HelpWithWindows Newsletter Volume 11, Number 20
November 29, 2008

In this issue:

Windows 7: The new Taskbar

by Arie Slob

Hello Windows users,

Windows 7

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).

Windows 7 Taskbar thumbnail - multiple window indicator 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.

Windows 7 Taskbar thumbnail - Jump Lists 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).


Microsoft to offer free security

In a surprise move, Microsoft has announced it will offer a free security solution (code-named "Morro") from the second half of next year.

"Morro" will provide comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. It will be available as a stand-alone download and offer malware protection for the Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.

If you wonder what this will mean for Microsoft's "paid" product Windows Live OneCare; that will be retired come June 2009.

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Notification Area

Windows 7 Taskbar Notification Area Microsoft also greatly improved the notification area, putting users back in control. By default, only a select few system icons are shown while all others appear in a menu (Figure). Simply drag icons on or off the taskbar to control the experience. Also, every balloon tip that appears in the notification area has a little wrench icon that allows one to quickly configure the icon & notifications (Figure).

Another popular requested change is that the default taskbar now shows both the time and date.

I think that these are all good improvements to the taskbar, and while it will take a bit of time to get used to the change, the important thing is that these changes definitely improve the functionality of the taskbar.

Your Comments.


Acronis 2009 offer: $24.99 (from $49.99)

Microsoft Delays Internet Explorer 8 to Early 2009

Internet Explorer 8 Microsoft last week announced that it has delayed the final release of its next web browser, Internet Explorer (IE) 8, from late 2008 to early 2009.

"We will release one more public update of IE 8 in the first quarter of 2009, and then follow that up with the final release," Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch wrote in a posting to Microsoft's IEBlog last week. "Our next public release of IE (typically called a "release candidate") indicates the end of the beta period. We want the technical community of people and organizations interested in web browsers to take this update as a strong signal that IE 8 is effectively complete and done."

According to Hachamovitch the IE team shifted through instrumentation of over 20 million IE sessions and hundreds of hours of usability lab sessions, scrutinized thousands of threads from user forums and examined the issues that people are raising (not to mention all the times users opt to "Report a Webpage Problem...").

It looks like website compatibility issues (because of IE8's standards-compliant render engine) is the number one reason for most of the remaining issues.

Microsoft's Senior Vice President Bill Veghte had told analysts at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting in July that "This is the product that we'll release to the Web later this year", indicating a late 2008 release.

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