Monday, 12 January 2009

The Windows 7 Taskbar Part 1

I've recently been playing with the beta build of Windows 7 that Microsoft have released, and I am very impressed. The Windows 7 team have come up with a brilliant new taskbar that's user friendly, cleaner, more intuitive, and allows easier and quicker access to launch your favourite applications!

The taskbar in Windows 7 is customisable, you can choose your favourite apps, and drag them onto the taskbar.

By dragging your favourite apps onto the taskbar, you are enabling a whole lot of great functionality! Read on and see what you can do…

Switching and Launching Applications

Ask yourselves these questions; Are you ever irritated by opening the wrong document on your taskbar? Are you ever confused by switching and launching programs? I can safely say you will never have these problems again!

So you click on your new app you dragged on your taskbar, and up pops the app… well obviously! Let's use Microsoft Word as an example. You decide to open two different saved Word documents, and in the usual way, you open these two different documents via the File and Open menus. You now want to successfully and easily switch to and from these two documents, and you can do this in a number of ways. You can hover over your app icon on the taskbar, and two thumbnails will appear (as in Vista), but this time the thumbnails are grouped. The thumbnails are larger than the ones shown in Vista, so you can easily read the title of the document, and click on the one you wish to switch to.

You can also hover over each individual thumbnail, without actually clicking on either of them, and the thumbnail you are hovering over, will appear in the foreground of your screen, allowing you to “peek” at the document, the background turns to glass so your focus is completely on the document you are hovering over. This allows you to quite clearly see which document is which, once you decide which doc you want to switch to, simply click on that thumbnail.

If you just wanted to “peek” at the documents, and not switch to either of them, move your mouse away from the thumbnails, and you will be returned to the original state of your desktop.

You can have as many apps running as you like, and you will still be able to hover over the app icons on the taskbar, view all windows that are currently open, and click on them if necessary.

Grouped thumbnails are a brilliant idea for the majority of users, however for those of you who on average have more than 15 windows open in one application (that’s around 5% of users) I don’t think grouped thumbnails are for you. The good news is, you can turn off grouped thumbnails if you wish.

Jump Lists

After you have customised your taskbar to include all your favourite app icons, you can do some really interesting and helpful things.

If you right-click on each app, you get a kind of mini-start menu, where you will be presented with a list of things that you do mostly in that app. Lets use Internet Explorer as an example now. Simply right-click the IE icon, and you are presented with a jump list of recently visited Web sites. You can click and jump to previous Web sites within seconds.

A jump list may consist of recent history, tasks, frequent use of a certain folder etc depending on which app you right-click on. Image how quickly you can navigate to the required destination using the taskbar! Fantastic!

I do have a slight concern with jump lists and legacy software. For example, if a company use an older version of a particular type of software, and do not wish to upgrade to a newer version, do they still get these jump list features and can you still drag the legacy software icon onto the taskbar? I am interested to see how the Windows 7 team handle this issue, as I am sure many companies do not use the latest and greatest software out there.

I will be posting more information about the Windows 7 taskbar in the next few days.

No comments: