Why did it take so long for Windows to support a taskbar on more than one monitor?

Mark wants to know why Windows has never supported having a taskbar on more than one monitor. (The question was asked before Windows 8 multi-monitor taskbar support became publically-known.)

The feature has always been on the list, but it's a long list, and specifically the cost of designing, implementing, testing, performing usability tests, then redesigning the feature (because you will definitely need to redesign something as significant as this at least once) historically prevented it from escaping the minus-100-point deficit.

Features do not exist in a vacuum, and decisions about features necessarily take into account the other features under consideration. For a feature to be adopted, it not only must be valuable enough in itself, but it almost must provide a better cost/benefit ratio than any other features under consideration. While the benefit of a multi-monitor taskbar is high, you have to scale it down by the percentage of users who would be able to take advantage of such a feature. I don't know the exact numbers, but I would hazard that fewer than ten percent of users use a multiple-monitor system on a regular basis, so any benefit would have to be ten times as great as the benefit of features that have broader use.

On top of that, the development cost of a multiple-monitor taskbar is significantly higher than most other taskbar features. Just the compatibility constraints alone make you shudder. (Think about all the programs that do a Find­Window looking for the taskbar and assuming that there is only one.)

What changed in Windows 8 that made a multiple-monitor taskbar a feature worth implementing? I don't know, but I can guess. First of all, the overall engineering budget for the taskbar may have been raised, so that more features from the list can make the cut. Or maybe the people in charge of the taskbar decided to go with their gut and ignore the numbers, implementing a feature specifically targetting the enthusiast community even though the work would not be justified if you went strictly by the cost/benefit analysis. By doing this, they ended up short-changing other features which were perhaps more worthy if you looked at the numbers.

And then you'd be asking, "Why didn't you do feature Y? I mean, it would have been far more useful to far more people than the multiple-monitor taskbar."

(Of course, now that I mentioned Windows 8, everybody will treat this as open season to post their complaints here.)

Comments (83)
  1. Brian_EE says:

    Actually, I have absolutely no complaints about Windows 8. Because…

    a) I don't use it.

    b) I'm not being forced to use it (we just moved Win7 Enterprise in the last year)

  2. SimonRev says:

    There has to be some sort of irony here.  I have been running 5-6 monitors since I first upgraded to Windows 98.  Even though Windows 8 supports a taskbar on multiple monitors, I still just run it on one.  I find a vertical taskbar to be more useful than a horizontal one.

  3. Henke37 says:

    I wonder if there is a sacrificial taskbar window (insert link here) for programs that does stuff they really shouldn't. Because what if two programs did it(and another link here)?

    I'd check myself, but I don't use Windows 8 either.

  4. Yuri says:

    I also like Windows 8, great OS, no complains (seriously) but the taskbar + Win8 combo post, I can already hear the start menu cries…

  5. xix says:

    When I had my first multimon setup, I think running XP, I bemoaned the inability to have the taskbar on multiple monitors.  Eventually I installed some utility for multiple monitors that took quite a few liberties with the taskbar and the non-client areas of windows, to add all sorts of neato wizbang effects, including a multi monitor taskbar.  Eventually I gave it up and uninstalled it, as it made my experience somewhat worse, and not better, since I was so trained to look to the tasks on my primary monitor I developed a sort of taskbar blindness to the one on the secondary monitor.  If I ever get windows 8 I might try it out, but I'm rather stuck in my ways… I still occasionally double-click the top-left corner of windows to close them, which I'm amused still works in office despite the "office start button" in the way.

  6. Paul Parks says:

    I was reading an article on an IT news site yesterday about a rumored feature in an upcoming version of Windows that is rumored to have been pushed back. (Lots of rumors; must have been a slow news day.) A couple of the commenters complained, saying that the feature couldn't be that difficult to implement and then suggested evil motives on Microsoft's part.

    If only more people would read this blog….

  7. Jeff says:

    I think the assumption that only 10% of users have multiple monitors is outdated. That was probably true in 2000. Our office gives everyone two (except for the servers) and has for some time. The productivity benefits easily justify the cost, and there have been many studies to that effect. I am surprised to hear that some still think of using multiple monitors as some sort of "enthusiast" fringe thing.

  8. David Crowell says:

    My multi-monitor home setup (Linux) has one taskbar (okay it's a panel, whatever).  My work machine, a dual-monitor Windows 7 machine has one taskbar, and I'm okay with that too.

