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Explore the new Taskbar features in Windows 7 beta

The Windows 7 Beta was released during CES 2009 with several new and interesting features. Greg Shultz takes a look at one of those features in Windows 7 that really jumped out at him -- the new Taskbar.

I downloaded the Windows 7 beta over the weekend and have spent the last couple of days putting it through the paces. And, even though it is only at the first Beta stage, I must say that I'm pretty impressed with what I have experienced so far. At this point, Windows 7 appears to be a solid and stable operating system with all the features that you would expect in a beta 2 or release candidate version.

There are a lot of things in the Windows 7 operating system that are pretty much the same as in Vista, but there are also a lot of new and exciting features and changes. Regardless of how stable this version seems, it is still a beta, so I won't really tackle any performance issues -- I'll wait until we get closer to the real deal. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll take a look at one of the features in Windows 7 that really jumped out at me -- the new Taskbar.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download. If you want to get a full look at the Windows 7 beta, check out the First Look Photo Gallery.

The new Taskbar

When you first boot up Windows 7, your eyes immediately focus on the Start button and the Taskbar. The Start button and the Start menu are basically the same as in Vista, but Microsoft really revamped the Taskbar. To begin with, the Taskbar no longer displays text adjacent to each icon. Furthermore, the Taskbar is twice the height that it was before.

The next thing that I noticed was that the Quick Launch bar, first introduced in Windows 95, is gone. At first, this absence was a real shocker, because I have grown quite accustomed to the Quick Launch bar and depend on it for access to several common tools. However, once I began using the new Taskbar, I quickly forgot all about the Quick Launch bar because now the Taskbar itself acts as a place to both launch common applications as well as access running tasks.

In fact, in this beta, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player icons all live on the Taskbar right next to the Start button by default, as shown in Figure A. And, you can drag and drop any application's icon onto the Taskbar just like you could in the Quick Launch bar. As such, even though the Quick Launch bar is gone, you still have the same functionality.

Figure A

The Quick Launch bar is gone, and Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player icons all live on the Taskbar by default.

Building on this concept of making the Taskbar act as both a place to launch common applications and a place to access running tasks, the default icons, and any icons that you add to the Taskbar, the icons on the Taskbar also serve as the task icon. For example, once you launch Internet Explorer using the icon on the Taskbar, that same icon transforms into the task icon that you use to switch back and forth between applications.

The task icons will also use a stack concept to show you how many open windows, or in the case of Internet Explorer how many tabs, are open by the application.

The Live Taskbar thumbnails feature, first introduced in Vista, has also been dramatically revamped as well as endowed with new capabilities in Windows 7. To begin with, it builds on the stack concept in that when you hover your mouse pointer over a task icon that's showing a stack, you'll see thumbnails for each window or tab, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

When you hover your mouse pointer over the Internet Explorer task icon that's showing a stack, you'll see thumbnails for each tab.

Furthermore, when you hover your mouse pointer over any active task icon, you'll see a small thumbnail, but when you hover your mouse pointer over the thumbnail, it will immediately expand to fill the screen. This feature is called Aero Peek, because this capability is dependent on the Aero UI and allows you to essentially take a peek at a window without actually switching windows. However, if you click on a small or large thumbnail, you'll instantly switch to that task. Click the close button on the thumbnail, and you'll close the window or the application.

Another capability of the Internet Explorer icon is that it can indicate progress of a download, as shown in Figure C. This capability will most likely show up in other progress-intensive applications.

Figure C

During a download operation, the Internet Explorer icon will show a green progress bar.
The new Taskbar also incorporates a new feature called Jump Lists. Designed to make it easier to find what you want and perform common operations associated with an application, Jump Lists appear on the Start menu as well as on the Taskbar when you right-click on an icon. For example, the Jump List for Windows Media Player will show frequently used operations, most recent music selections as well as some common tasks, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Jump Lists will make it easier to find what you want and perform common operations associated with an application.
One handy feature of the Quick Launch bar that might appear to have slipped through the cracks is the Show Desktop icon. However, that same functionality is now enhanced by Aero Peek and accessed by hovering your mouse pointer over a small, innocuous button in the far right-hand corner of the screen adjacent to the clock. When you do, all open windows on the desktop instantly become transparent with only a faint outline remaining, as shown in Figure E, and you can see the desktop.

