Why does the date disappear from my taskbar, sometimes?


A customer reported that the date vanished from their taskbar, but it was there yesterday. They included a screen shot, which showed a vertically-docked taskbar on a Chinese system, and the clock showed simply "10:50". The customer sent the message on October 10.

I used my psychic powers to debug the problem. Maybe you can too.

(Time passes.)

The problem is that the date is October 10, or "10月10日". Yesterday was "10月9日". What's so special about "10月10日" compared to "10月9日"?

It's one character longer.

The user resized their taskbar so that there was room to show "10月9日", but not enough room to show "10月10日".

The customer experimented by changing the date, and they confirmed that the date vanishes whenever you are in October, November, or December, and the day of the month is 10 or higher.

Comments (44)
  1. Brian_EE says:

    Is there some reason that I don't know about where it might be preferable to have the taskbar docked vertically on the side vs horizontally on the bottom when on a Chinese language system? Just curious.

    1. skSdnW says:

      The same reason as any other system, more vertical space, especially on widescreen monitors? Some Asian languages can also be written vertically but I don't think it is that common on computers and probably not a factor.

      1. cheong00 says:

        And if you have system that the monitor is very close to your keyboard (Say any of those Surface tablets), you'll want to use vertical taskbar to keep most of your "frequently used icons" from the lower corners of screen. (My fat fingers have difficulty touching them)

        Placing taskbar to the top may do too, but it also make some icons dangerously close to the dangerous close button of most window, so have to rule out that option after much applications are accidentially closed this way.

    2. SimonRev says:

      I have had a vertical task bar since we started having multiple monitors back in 98. It was pretty clear that I had a lot more horizontal space than vertical space. Once monitors started going wide screen, it vertical task bars seem completely obvious since a lot of programs just waste the extra horizontal space.

    3. Karellen says:

      You mean, apart from the ordinary reason why it's preferable to have the taskbar docked vertically on the side, it being that on today's widescreen monitors there is nearly always more than enough horizontal screen space for one's needs, compared to a relative shortage(!) of vertical screen space?

      1. Karellen says:

        Huh. Clearly I need to spend less time editing my comments before posting them.

      2. Brian_EE says:

        If vertical real-estate on your monitor is a problem, the solution is to turn the monitor 90 degrees and tell Windows that it in portrait mode.

        1. Karellen says:

          Dragging the taskbar to the side of the screen is much quicker and cheaper than finding and ordering new monitors or mounts that are portrait-mode capable. That's if getting specialised displays without an underlying medical need are even possible at one's place of employment, instead of making do with what you're given.

          (No, I don't need the reasons why equipment allocation policies like this are a false economy to be repeated. I'm very aware of them, but I still haven't been able to convince the people in charge of those policies to change them.)

          1. Brian_EE says:

            Interesting.... every LCD monitor I've ever had could be turned portrait with the mount it came with. So you're saying this isn't a standard feature?

          2. roeland says:

            Most monitors I encountered don't come with a mount which allows rotating it. Many don't even allow moving the screen up or down.

            And TN monitors have the additional problem of an extremely narrow vertical viewing angle. You'll see the colors shifting when tilting these by just a couple of degrees.

            So if you turn such monitor in portrait mode, your left and right eye will see different contrast and brightness. So with a lot of monitors, even if the mount would allow it I still wouldn't be able to use them in portrait orientation without getting a headache after a while.

        2. Yuri Khan says:

          That completely breaks font rendering on non-HiDPI monitors, by negating the advantage of subpixel rendering.

          1. Mark Y says:

            Also: try rotating a laptop screen!

        3. morlamweb says:

          @Brian_EE: so, your solution is to re-arrange one's physical desktop to accommodate a rotated monitor, rather then simply dragging the taskbar to the side? How exactly is one supposed to rotate a laptop display? I know that there are use cases for portrait-oriented monitors - editing of portrait documents being one of many - but doing so just to gain a little more vertical space, at a great cost in horizontal space, seems a bit excessive.

    4. morlamweb says:

      I've seen many taskbars docked vertically, on all types of monitors (including 4:3 aspect ratio ones; yes, they still exist) to attribute it to just widescreen displays. I've never liked the look of it personally, so I keep em' docked along the bottom of the screen, with one exception. I have two tiers of monitors mounted on my desk, and with the taskbar mounted along the bottom, the screen-sharing program would "helpfully" move the mouse to another monitor whenever I tried to use the damn thing. Moving the taskbar to the top solved that problem (and exposed some programs that assume that the taskbar is always at the bottom).

    5. The MAZZTer says:

      In Windows XP I used to do it to get myself more room for buttons, since they were wider than tall. With the superbar, that is no longer an issue so I went back to the horizontal bar.

    6. Xinthia Douglas says:

      I think small laptops are unusable without the taskbar to the side. Normally I prefer having the taskbar at the bottom, mostly because it's easier to click the buttons, and also because it tends to be a bit more economical with space generally, but on a small laptop vertical space specifically comes at a premium and you tend to use it for things for which vertical space is important.

    7. Torkell says:

      I've run a vertical taskbar (docked to the right-hand side of my main display) since around 2000 - it's handy with lots of windows open as there's more space for buttons on the taskbar. With 2000 and XP the taskbar would also change to showing multiple columns of buttons if enough windows are open, but sadly Windows 7 doesn't do that.

  2. Florian S. says:

    By the way, why is it not possible to customize the clock string that is shown in the taskbar? For example, when using large icons, it always shows the time and date stacked on top of each other (while I would prefer it to show only the time). I mean, in region settings, you can define the formatting of individual strings (long format, short format, etc.) and I missing something like that for the clock.

    I remember there was (or is, don't know if it still works) a little tool called TClockEx, but I'd rather prefer a built-in solution.