    Years ago I used XP with dual monitors and a utility to give a second taskbar.  I gave that up when I switchd to Vista and the utility didn't work well.

    I'm probably going to give in and put Windows 8.1 on my home machine.  I'll see if I like going back to two taskbars again or not.

  9. morlamweb says:

    I use Windows 8 daily at work and at home, but sadly, neither one of them is a multi-mon setup, so I can't try the multi-mon taskbar feature.  All of my multi-mon arrangements are still Win7 boxes.

  10. Adam Rosenfield says:

    @Jeff: Yeah, my gut says that the 10% number feels low.  I would guess that it's somewhere in the 20–25% range, though I also have no data to back that up.  From my experience, it's quite common among desktop power users (particularly among developer machines), but then of course it's quite rare on laptops and tablets; since desktops are becoming a decreasing percentage of consumer PCs, that will bring the number down a bunch.

  11. ZoBook says:

    @Adam Rosenfield: I find more common in laptops/notebooks to use dual monitor because of the small screen space. At work most of our notebooks use the built-in + external set-up

  12. Joe Dietz says:

    I suspect the total percentage of windows users with dual monitor setups has remained constant.  The percentage of desktop PCs with dual monitors has probably grown quite a lot.  But at the same time, the percentage of desktop PCs itself has probably dropped since laptops and the like are far more common for personal use.  Most business desktops I've seen lately tend to just be dumb terminals running XP and a citrix or vmware client.

  13. Joshua says:

    When you have multiple competing third-party plugins implementing something customers want it's time to consider implementing it.

    (This may be applied both to the multi-monitor taskbar and the start menu–same principle.)

    [Counterpoint: "An app must be serving its users really well if it hasn't changed much." -Raymond]
  14. Katie says:

    @Joshua, no one said Microsoft didn't consider implementing it earlier. In fact, the second sentence of the post says it has always been on the list, so it's been under consideration for a very long time.

  15. pmbAustin says:

    I use a dual monitor setup at work with Windows 8.1.1, and definitely appreciate the multi-monitor taskbar support (I use the mode where all the tasks show on the primary task bar, and only the windows on the second monitor have buttons on the second-monitor's task-bar).  So whatever the reason it got added, I appreciate it.

    Part of me thinks it might have been political… a "bone" to throw to desktop users to "prove" that Microsoft wasn't abandoning the desktop with all the new "Metro" stuff… a long-requested enhancement to try and "buy" acceptance.  Well, it works for me!  I love Windows 8.1.1 (8.0 was another issue entirely) and am very happy with it.  I use it at both home and work with keyboard & mice, and on a new laptop with touch, and a surface 2 tablet.  I'm pretty happy with it.

  16. Simon says:

    I use the multi-monitor taskbar, in addition to one High-DPI screen (Surface Pro with an external monitor). Am I crazy or is the taskbar not doing proper High-DPI scaling? It just seems a bit too big… Or I'm crazy. Can anyone confirm the former or latter?

  17. James Schend says:

    @Joshua: the difference is those third parties (almost always) do a half-assed job. If they took the time to do the compatibility, internationalization, usability, etc work that Microsoft did, they might have re-evaluated their cost/benefit and made some other kind of utility.

  18. mobilevil says:

    I wonder why no one mention the "art" style of win 8…it is very very very ulgy!! Well the full screen start menu thing give my neck some exercise though, it is way too big on a desktop 16:9 screen!!!!!!!! Solid color block makes me feel like 16color VGA!

  19. Josh says:

    Speaking as the outlier of the outliers (having three monitors at 1920×1080 or more at both work and home), I'm still trying to decide if I like the taskbar on all monitors or not.   The primary feature I like about it (show the taskbar icon on the monitor that application's window is on) is still somewhat inconsistent when combined with full-screen applications, which is both understandable and terribly frustrating.   When it works, particularly at work, it boosts my productivity immensely.

  20. Wayne says:

    I've had a multi-monitor setup way back in the Windows 98 days.  I've always used a third party tool (currently Display Fusion) to put a taskbar on the second monitor.  I can't imagine working without that and having one cluttered taskbar for all my windows.  I divide my work pretty consistently across my monitors so I know where to look when I want to find one.

    Since there were a lot of people saying they never felt any need for the feature, I thought I'd provide the alternative perspective.