Figure E

Aero Peek replaces Show Desktop's minimize-all-open-windows feature.

What's your take?

What do you think about Windows 7's new Taskbar? Have you downloaded the Windows 7 beta? Please drop by the Discussion Area and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

117 comments
Capt. Midnight
Capt. Midnight

What I find annoying is any internet shortcut I drop into the taskbar turns into an E, even if I configured my own Icon for it. I usually stick Yahoo, Google, Mapquest, etc down there with Icons to make it easy to find, now they're all a bunch of E's.

MWRMWR
MWRMWR

What does this download progress show and how? If there are six active downloads maybe from different ie-window-sessions (and I'm guessing that M$oft still haven't put pause and re-prioritise download capability in ) then is all this activity on one "e" icon or is it the mean progress for each "e"-icon?

adh773
adh773

Its about time some of you got off the bandwagon for Apple and Linux. You are so biosed and you try to hog all the space with your B---Shit. Stick to your crappy Apple and Linux systems and leave the space to poeple who are not out to bash Microsoft just for the sake of doing it.

draggonmj
draggonmj

I dl'd Win7 and installed it in a VM using MS Virtual PC. As yet, I have been unable to get it to talk to the internet. I have been able, however to get XP to access internet through the VM installation. I have hosted this VM on both XP and Vista machines. Comments, helps?

fixerupper
fixerupper

Or Maybe The Fat Lady Has Sung... Microsoft Window's end time is near. They can keep revamping or touching up the interface but they are very hard pressed to come up with a competitive OS. Linux is now coming up with Windows and Mac like interfaces that work just as well as Windows XP and it won't be long before all "Windows" apps work on Linux machines. Microsoft is grasping at straws trying to hold on to this market. In 10 years it will be all Mac and Ubunutu... And real servers will be Unix Based...

bfrawley
bfrawley

The new taskbar is horrible. Once again Microsoft took something that wasn't broke and tried to fix it. First they messed up the start menu with Vista and now the task bar. Fortunatly, the quick launch bar is still there you just have to go find it and set it. You can also get the items in the taskbar to be normal size with descriptions so it looks like it always has.

gsikora01
gsikora01

Much ado over not much... Ppersonally, I am tired of watching the graphics be a retooled in Windows. As a business user first and foremost, I would prefer to see the focus be on speed, the integration of apps, and transparent security improvements.

news
news

This is the same OS as Vista minus the restrictive UAC and it runs a little faster. The problem with Microsoft is that they lost their innovation. When Apple comes out with a new product, it???s really NEW.

jimdrvr99
jimdrvr99

I to am checking out windows 7 and from a personal note I believe it will out perform vista hands down. I'm not finished playing it bit I'll get back with you whe I am. I'm also avid fan jimdrvr99

john3347
john3347

I see too much carried over to Win 7 from Vista. It is still very difficult to find saved pictures and other saved files. However - - - as far as it goes, the new taskbar is a significant improvement. It is more difficult to disable all the worthless fluff and puff that is called AERO than it was in Vista. I haven't found how to really completely disable it and move to a Windows Classic interface that leaves the desktop background, etc. to be controlled by the user. Several of my applications that even worked in Vista do not install and run in Win 7. But this thread is about the taskbar, isn't it? It is a significant improvement over Vista. Probably, at this point, the new taskbar is the most significant improvement over Vista. I have not seen any stability improvement. I do not know whether IE 8 or Windows 7 is the source of continuing instability. Oh, this is about the taskbar, huh?

