In this issue:
Windows 7: The new Taskbar
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
Microsoft did a lot of work on the new taskbar (Figure) for Windows 7. They looked extensively how people where using their computers and started making improvements based on those observations. The number one task for what people use the taskbar is to switch between windows. Below I will show and discuss some of the changes/enhancements.
Microsoft has started their taskbar improvements with a facelift that includes larger icons, which make it easier to identify programs, and also makes it easier to target icons with a cursor without accidentally clicking on the icon next to it. The Windows 7 taskbar is 10 pixels (at the default 96 DPI) higher than the taskbar used in Windows Vista, this of course when used as a single row (you are still able to use multiple rows). You'll also note that the taskbar looks more 'glassy'. According to Microsoft the feedback they got was that users dislike Vista's UI where the taskbar would turn opaque and dark.
You can still pin programs to the taskbar by dragging them or via a context menu, just like you have always done with Quick Launch.
In Windows 7 Microsoft effectively combined the QuickLaunch and taskband. In order to maximize the use of available space, Microsoft standardized launching and switching behavior so that only a single representation is made on the taskbar.
As you can see from the images above, the shortcut for Microsoft Word changes to represent an opened Word document. Now you may wonder what would happen when you have two or more documents open, and how you would be able to switch between them.
Here is where another improvement to the taskbar comes to light. When hovering over a taskbar button you'll see a thumbnail as you would in Vista. The difference with Vista is that in Windows 7 the thumbnails are now an extension of their corresponding button so you can click on these to switch to a given window. The thumbnails are also a more accurate representation of a window; complete with an application icon in the top left corner, window text and even the ubiquitous close button in the top right (Figure).
There is a visual cue of stacked tiles to give a clue whether there are multiple windows running for a program (see picture at the left), but I think this should be improved.
Another advantage of the single representation is that you can now move taskbar buttons. Quick Launch as always allowed this, but combining this mechanism with the taskband naturally extended rearrange functionality to running windows.
The next improvement I want to talk about is called "Jump Lists". Most users are used to the concept of the context menu that is available for running programs. This menu is accessible by right-clicking on a taskband button or in the top left corner of most windows. By default, the menu exposes windows controls such as Minimize, Maximize and Close. In Windows 7 this is taken a step further as Microsoft wanted to make it easier for people to jump to things they are trying to accomplish. The advantage is that you don't have to start the program to quickly access a task or launch a file.
Above you see the jump list of Windows Explorer's taskbar shortcut, which includes frequently accessed locations as well as the most recent accessed locations. You can also pin specific locations to this list, so you can always access them quickly (Figure).