  21. Scott Brickey says:

    from a usability perspective, it presents a duality of use cases and design goals. on the one hand, it's nice to go from the application window to the taskbar icon on the same monitor. But the other use case is to FIND a minimized window, in which case a single taskbar makes it easier to find… yet you wouldn't want a minimized icon to move from a secondary monitor to a primary monitor (one way of addressing the "easier to find").

    I'm not surprised at the responses about uninstalling the multi-monitor taskbar utilities… I'm quite content leaving the task bar on my primary monitor.

  22. Matt says:

    Jeff, Adam,

    Microsoft's figures at the time of Windows 8's release, based on real life telemetry data and not silly conjecture from a narrow personal experience, is that multiple monitors are used on 15% of desktops and 4.3% of laptops. That's more or less exactly 10% of total Windows installs. And they think those numbers might be high because their data is skewed towards enthusiasts.

    You're have a quite fantastic view of the past if you think 10% of installs had multiple monitors in 2000. Adding a second monitor then (with appropriate video hardware to support it) could easily add 50% to the cost of an ordinary office machine, and few people wanted to give up the real life desktop real estate a second CRT monitor would take.

  23. smf says:

    I installed all the Windows 8 betas on a second hard drive and switched to RTM as soon as it became available. I'm also running 8.1 update 1 on another machine. I haven't actually got round to putting 8.1 on my main machine due to a USB issue only recently being fixed but I will do it when I get round to it.

    I love Windows 8. If you have a free choice and you pick Windows 7 then shame on you.

  24. xpclient says:

    What will make the multi-monitor scenario truly usable is if window management was a little more intelligent and automatic – a window should automatically get created/moved to the monitor where the mouse pointer is when the mouse is being used to interact. And programs should automatically open on the monitor where their launcher is (Start, Taskbar, Desktop etc) unless overridden by the user to always open on a specific monitor.

  25. Paul Parks says:

    @Engywuck: In Windows 8.1 the start button is "sticky", such that it will capture the mouse as if it were a fly and the button were flypaper. The same thing happens with the Charms bar on the left and application switcher on the right.

    @Scott Brickey: Windows 8.x has an option to show buttons on all taskbars across all monitors. I find that particularly useful.

  26. Joshua says:

    @smf: Unfixed blocker level accessibility bug for me. Shipping shame back.

  27. smartydiz says:

    Except one guy released software (Display Fusion) which does that and many other things, and supports all other start nenu alternatives…

  28. Dave says:

    >(Of course, now that I mentioned Windows 8, everybody will treat this as open season to post their complaints here.)

    Just imagine what'd happen if you posted something about implementing DRM using certificates on Windows 8.  You could hook a small generator up to the user comments and use it to run your dishwasher for free.

  29. Dan Bugglin says:

    @xix That would be Office 2007… future iterations of the ribbon, starting with some Windows 7 apps, removed that button as it was too confusing (it was in place of the app icon, but replaced the functionality of the file menu… except double clicking closed the window, as you noticed).  So all other ribbon apps now have the "file" butotn and the app icon separated again.

  30. Steve M. says:

    Almost every user in our main corporate office uses at least 2 monitors.  Almost none of them really need or use the second one. I think it became a thing where if you didn't request a second monitor it meant you weren't as important or busy as the other guy.   For home use, I fit into the "enthusiast" category, and have a nice gaming rig.  But I'm still on a single 27" monitor there.  Eventually I'll go multi I guess, but just don't see a real benefit yet.

  31. Neil says:

    I use a 13inch laptop screen running Crunchbang Linux with 4 virtual workspaces. I find virtual workspaces on one screen much better as you can hide all the other workspaces when your not using them.

    It also means my monitor setup is the same where ever I work. From my desk, the couch, a hotdesk etc.

  32. Josh says:

    @Steve M.:  As far as I can tell, multi-at-home for gaming depends entirely on whether you play the kind of games that meet both of the following criteria:

    A)  There are external resources that make the game more fun to play (walkthroughs, FAQs, maps, cheat sheets) that can be viewed in a separate window

    B)  Your main game window can function in a full-screen mode that at least sometimes allows the mouse to move outside the game window to change those resources as necessary.

    Minecraft with a automated web-based map generation plugin is the example getting most usage on my desk at this time.  It also worked well for MMORPGs.

  33. Mark Y says:

    I learned something interesting today that has nothing to do with taskbars, and it comes from this quote:

    "I don't know…maybe the people in charge of the taskbar…"

    I assumed that the shell team is in charge of the taskbar.  It turns out not!