inertman
inertman

both the alteration of the quicklaunch/taskbar and the show desktop button, of course that has to do with the fact that this is how you begin to use windows, right? of course whether you like it or hate it, it has to do with moving forward. i remember when i learned to drive and the switch for the lights was on the dash and also controlled the dash dimmer with the brights switch on the floor behind the parking brake. now the switch is on the turn signal with the brights integrated (which means you can accidentally turn on your brights when you signal a turn), and the dash dimmer is a seperate switch. i never liked this change but got used to it and never griped, not really. the fact is, i had to adapt to the change whether i liked it or not, as sinisterslay says. however, if you take a second to look deeper, there is the option, as in xp, to 'show windows stacked', 'show windows side by side' or 'cascade windows'. if you don't like those options, try an abacus. we're gonna have to move forward, always. like don henley says, 'you can never go back'.

frank_s
frank_s

Call me old fashioned but I still have a couple of batch files I use daily. With Vista and XP I had/have shortcuts to them in the Quick Launch area. That's helpful because they don't show up in the list of most recently used programs. After using Vista for a short time I turned off the desktop icons and 95% of what I do is from the Quick Launch area or the recently used programs list. Anything else a few letters in the Start search box will bring it up--but that does take a little bit longer. Either I'm doing something wrong or batch files can't be pinned to the taskbar, that means having to use search to start them; it doesn't take long, but it would be faster starting them from the taskbar. Oh, and another little gripe, turning off the desktop icons in Win 7 also turns off my installed gadgets. Guess I'll have to go back to having some icons on the desktop. Minor quibbles I know, but still annoying to me.

inertman
inertman

you're still using ie to get to yahoo, google, mapquest etc,silly. the icon is for the program, not the page, however, when you hover on the icon a thumb of the page pops up. read the whole article and the rest of the posts maybe...

inertman
inertman

the single icon of ie, if you're using multiple tabs, or diff icons if you're using diff browsers, will show download progress in a single instance, but when you hover over the icon, the thumbs pop up and then you can see each download w/o actually revisiting each.

rcfoulk
rcfoulk

One of the early posts to this piece asks, "who asks for this stuff," speaks to the real issue here and I couldn't agree more. MS has lost focus on what business users actually need focusing instead on a bunch of geeky things in the UI. Hello! Music management and video management are really not core business concerns. A simple, clean interface that doesn't require retraining would be nice, as in leave the older style alone. For those whose life revolves around diddling with ostensibly cool new things on their PC, that type of feature is fine. For everyone else focused on FIRST compatibility, speed and consistency Windows 7 will suffer much the same lack of acceptance as has been realized with Vista. Most all domain users will have all the "cute" geeky stuff bolted down anyway so aside from home users and the network administrators they are largely irrelevant anyway. Windows 7 is really and truly going to be Vista R2 and will likely suffer the same fate in no small part with respect to adoption. I know that since it has become clear that MS will continue to push the poor direction demonstrated by Vista we have begun seriously reviewing Open Source options for the time when our XP desktops will need to be retired because of driver unavailability for new hardware. I remain incredulous that Microsoft hasn?t realized the true message in the pervasive lack of business acceptance of Vista (yes, I know there are some but most have not spent good capital on a pointless upgrade). Beyond continuing pushing out the end date for when resellers will no longer be able to sell ?downgrades? to XP on business systems (I suspect that the resellers hope it never ends given that for example Dell collects another cool $99 per machine for this) the modifications demonstrated in every Win7 report indicate that they still think they can dictate the business desktop. Very foolish.

larrie_jr
larrie_jr

With users as the gate-keepers to today's technology, Microsoft is "baiting the market" in the way Apple has in the past. Vista was meant to be a transitional operating system to 64 bit processing, neccesatating the investment in new and emerging hardware. We all know they missed the mark on that with the general consumer; well that general consumer sometimes end up being a corporate level IT Manager and his/her experience color's that corporate decision making process. If MS can build on the positives of Vista and incorporate design ideas end users enjoy from other operating systems or applications (remember the days when IE DIDN'T have tabbed browsing?) and perhaps recovering some of their damaged reputation (with-out pulling a 'mojave')all the more (Moore) power to them. The birthing process is going to be long and hard on this one. It's been a long time since MS has been "ahead of the times", instead of playing catch-up. Now we just have to wait until software developers, and the rest, catch-up to Microsoft.

