of desperation since that's sort of inadvertently been trained to do when they can't find something they're looking for. (Also, right-clicking on the Task Manager's taskbar entry while in Tiny Footprint Mode does nothing, whereas in normal mode it shows the typical system context menu.  If that were fixed, then a menu item could have been added there, and then users could be right-clicking on *something*.  Granted, not many people would know to right-click there either.)

  18. Gechurch says:


    Use Ctrl + Alt + End instead in a remote destop session.

  19. AndyCadley says:

    Hmm, if I had dictatorial control over all aspects of the shell, I'd just get rid of tiny footprint mode entirely or at the very least make it a lot harder to enable. It's just weird UI and I'm pretty sure most of the people who've enabled it did so entirely by accident.

  20. asdbsd says:

    Right-click solution has its flaws, but it's definitely more intuitive than double-clicking. People right-click stuff all the time when they want to act on something. They're used to this.

    (And no, Raymond, people have no idea that dialog boxes usually lack right-click menu. They don't even know what's a "dialog box" and how it's different from other windows. They'll just try right-clicking on it because who knows, it might work. Sometimes it works.)

  21. Brian Tkatch says:

    Come on, double-click on, double-click off (the double clicker). Seriously, what's the issue?

    [Because it's more like "I did something, I'm not sure what, and now I don't know how to get back." Usually, it's not an intentional double-click but rather two clicks that just happened to be 499 milliseconds apart. -Raymond]
  22. YHBT, Raymond says:

    Here's your candy, Brian.

    But hey, maybe *I* am taking things too seriously.

  23. 640k says:

    Wheel click FTW. Use it all the time to start new instances of apps from windows7 quick launch area (aka pinned apps). Using shift click to start apps usually results in the app starts at bottom of z order – thus a useless features.

  24. jon says:

    Sometimes I really wonder how Microsoft got to be so successful. Is there seriously anyone there with any real intelligence any more?

    Adding a context menu is not making it harder to find. It's adding ANOTHER way to find something that's already hard to find.

    More to the point – why have this stupid hidden feature in the first place? I don't think I've ever wanted task manager in "tiny footprint" mode at all, and if I did, I'd probably look for that option in a context menu before thinking "oh yeah, double-click will be the way to do it".

    If so many people are double-clicking accidentally, maybe the double-click option shouldn't be there in the first place.

  25. Brian Tkatch says:


    "Usually, it's not an intentional double-click"

    Ah, ok. Indeed, that is probably how i found it years ago. But, it was pretty obvious the double-click did it.

    I have double-clicked when i didn't mean to. But once i did, i knew i did it. Is mistaken double-clicking really not that noticeable?

    [An accidental double-click often occurs when you intend to single-click. You click once, wait, then click again since you think the first one didn't work. Boom, unintentional double-click. (There's another class of users who don't know how to single-click; they always double-click. Like how toddlers forget how to walk; they always run.) -Raymond]
  26. Gabe says:

    Sometimes accidental double-clicks happen just because of a flaky mouse button switch. In that case, the user doesn't even know that they clicked twice!

  27. Brian Tkatch says:

    There's another class of users who don't know how to single-click; they always double-click

    Really? Hmm… makes sense i guess. "Why would i single-click anyway?" Then again, why are in task manager? :)

  28. kinokijuf says:

    In vista, the tiny mode is finally covered in help.

Comments are closed.