  34. John Doe says:

    @xpclient, it would have to be smarter than that, it would have to open the application where the input that cause the application to launch was obtained (in terms of shortcuts, Explorer, other launchers, etc.), then the parent's process windows if they're all in a single screen, and finally falling back to the mouse pointer or "focused" screen.

    And since no one has brought this rant up yet, I wonder why the start button and menu were removed in the first place, given the numbers.  I mean, this was surely a tasteless joke on desktop users, there's simply no justification to remove it other than forcing "legacy" users to the current fashion Modern UI and its disorganized Start Screen.  Not even the "we don't want to maintain legacy add-ins and filters," but for that Explorer wouldn't have been touched at all, much less making it have a ribbon.  Returning to the point, the start button and menu could be kept just like it was in Windows 7, no more, no less.

  35. Evan says:

    @Mark Y: "'"maybe the people in charge of the taskbar…"' I assumed that the shell team is in charge of the taskbar.  It turns out not!"

    I fail to see how you reached that conclusion. Is your assumption that the shell team isn't made up of people? Or maybe you're positive that Raymond would rather spend the effort to type "the subset of the shell team" instead of "people"?

  36. Mickle says:

    @John Doe: thank you for making Raymond's prediction come true: "(Of course, now that I mentioned Windows 8, everybody will treat this as open season to post their complaints here.)"

  37. Vonskippy says:

    Yes, I can just imagine how hard it was for the OS manufacture's dev team to add such an oh so complicated feature.  Especially since Display Fusion, written by a one man third party dev team did it almost a decade ago.  Geesh, you make it sound like rocket science instead of simple coding.

  38. Marvin says:

    Dunno how you do cost/benefit analysis but for me the net benefit of almost everything you did last decade (with the exception of windows 7) was zero or negative. This is why there is one windows machine left in my household and this one won't be replaced when it dies. Good luck adding more colorful tiles everywhere.

  39. Smeargle235 says:

    I love the Windows 8 taskbars; on 7 and Vista I ran third-party programs for the same effect and I'm glad it's a part of the OS now.

    Since I can have up to five or six windows on one monitor, having separate taskbars helps me manage my windows more efficiently. (I have my taskbars set to never combine since I prefer the classic Windows style "icon = window" to the OS X style "icon = application".)

    My only complaint is that I can't have a clock on every monitor like I could with the third party applications. (My main monitor is frequently covered by a fullscreen RDP window to a computer in a different time zone.)

  40. Cosmin says:

    I'm surprised nobody who uses win8 didn't mentioned Classic Shell http://www.classicshell.net/ – a start menu like xp/vista/win7 and its free!

  41. jader3rd says:


    I'm not surprised. It's not like the Start Menu is a great thing. I have Windows 8 on multiple systems and have never been tempted to install a Start Menu-izer.

  42. Dave says:

    So all of you are actually using Windows for critical tasks? You're all insane.

  43. Joshua says:

    @Dave: It's the obvious choice for developing software that runs on Windows. Now why the market prefers Windows for medical software I have no clue.

  44. Steve says:

    I like Windows 8, and I do use it at both work and home.

    However I *don't* use the taskbar on my second monitor, because I want every pixel of the second monitor screen real estate that I can have (primarily for SSMS) and find no winning benefit to the multi-monitor taskbar.

    So that further confuses the enthusiast benefit stats :)

  45. DWalker says:

    Speaking of monitors and screen real estate, I'm amazed that many new 7 and 8 inch tablets have more total pixels (not just pixels per inch) than most laptops and LCD screens… not counting the LCD monitors that cost $2500 each.  My two 26" monitors have only 1920 x 1200 pixels each.

    I would like 2880 x 1800, or 3840 x 2400, on a monitor this size.  :-)  Affordably.

  46. Nico says:

    @DWalker:  "High definition" destroyed the computer monitor.  We've taken such a sustained step backwards, but with some luck the 4K hype might break us out of this rut.

  47. Timothy Byrd (ETAP) says:

    I'm running windows 8.1 on dual monitors and show all buttons both taskbars.

    I didn't think much about this, until I ran a remote desktop full-screen on my primary monitor. Then it was convenient to have the 2nd copy of the taskbar on the 2nd monitor.

    I'm getting used to using the 2nd taskbar more and more.

    I agree with Smeargle235 that a clock on both would be a nice enhancement.