joe
joe

performance? well that is just not a concern because you are supposed to throw all of your existing systems away. then go out and buy all new stuff. be sure to shop for the biggest and fastest box you can afford.

chris
chris

what would you do to improve the MS OS?

jimdrvr99
jimdrvr99

The new task is really nice for those with vision problems, and as for being the same as Vista I agree to a point, but I still get tha auc warnings, even after turning it off. T believe Win 7 will be a better OS than Vista. I run XP pro, Vista Home preium, and now Windows 7. The only true problem I can see at this point is The networking. It should be able to network with other window systems.

kama410
kama410

"if you don't like those options, try an abacus. we're gonna have to move forward, always." Linux. That's where I'm headed next. $350 for a reason to spend $200 on a video card doesn't sound like good business sense to me. Maybe I'm confused.

kprince
kprince

Why - If it ain't broke don't fix it. Batch files and Windows + R have a great deal of use in them still and I don't need to get my head around some glossy 3D rubbish to use them either. Particularly if a screenreader locks up getting to the run menu is simple - absolutely no good to have a whizzy graphic and a changing order of things Windows thinks I want when you can't see them.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I don't like clicking a taskbar icon, then having to choose form a menu, which window I want. I'd rather just use my taskbar. I feel such a simple personal preference should be supported.

gaitch32
gaitch32

There just isn't a toolbar made for it. Unlock the taskbar and make a new tool bar. Put in "%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch" as the destination folder and then adjust the icon size and labels the way you would like. It seems to work for me.

Poordirtfarmer
Poordirtfarmer

I?m waiting to download Windows 7 until I can setup a machine that I can wipe clean later, if necessary. The article is interesting, but it really worries me that the same icon from the Quick Launch Bar transforms into the task icon that you ?use to switch back and forth between applications?. It may kill a functionality that I use almost constantly. Can we still bring up the same application on multiple displays? I use multiple (3) monitors, and the way I get up another independent running copy of an application, say Excel, is to launch it again from the Quick Launch Bar. That way I can ?restore down? and move it around to whichever of the 3 screens I want it on, then "restore up". I can move Excel spreadsheets independently on and off any or all screens with each using the full screen. The same is true with Word or Outlook. I operate this way frequently, analyzing spreadsheets and creating/comparing documents. Sadly, Power Point does not work that way for me, and that is what gives me concern. PP is frustrating because it just wants to stack whatever you open onto the same instance, and they all remain underneath one another on the SAME PAGE, hidden from view unless you reduce size within the page?s image. That obviously presents readability problems and is cumbersome to boot I am concerned that with Windows 7, the functionality may now be lost for bringing up multiple instances of any application altogether ... that?d be a real bummer! I need to have the ability to readily display the same application on two or three monitors. Can someone check that out on Windows 7?

MikeGall
MikeGall

Could you create a shortcut to the batch file and add the shortcut to the toolbar? Not sure but it might work.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

...then that I cannot customize my icons on the taskbar? I have dl'd w7 but have not installed it yet, so I haven't tried this. I currently have one xp machine and one vista, and I like being able to create and set my own icons. I have for years had my desktop icons shown as a toolbar and hidden from the desktop itself, so using the taskbar to launch programs is not a foreign concept for me. But if I will lose some of my ability to customize things the way I want, that would be a big detraction for w7.

inertman
inertman

but i've tried every version since 4, both 32 & 64-bit, and as yet have not had an experience to rave about. 1 funny thing is, i can install any of them using my bluetooth keyboard, but as soon as it's up & running, linux just won't work w/ this wireless desktop. this means the first thing i have to do is go to my hardware closet, pull out a wired mouse & kb, attempt to find drivers on the web (not really that big a deal), and load/configure it, and it still is glitchy and doesn't work well if at all really. i've had other issues w/ linux, but if i can't even use current tech on the newest versions, and all my hardware works on every version of windows, where's the all powerfull linux there?