    1. Minus 100 points. The clock follows your regional settings.

  3. DWalker says:

    Monitors are getting wider, and shorter top-to-bottom. Pretty soon the standard resolution will be 3000 x 500. Yuck.

    1. Yukkuri says:

      Make fun of my 9000px x 1px monitor if you want but I get INSANE framerates in games...

    2. Kirby FC says:

      "Monitors are getting wider, and shorter top-to-bottom."

      I have seem some "extra wide" monitors with a 21:9 display that are 2560x1080. Unless you're talking about some sort of specialized monitor, almost all monitors sold today are 1080 vertically.

      1. Yuri Khan says:

        And that’s a regression from the 1600×1200 monitors of ten years ago.

        1. xcomcmdr says:

          Not really.

          1600 x 1200 = 1920000 pixels
          1920 * 1080 = 2073600 pixels

          That's ~9% more pixels. Besides, content with a 4:3 aspect ratio is quite rare nowadays.

          And 4K screens are on their way anyway...

          1. Rick C says:

            Yes, but you're giving up 120 vertical pixels, which can be noticeable, even if you went from, say, 1600x1200 to 1920x1080. If you're a programmer, those extra handful of lines that you lost are a real bummer.

          2. Yuri Khan says:

            The context was that monitors are getting wider horizontally and shorter vertically. 1600×1200 → 1920×1080 supports this claim.

            4K yes, but a 16:9 4K 23.8″ monitor at arm’s length still spans only 21° vertically, down from 22° of a 4:3 20″. And angular size is what really matters for the number of lines of text, and the number of lines of text is what matters for a computer monitor.

            > Besides, content with a 4:3 aspect ratio is quite rare nowadays.

            If you want content, get a TV. On a monitor, we do computery things such as programming, web surfing and gaming, none of which is particularly aspect-ratio-sensitive.

          3. xcomcmdr says:

            > 4K yes, but a 16:9 4K 23.8″ monitor at arm’s length still spans only 21° vertically, down from 22° of a 4:3 20″. And angular size is what really matters for the number of lines of text, and the number of lines of text is what matters for a computer monitor.

            Well then it makes even less sense to throw a fit about it. If you take vertical size alone, the difference is barely noticeable, even for text.

            > If you want content, get a TV. On a monitor, we do computery things such as programming, web surfing and gaming, none of which is particularly aspect-ratio-sensitive.

            Yes. And none of those in the past needed an 1080p monitor. Except no they do.
            The same will happen with 4K screens.

        2. DWalker says:

          Exactly. The two monitors I use every day are 1920x1200; I wish they were 1920x1440, or something like that.

          1. DWalker says:

            Rick C has it exactly right:

            "Yes, but you’re giving up 120 vertical pixels, which can be noticeable, even if you went from, say, 1600×1200 to 1920×1080. If you’re a programmer, those extra handful of lines that you lost are a real bummer."

            Which is why I want 1920 x 1440, or even 1920 x 1600 for writing code in Visual Studio.

  4. Alice Rae says:

    I suppose reducing the font size for longer dates to make it fit isn't an option?

    It's not ideal, of course, but it would probably be less confusing to the end user than making the date disappear entirely.

    1. Ray Koopa says:

      You're already at font size 8 in Windows XP with this (9 since Vista). Reducing it more and more slowly makes it unreadable and look unevenly. I don't think that's a well looking solution.

    2. Shrinking the font for East Asian languages is rarely an option. You end up with unreadable blobs.

  5. soniq says:

    I really thought that Chinese Windows must be using hieroglyphs not only for the word "month", but also for month names and even ordinal numbers.

  6. Oh, I once had a more serious problem of this type.

    Back in the days of Windows XP, I switched the system's default font to Tahoma. (Windows Server 2003 is like that by default.) But I ran into a very bad problem: In color dialog boxes, I could no longer type more than two digits for color values (R, G, B). Ouch! I still could use the spinner though. I should have thought of borrowing more from Windows Server 2003 than just a setting.

    1. Ray Koopa says:

      Yeah, I once "reported" this bug on this blog (as if this is a bug reporting platform, _no_, it's not!) already... it looks like the text boxes are not limited in character count, but do some weird text measuring.

      I wish that dialog could be completely rewamped anyway to allow hex color codes...

      1. ChrisR says:

        The edit control has a style, ES_AUTOHSCROLL. Without this style set, the edit control will not allow more text to be entered than can fit in the width of the control. The text boxes in the standard win32 color chooser dialog do not have this style set, and they seem to be sized to fit 3 characters only with the default font. I always try to remember to set all my edit controls to use the ES_AUTOHSCROLL style to avoid this issue.

        1. ES_AUTOHSCROLL wouldn't help because there's no room for a horizontal scroll bar either!

          1. ChrisR says:

            The single line edit control won't gain a horizontal scroll bar in this case. It will scroll the text to the left, outside the client area.

  7. Ray Koopa says:

    What I hate mostly is that, if the date disappears, the clock doesn't shrink in height - it still uses up as much space as a two-row clock which displays it!

    1. That way the clock size is consistent. Otherwise you have people saying, "Yesterday, my taskbar showed 10 icons. Today it shows only 9!"

  8. Alexander S. says:

    On my computers, I keep the taskbar in the bottom of the screen, but enable the Auto-hide the taskbar option to get a little extra screen-space when I'm not using it.

  9. Ivan K says:

    Cool. If you unlock the taskbar you can dock it to the side (or whatever) and make it as wide as ever, which is what I would want for my 'never combine' preference. Never would do it, but cool.

  10. PatH says:

    This isn't the reason I do it but when working with string representations of numerical dates, I always pad single digits with "0"

    1. I always use ISO 8601 format. (See also: https://xkcd.com/1179/ )

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