  48. Engywuck says:

    I don't miss that the taskbar isn't on the second monitor, but I *do* miss that one cannot "throw" the mouse pointer against the edge of the taskbar near the second monitor because it then goes to the second monitor instead of staying there. Years of training mean that I regularily miss the Start button on my colleagues setup.

    Here we have perhaps 1% of desktops with dual monitors (no counting laptop+external large monitor). The reason: desktop "real estate". A large monitor (24" is smallish here) takes up less space on the desktop than two or three smaller ones. Not counting cabling, of course.

  49. SomeGuyOnTheInternet says:

    Upgrading to Windows 8.1 and learning one UI trick changed me from hating Win8 to loving it.

    The trick is this: to close metro/Windows Store/touch apps, just draw a line down the centre of the screen from top to bottom (either with your finger, or left-click-and-drag with the mouse pointer).

  50. Michelle says:

    "I would hazard that fewer than ten percent of users use a multiple-monitor system on a regular basis, so any benefit would have to be ten times as great as the benefit of features that have broader use."

    I agree with all the facts in the first half of the sentence, but you have to be very careful making claims like the second half of the sentence.  Which is cause, and which is effect?

    Poor multi-monitor support in Windows in the past (for a long time it was *much* worse than today) has caused me to not even bother plugging in a second monitor at work when I had the opportunity, at two separate jobs I've had.

    It can work the other way, too: do we spend $10M a year maintaining old feature X because everyone needs it, or does everyone find a way to do all their work using feature X because (at $10M a year, more than some software companies spend on *everything*) it's one of the most stable and featureful parts of our system?

    Using ruts to decide where to go can be very practical if you're creating a bus route, but you're never going to discover any new destinations that way.

  51. Jon says:

    Win 8.1 is great with Windows Classic Shell.

    My only issue remaining is the lack of Windows classic theme.

  52. Tom says:

    Way back in 2002, Longhorn build 4074 already had a multi-monitor taskbar!

    Why was this dropped for Windows Vista?  It had already been coded up.  People were already banging on the code outside of Microsoft.  There was a already a spec.  It already had a dropdown in the Taskbar Properties dialog, for controlling its behavior.  A lot of effort was wasted when the code was thrown out.

    Not only was this dropped for Windows Vista, but it was also dropped for Windows 7.  A release where, Sinofsky proudly announced, even the nooks and crannies had been updated, right down to the bundled applets: Calculator, Paint, and Wordpad.  Since this feature fixes a longstanding irritant in Windows, it would've been perfect for Windows 7.  OK, so only 10% of people use multiple monitors.  But do 10% of people really use Wordpad?

    In other words, It's not as simple as all features starting out with -100 points.  It had already surmounted that barrier, at least once.  There's some inside history that we're not privy to.  I suppose if the PM responsible for this feature quit Microsoft in disgust after the Longhorn reset, then he was well-justified …

    [Everything from that build was thrown away, remember? -Raymond]
  53. cheong00 says:

    @Timothy: I'm used to do all my full screen tasks on the 2nd screen if on dual-monitor setup so no problem for me.

    Btw nice to see it finally available on Win8. I think like 2 years ago dual monitor is standard setup for development machines, and my ex-colleague's son think that 3 monitors is standard setup for gaming PC.

  54. I might as-well add my taskbar usage: at work I have three monitors, about half the people here have two, and the rest have one. When at home we have three laptops, which only use with single monitors, and one desktop which has a single monitor. I also have a Windows Phone 8 Phone.

    So personally only 20% of the computers I use regularly have multiple monitors. When visiting friends, family, etc. I very rarely see multiple monitors.

    @Raymond: I thought it was called the deskband? And that the taskbar was merely the section between the notification area, and the start button? Not nitpicking: it's a sincere query.

    I really like Windows 8.1 Update 1 — the OneDrive integration is a joy when working across many devices and my phone. Excellent work.

    @Raymond: In 20 years, will you be able to tell us what you worked on in the Windows 8 project?

  55. Joey says:

    @Paul M. Parks, Engywuck: The start button or charms bar are not "sticky" in any way. It's the corners of monitors that are sticky if you happen to hit the boundary between monitors close enough to the adjacent edge. For the start button this means that moving your mouse along the bottom edge will cause the mouse pointer to stop in the corner of that screen, even when another screen was adjacent. All described here: blogs.msdn.com/…/enhancing-windows-8-for-multiple-monitors.aspx close to the end of the article.