kama410
kama410

"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." I suspect that in a while people are going to be saying, "Remember when you could just buy the Microsoft product and your boss would be OK with that?" The problem is that the marketing people at Microsoft firmly believe that if they just produce a product that works better without looking significantly different it will not be perceived as being significantly different. This is probably pretty accurate where home users are concerned, but people making business decisions aren't interested in a flashy desktop and cool graphics. Maybe Microsoft could learn something from the automobile manufacturers: you don't build work trucks with the same features you put into a sports car. The buyer of the work truck will not pay for a burl wood dash, heated leather seats, and a ten disk CD changer. Microsoft may have to learn this the hard way.

rcfoulk
rcfoulk

but "Moore's Law" isn't a law at all. It amounts to a curious observational artifact of technological development over the last 25 years which has been somewhat applicable and apparently a lot of fun to quote. It's a pet peeve. There are scientific laws, conservation of energy and things like that, but there is nothing causal with respect to this stated, so-called law. It's not addressing a fundamental attribute of the physical world like the speed of light in a vacuum. It's an interesting conjecture, observation that has been somewhat the case but is increasingly less relevant as the nature of microcomputer architecture evolves in a way that will produce speed gains in more geometric proportions. Nothing against you personally. This has simply been a personal irritation for quite some time.

lmenningen
lmenningen

Right - when are they going to make a $100 tera-byte disk having 1 millisecond access time, and 8GHz 8-core processors?

john3347
john3347

Chris, the biggest one thing that could be done to improve a Microsoft OS is to include an option for a single user to disable ALL the multi-user functions on their computer. This would be a HUGE improvement! The masses don't need a "user", "all users", "default user", "guest user", "administrator" plus a couple of other names to save files under. (This sentence may be a slight exaggeration, but it makes the point) The second biggest improvement, which would also be a HUGE improvement, would be to go back to a Windows Explorer file tree similar to Windows 2000 and Windows XP so a person can find their saved pictures, music, and documents much, MUCH, more easily. My Vista machine has 4 "Documents" folders and seems to just randomly place a new saved file in whichever one it wishes. My Windows 7 beta does not seem to have addressed this problem either.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I want to be able to configure my entire computer the way I want (Or really close) with a single click of the mouse. Also, performance, seriously, increase performance.

hypno444
hypno444

I solved the wireless networking problem with other windows OSes by installing Network Magic. But it surely would have been better to have Windows7 do it.

dcolbert
dcolbert

We'll be waiting for you when you get back.

inertman
inertman

however, everytime i've tried a new iteration of linux, both 32 & 64, i've had so little success and never has it been able connect to my network and to the internet. hope you have better luck, i also will continue to try.

inertman
inertman

unless you think you can completely repair, update, rewrite, manage, and patch together ad infinitum, yes, you're gonna have to move forward. if not, why are you using xp, why not continue w/ '98 or '95? ms isn't supporting those os' anymore and will stop w/ xp someday, although they change the date sometimes. further, it's because so many people bitched about it for so long; 'when are we gonna get the next windows', etc. you may have problems, and maybe it's your hardware or drivers or software, but not everyone does, so ms moves forward and someday you will too. i have people who are still working w/ '98 and don't want to change, but as soon as they see something they want and it requires xp, they start thinking. the same thing is gonna happen w/ xp. griping about it won't fix it, fixing your system might.

inertman
inertman

however, if you have ie open w/ severl tabs, or even more than 1 instance, the new taskbar puts them all into 1 icon and when you hover over it, there are thumbs of all open instances so you don't have to click thru all of them as you said, and if you hover over a thumb it takes over the screen while you're on it, also w/o having to click on/resize it. except if you're running ie and ie-64, those are seperate. although the screen shots don't show this very well in the article, the article addressed this at least a little and it is pretty cool.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

i have my windows set to not stack. its not difficult at all.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I don't remember the website, but basically its how Windows is being told to pass file paths to excel, word etc. I am currently setup so that all files open their own instance, just because as you say, its irritating and stupid, I have 6 monitors, and its useful to have different docs open on each monitor. For excelf or example, change the XLS extension. The open command, to look like this. (Match up with your paths) "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\EXCEL.EXE" "%1" This should be similar for all office versions including 2007, just change the path, mine is for Office 2003.

frank_s
frank_s

I tried that, it didn't work either.

frank_s
frank_s

I tried that, it didn't work either.

frank_s
frank_s

I tried that, it didn't work either.

kama410
kama410

so my analogy isn't perfect. Sheesh. You're right, though. More like a luxury motor home, really since they seem to have put in everything including the kitchen sink!

