Enhance Windows Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature

Greg Shultz shows you how to implement a Microsoft Windows Vista registry tweak that will prevent the text from appearing on the taskbar. He also shows you how to really take advantage Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature.

As you know, Microsoft Windows Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature can be a very handy feature when you are switching between multiple tasks. You just hover your mouse pointer over any button on the Taskbar and you'll see a thumbnail of that window's contents. And best of all, because the thumbnails display live images of running applications, you can keep track of active operations, such as a download in progress.

Unfortunately, the thumbnails feature is often overshadowed by a holdover from the old Taskbar system -- the text. Each and every task on the Taskbar is accompanied by the text that appears in the title bar of the window, as shown in Figure A. This causes two problems: First, having the text there means you are likely to rely on reading rather than thumbnails for information. Second, once you have many tasks on the Taskbar, the text becomes undecipherable. And, because you are used to reading the text, you still don't pay attention to the thumbnails.

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Figure A

Unfortunately, having text on the Taskbar seems to overshadow the live thumbnails.

However, I've discovered a Registry tweak that will allow you to prevent the text from appearing on the Taskbar. With this tweak, you will have no choice but to rely on the thumbnails. Once you get used to using the thumbnails as your main means of identifying tasks, you really begin to take advantage of this visual Windows Vista feature. Plus, you'll be able to have more running tasks on the Taskbar without it seeming overcrowded.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to implement this Registry tweak. I'll then show you how to really take advantage Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature.

Tweaking the Registry

Note: Before you begin editing the Registry, keep in mind that the Registry is vital to the operating system. Before editing the Registry you should take a few moments to back up the Registry for safekeeping.

To begin, click the Start button, type Regedit in the Start Search box, and press [Enter]. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly. Once the Registry Editor launches, locate the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

When you access the WindowMetrics key, click on the right-hand pane. Then, pull down the Edit menu and select the New | String Value command. Name the new key MinWidth, double-click it, and set the value to minus 285 (-285), as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Set the value of the new MinWidth key to -285.

To complete the change, click OK, close the Registry Editor, log off, and then log back on.

Taking advantage

With the text gone from the Taskbar, you'll really be able to take advantage of Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature. You'll also discover that you can have more running tasks before the Taskbar appears crowded, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

This example Taskbar is running the same set of applications as the one shown in Figure A, but it doesn't appear as crowded.

What's your take?

Will you employ this technique in order to take better advantage of the Vista's live Taskbar thumbnails feature? This will make it look and feel more like the Taskbar in Windows 7.

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