  56. @Joey: I remember when that was added: it was an immense usability improvement.

  57. HPlus says:

    I work on a laptop and have two external monitors in the office – the laptop screen is small, and not particularly useful (dpi too high, and I'm running Windows 7, so per-monitor dpi isn't available), so I prefer to do my main task full-screen on a 27" and have secondary windows on a 24".

    For me the greatest value of multiple monitors over a single large one is the ability to have a program full-screen on one monitor and other programs on other monitors. Three monitors is even more so than two – I've had an IDE full-screen on one monitor, the program I'm debugging full-screen on another monitor, and email/web browser open on the third monitor. Not long ago I was offered a choice of one large vs two smaller monitors – chose the two smaller without hesitation.

    I've used up to four monitors at once (19" monitors in portrait mode side by side by side by side :-) ). In the days of CRTs I had a pair of 22" screens on one machine – they were very heavy and occupied a lot of space, but it was really worth it, even running Windows NT.

    I don't mind having the taskbar on a single monitor – MacOS works much like that, but with a single menu bar as well (I use MacOS and Windows and Linux daily). It can get a bit crowded when you have a lot of programs open, though (used to be worse when every window had its own entry – grouping was a good idea).

  58. ender says:

    I've got two monitors at home, 4 at work, and before Windows 8 I've been using UltraMon to place taskbar on all monitors ever since I first added the second monitor at home around 10 years ago.

    My preference is for each taskbar to only show tasks from it's own monitor, and all taskbars are set to auto-hide (I've used auto-hide since Windows 95).

  59. "The feature has always been on the list, but it's a long list, and specifically the cost of designing, implementing, testing, performing usability tests, then redesigning the feature (because you will definitely need to redesign something as significant as this at least once) historically prevented it from escaping the minus-100-point deficit."

    So, when Wired and Computerworld say Microsoft procrastinates and wastes time, they do have a point. In my world, when I am told to implement something so small, I think, figure it out and implement it, all under six hours… or I risk someone shouting at me and threatening me with loosing my job. I don't develop FAT on a plane but certainly can implement a lot of such features on a plane.

    [I'm amused that you think making a multimon taskbar is a small task. Just the application compatibility problems would take a long time to flush out. -Raymond]
  60. smf says:


    "(Think about all the programs that  do a Find­Window looking for the taskbar and assuming that there is only one.)"

    Implementing it with one window that is spread across each monitor would deal with that.

  61. SimonRev says:

    @smf – That would only work if the taskbar is contiguous.  Assuming a basic horizontal taskbar, what if I stack my monitors vertically?  Currently I use 6 monitors in a 3×2 configuration.  I would be really annoyed if the only place I could stick my taskbar was smack in the middle of my desktop (the only place a rectangle could intersect all 6 monitors)

  62. Meh says:

    It's funny because i only started to use multiple monitors when i installed windows 8 so I spent a little bit of time being puzzled when i got another computer with windows 7 and there was no such functionality on it (I looked for a way to enable it and thought i had something mixed up in the settings). I kinda thought it was a no brainer that windows 7 would have it. As a side note I really liked windows 8 (except that sometimes some settings are hard to locate or they are located in 3 different places at once) and i look forward to getting back my old computer with windows 8.

  63. @smf, follow-up to @SimonRev: That also assumes each monitor is using the same resolution.  I have two monitors at home with different aspect ratios: one is 16:10, one is 4:3.  They have differing vertical resolutions, so there's no way a window could spread across both monitors without it either disappearing on one monitor or being in the middle of another monitor.

    [Even if you had monitors side-by-side and at the same resolution, it would mean that apps would show their notifications at the bottom right corner of your rightmost monitor. -Raymond]
  64. John Doe says:

    @Fleet Command, but surely you don't test what you do in environments where the most restricted or exhotic combination of group policies are setup, where critical legacy massively-used applications/add-ins/add-ons/components (internal, such as IE8, or third-party, such as portable document readers) keep running as intended, with a multitude of input devices and inclusively without input devices, then document it and inform everyone that needs to be informed internally, in essence, a long checklist to make sure you and others are really improving things as a team.

    Are you seriously comparing what you do in 6 hours with the amount of cases and tests that need to be considered and automatically run in each Windows build, plus all the bureocracy?

    And you ought to switch jobs if you want to live longer and happier.  If you're so good, you shouldn't let people treat you like that!  Unless, Of Course™, you actually like it, as many have liked with one said to distort reality within a range.