Slayer_
Slayer_

Usually a sports car is stripped down, mean tto be light weight and powerful, the Complete opposite of Vista. It would be more accurate to call Vista a Luxury SUV or a Touring Van. A vehicles incrediably heavy and slow, but it's entertaining for children.

john3347
john3347

Kama, the problem here is that the majority of home users don't want all the "fluff and puff" that comes with new offerings from Microsoft any more than business users and industrial users do. There is, as in your sports car analogy, only a small clique of home users that want the "sport model computer." The masses have totally been abandoned.

larrie_jr
larrie_jr

According to the "law" of Physics, a Bumble bee can not fly... And a Harley Davidson motorcycle wont run... And yet they still call them "laws"! yeah, I can relate. But aside from that minor issue, my previous point still stands. The fact that M$ is using "eye candy" to bait the general user.

kama410
kama410

...but you can be sure that when it gets here MS will come out with an OS that takes up 100GB on your HD and at least one of those eight cores just to boot up. It won't do anything much better than what it does now, but it'll sure look pretty! (...and take 12 hours to ghost an image of the drive.) :-P

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'm not sure if I am a fan of Linux, so much as a disappointed observer waiting for Linux to achieve the full potential it is capable of. I think there are 3 types of modern Linux users: Those with very limited desires and objectives, who have ready access to someone with "guru level knowledge" of Linux. For example, the 14 year old daughter of a Tech Republic writer and Linux advocate has a chance of having a successful Linux experience. Those with very advanced objectives and desires and a high degree of technical competence, generally developers - who think that advanced scripting and code writing is a legitimate and necessary part of the System Administrator experience. The idealist, who is willing to ignore and suffer dramatic shortcomings and inconveniences of the Linux OS in order to avoid the ideologically distasteful alternatives. I think all three groups become so accustomed to making concessions and sacrifices in order to use Linux, that they eventually lose site of what they're giving up in order to do so. The second group, additionally, has such a high level skill-set, they don't understand why people without those high levels skills find Linux a less than superior experience.

kama410
kama410

are a Linux fan, Mr. Colbert. Yeah, I read your posts. Is that a challenge, or do you really think I'm one of the mindless morons of the world? Admittedly, I've become accustomed to the Microsoft way of doing things (from the days of DOS, in fact). That does not mean I cannot learn something new. Mr. Colbert, you are clearly a preceptive and subtle person. I'll assume you are presenting me with a challenge.

inertman
inertman

but i don't recomend moving forward, it's the nature of tech, there's little choice in the matter. and it's a psuedonym for a superhero who has no effect, something i thought of after many times when people ask my opinion, don't take it, then complain that their results suck. but still, your point of irony is well taken.

larrie_jr
larrie_jr

I totally agree; I just thought it ironic for someone named "inertman" to recommend "motion"...

Slayer_
Slayer_

Without trying it myself I don't know, but it might be a good comprimise.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Yeah quite funny. Some sites are bad for not making it clear that your post has gone through.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Sorry I couldn't resist lol

frank_s
frank_s

It doesn't make any difference, the paths/directories are correct and the two batch files can't be pinned to the taskbar. They work fine from the desktop--but if you right click on them they don't have the option to "Pin to Taskbar" like the other shortcuts on the desktop do (they don't have the "Pin to Start Menu" option either). If you drag them with the mouse to the taskbar you get a No symbol (slashed red circle) when the mouse cursor moves into the Taskbar.

MikeGall
MikeGall

It definitely works the way that I described. In fact I didn't even have to create a shortcut, one gets created as you drag an icon to the quick launch spot. Two things to make sure of (either should be sufficient): 1) Shortcut is set to "start in" the correct directory 2) Use fully qualified paths in your scripts, don't assume that it will be run from a particular directory.