  65. pmbAustin says:

    So, the one beef I do have with the Task bar has nothing to do with multi-monitor, and was an issue in Windows 7 as well as 8.  But there's a simple registry tweak that makes the taskbar work CORRECTLY.  The problem is that when an app has multiple windows (or in the case of IE, multiple tabs), you have to click TWICE to get back to your window when you temporarily click over to something else.  And if there are a ton of windows or tabs, hunting around for the window you were last using can be a problem.  The default behavior is a pain in the butt.  It's also grossly inconsistent, meaning that single-window apps behave differently than multi-window apps.

    Thankfully, I found this: http://www.howtogeek.com/…/make-the-taskbar-buttons-switch-to-the-last-active-window-in-windows-7

    This works great on Windows 7 and Windows 8.

    What I can NOT figure out is: A) Why the heck this isn't just standard, default behavior, and B) Why there isn't at least a checkbox in the Taskbar Properties to enable this behavior, instead of forcing me into this arcane registry tweak.

    It makes it really frustrating to go to someone else's machine … having to always click twice to get BACK to where I just was, rather than just activating the last active window.  The code is obviously already there.  I can't even imagine why anyone would want the current behavior.

    If you having tried this tweak, I STRONGLY suggest you give it a shot.  And if you really (for some weird reason) don't like it, it's simple enough to switch back.  Note that in Windows 8, you need a restart for it to take effect, which kind of sucks, and I don't remember that being the case in Windows 7 (but I could be wrong there, it's been a long time).

  66. Joshua says:

    [Everything from that build was thrown away, remember? -Raymond]

    That's what specific baseless merge is for; though I suspect merge failed because your source control isn't up to snuff (yes having used MS's best purchasable source control I would know).

    [I'm amused that you think making a multimon taskbar is a small task. Just the application compatibility problems would take a long time to flush out. -Raymond]

    Done right, this comes to exactly 1 issue that I don't see what the approach would be — where a program assumes it can set it's non-fullscreen Window to cover where the taskbar now falls because it thinks it isn't there because it's not the primary monitor.

    [Yes, we know about baseless merges, thank you. But every feature had to go through the 100-point exercise a second time, and the second time it didn't make it. I like that you think there is only one possible problem that could arise from this. (I already mentioned a different problem earlier.) -Raymond]
  67. Rivers in C.R says:

    I've been using multi monitor since I use a Laptop, at work, I've used from 2 to 4 monitors at the same time, at home, 2 Monitors (this for the last 10 years)… I'm not quite sure the 10% of the install base would be the ones that uses multi monitors setup.

    at work, I think that 3000+ people use dual or more monitors in their PC setup (Laptop screen + 2nd monitor)

  68. Michael Kohne says:

    I think a few things helped get this feature over the hump:

    1) There have been a number of Multi-mon taskbar utilities for a while now. They have at the very least made some of the more glaring UI mistakes, giving MS a leg up on the design.

    2) I suspect all of the work involved in Win8's desktop changes meant they were fooling with the taskbar code anyway. At which point, it was less extra work than say, adding it to Win7.

  69. [I'm amused that you think making a multimon taskbar is a small task. Just the application compatibility problems would take a long time to flush out.]

    Apply the 90/10 rule. It won't take long. In fact, from where I am standing, I am sure this is what has happened to Windows 8.

    [Fleet Command, but surely you don't test what you do in environments where the most restricted or exhotic combination of group policies are setup, where critical legacy massively-used applications/add-ins/add-ons/components (internal, such as IE8, or third-party, such as portable document readers) keep running as intended ~snip~]

    If I were, my 6 hour would have probably become 60 hours, not 8 years. I only have one shot at figuring it right.

  70. Joshua says:

    [ … baseless merge … ]

    I was mocking the tools not you.

    [ (I already mentioned a different problem earlier.) -Raymond]

    So I just had to go back up and see what problem I failed to notice. The funny thing is my 30 second design to check for possible problems had it covered by letting the toolbar run off the end of the primary taskbar window and mirroring the buttons on the secondary taskbar windows (which have a different class name).

    To be fair I have the advantage of knowing what didn't cause problems in 7 — that is it's no longer a tab control anymore.

  71. Paul Parks says:

    "If only more people would read this blog…."

    Apparently, even the people that do read this blog don't really *read* this blog, judging from the comments above.

  72. If only this scrutiny against features was forced on decisions to rename stuff, like the name of the Visual Studio folder in the Start Menu, registry keys or the path of the Platform SDK, or the structure of the MSDN library, and the choice of packaging technologies and shipment schedules used for redistributable components.

    And I wish a well-documented cost-benefit analysis was communicated everytime a feature is made obsolete (C++/CLR Windows Forms, anyone?).

  73. Katie says:

    Strange… in most places doing 30 seconds on a "design check" for backwards compatibility and interactions with countless system configurations across a user base of millions on one of the most prominent parts of a project is what would get you yelled at and threatened with losing your job.

  74. Kramii says:

    "I would hazard that fewer than ten percent of users use a multiple-monitor system on a regular basis, so any benefit would have to be ten times as great as the benefit of features that have broader use."

    A fair point, but this doesn't take into account that the 10% of users who are multi-monitor users are also likely to be high-value users: developers, power-users etc. who buy a lot of software, who recommend software to others, whose productivity benefits everyone etc. I'd say that keeping these 10% happy is relatively important.

    (I appreciate the 10% thing is illustrative, but I didn't want to miss an opportunity to remind ourselves that we developers are a bit special :-) ).

  75. Marc K says:

    pmbAustin: Wow!  The default behavior is one of the reasons I run with combining turned completely off.  My guess would be that the default behavior was selected because hovering to find the existing windows isn't as discoverable as clicking.  But, I agree that there should be a UI element for this option.

  76. pmbAustin says:

    Marc K, I know, right??

    Finding this little registry hack erased a huge point of pain/frustration for me in using Windows 7… and I now apply this to EVERY Windows installation I use (home and work), and recommend it to all co-workers and friends.

    At the very least, a checkbox in Taskbar Properties doesn't seem too much to ask.  It significantly improves usability, imho, for anyone with a lot of tabs/app-instances open.  It's so much more consistent in behavior, and faster/easier to use.

    Fingers crossed for "Threshold" (but not holding my breath)

    [No matter where you put an advanced setting, somebody will tell you that you are an idiot. -Raymond]
  77. alegr1 says:

    >If only this scrutiny against features was forced on decisions to rename stuff, like the name of the Visual Studio folder in the Start Menu, registry keys or the path of the Platform SDK

    Uppercase Menus in VS. I wonder what was the rationale for that. Another change nobody ever asker for. Thankfully, there is (so far) a secret registry setting to have normal-cased menus.

  78. NT6 says:

    Mr. Chen,

    I don't think your comment about Windows "Longhorn" is fair. "Everything from that build was thrown away, remember?" As you know, Windows Vista DOES include a good portion of "Longhorn" goodness (Aero, Flip 3D, Network Access Protection, Parental Controls, SuperFetch, completely new setup routine based on WIM, the completely new audio and networking subsystems, the new display driver model).

    …I could go on, but I still believe Windows Vista to be the "biggest" Windows release in almost a decade.

    [Everything got thrown away. Some things came back, but they had to justify themselves anew. -Raymond]
  79. smf says:


    "@smf: Unfixed blocker level accessibility bug for me. Shipping shame back."

    I have no idea what you're talking about. I thought I was quite clear, if the software you need doesn't work properly on windows 8.1 then it's not a free choice.

  80. smf says:


    "(the only place a rectangle could intersect all 6 monitors"

    I'm sure it's technically possible to have a window that doesn't have to adhere to that mapping, even if it involves having surrogate windows.

  81. Alex Cohn says:

    I believe that many users could benefit from multi-monitor support, if it were better polished. Today, so often people use "duplicate displays" when they dock their laptops as soon as they arrive to the office. I am not sure if taskbar improvement as in 8.1 is a game-changer here, but it seems to be a step in right direction. Maybe I am missing something basic, but for me the dual-monitor setup is a bit crippled with a 24" full HD (1920×1080) secondary display. The primary is also 1920×1080, but only 15.6". Either the fonts look too big on the external monitor, or too small on the built-in LCD.

  82. [No matter where you put an advanced setting, somebody will tell you that you are an idiot. -Raymond]

    If they indeed use the term "idiot", then I am afraid there is a high probability the person to whom this term applies is neither the second- nor third-person. Just employ your superpower called "forgetting" and let your life remain blissful.

  83. Paul Parks says:

    @pmbAustin: You could use the Ctrl-click shortcut when you visit a colleague's machine rather than hunting through windows.

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