Bring the old Taskbar to life in Windows 7

Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 7, brings a slew of tweaks and improvements. While most adjustments are under the hood, the graphical user interface has received a facelift as well. One of the first changes you will notice is the revamped taskbar. Unofficially dubbed the "Superbar," this new feature is essentially a mash-up of the traditional Windows Quick Launch/taskbar and the Mac OS X dock.


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As it's often the case with any significant change in the way we use software, opinions will vary. While many like to stick to the "if it's not broken, don't fix it" philosophy, I happen to like the new taskbar a lot. Unfortunately for the those of you who don't, defaulting to the ways of old isn't as simple as unchecking Superbar in favor of Quick Launch, so you'll have to get a little hands-on. Keep reading to bring back the taskbar you're familiar with.

View: Bring the Old Windows Taskbar to Life in Windows 7

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i cannot even fathom why people would want to revert....

sure, when i first installed windows 7 I couldn't find my quick launch, but 5 minutes and a few pins later I wouldn't go back, in fact I hate using the old bar on other computers.

What, you can't tell the new superbar to not group a program's windows into one icon? I'm going to hate that with MSN as other people have already mentioned.

Took me about 5 minutes to get used to the new taskbar in Windows 7 and it was a one way street. I absolutely hate working with the old taskbar now.

I really don wanna go back...Windows 7 Superbar is joss..just it creates problem when I chat on Windows Live Messenger with multi windows.

the new superbar is nice until you find that some applications use a generic/hard to differentiate/unspecific icon.

In the end, no matter if the new bar is lovely or not, the thing people want is options. At least, you lot and myself included would like options, I am quite sure ;)

One thing i still keep wondering though, is why MS do not add extra desktop workspaces like in linux. It is just a nice feature, and hard to believe that it would be so hard to implement.

Hah! I just love it (no I don't) when a new version of Windows is released and immediately people start trying to revert it back to the way the older versions were.

I have been running Windows 7 as the only OS on my work computer since the first beta of it was released through Connect. Throughout the day I usually have a pile of different windows opened, so I can vouch for Superbar's effectiveness.

Chugworth said,
Hah! I just love it (no I don't) when a new version of Windows is released and immediately people start trying to revert it back to the way the older versions were.

I have been running Windows 7 as the only OS on my work computer since the first beta of it was released through Connect. Throughout the day I usually have a pile of different windows opened, so I can vouch for Superbar's effectiveness.

You'll excuse me if your vouch isn't meaningless to my personal preference.

The new Superbar (statistically speaking) is horribly inefficient compared to the previous incarnations depending on how you use it. It is especially difficult when you are running apps (i.e. monitoring software) that has several windows of the same program -- they get stacked in to the same icon and you can't see the scrolling status bar text they provide so you have to spend the 5 seconds it takes to click through 3 menus just to read a number. It's a pain.

Then again you're talking to a developer who works in VIM -- efficiency is different for everyone and when I'm at my computer at work I'm going to try and be as efficient as possible then go home. I probably wouldn't mind the superbar at home when I have like Firefox, Pidgin and Visual Studio open -- but when I have 3 different terminal emulators/ssh clients, an RDP and two browsers it gets a little painful.

It's actually faster to just alt tab cycle through the windows and ignore the superbar all together at that point.

As a developer you should know you can force the different windows to different entrys. Just like msn has 2 icons you can infact have as many as you want. You just need different application IDs for the window handles.

PROPVARIANT pv;
InitPropVariantFromString(L"MyAppID", &pv);

IPropertyStore* pps;
VERIFY(SHGetPropertyStoreForWindow(hwnd, IID_PPV_ARGS(&pps)));
VERIFY(pps->SetValue(PKEY_AppUserModel_ID, pv));
VERIFY(pps->Commit());

bits said,
As a developer you should know you can force the different windows to different entrys. Just like msn has 2 icons you can infact have as many as you want. You just need different application IDs for the window handles.

PROPVARIANT pv;
InitPropVariantFromString(L"MyAppID", &pv);

IPropertyStore* pps;
VERIFY(SHGetPropertyStoreForWindow(hwnd, IID_PPV_ARGS(&pps)));
VERIFY(pps->SetValue(PKEY_AppUserModel_ID, pv));
VERIFY(pps->Commit());


Just because he's a developer doesn't mean he writes every single app he uses on his computer... If he did I'm sure his OS would be exactly how he wanted since he would have coded it :P

You can find window handles of any open window simple enough and set a diff ID. This is very simple to code into a helper app that watches for the window names he wants split up. He doesn't need to modify the existing app at all.

For me, it's either always combining, or the old taskbar. There's no purpose for using "combine when full" in my opinion, because the superbar is all about the fixed position of your icons. You remember their places so you dont have to look for them, once you get used to it. When you "combine when full", your icons keep moving from one place to another as you're launching various applications, so that kind of defeats the purpose for me... the same goes with centering the icons (of course you don't add new apps a lot, but once a time you'll end up adding something)

I disabled indexing on a low end pc i had. It removed the option to search in the startmenu that as per default you can.

ziph said,
I disabled indexing on a low end pc i had. It removed the option to search in the startmenu that as per default you can.

So ... er ... don't disable it?

Kirkburn said,
So ... er ... don't disable it?

The point was probably that you don't need indexing to search the start menu so it seems a little counter intuitive to remove your ability to use that search completely with indexing disabled (which has significant overheads).

The problem is, as shown well in the bottom screenshot, the new taskbar buttons and the QuickLaunch (etc.) taskbar-toolbar buttons are different heights.

Worse, they're are not aligned in any sensible way for either aesthetics or usability.

If you use large icons in a taskbar-toolbar then the shorter window buttons are aligned to the top of the taskbar and have an empty space below them which is both ugly and doesn't respond to mouse clicks. (So you can no longer slam the mouse into the bottom of the screen and only worry about horizontal aiming; you've got to aim vertically as well. i.e. Someone forgot about Fitt's Law...)

If you instead use small icons in the taskbar-toolbars then you get tiny icons which are top aligned. The window buttons are now back to normal, touching the bottom of the screen, but the tiny top-aligned icons next to them look pretty ugly. There's almost enough space below the tiny icons for a second row of them, but not quite. They're especially ugly if the taskbar-toolbar is on the right, next to the notification area, since the notification icons are the same size but vertically centred.

It's annoying that MS didn't take 10 minutes to tidy this up. Aligning things to the center isn't rocket science. Nor would removing the excess button padding in large icons mode (which is the only reason the large toolbar buttons take more room than the window buttons; the icons are the same size but one has more padding than the other).

As it is, these toolbars are the only way to get a customizable sub-menu to appear directly off the taskbar or start menu in Windows 7. For me they're made unusable, though, due to the problems above.

Pinning apps to the taskbar is great for apps you use almost all the time. The find-as-you-type feature of the Start Menu is great for finding apps that you use very rarely. Unfortunately the taskbar & start menu offer nothing for the in-between apps that you use fairly often but not often enough to pin. (You can pin things to the start menu as well, but only a flat list of 10-20 items, which isn't enough. I want categorised sub-menus of debugging, development, graphics editing, etc. tools.) If someone had bothered to update the taskbar-toolbars to work properly with the new taskbar dimensions/layout then they would've done the job perferctly. As it is, they're just a leftover from previous versions which, apparently, nobody was expected to use.

There's no going back to the old taskbar once you get used to the new superbar (which took me about 5 minutes).

Anything you could do with the quicklaunch toolbar is still there in the new version, some people just like to use it as an alternative Start Menu.

Apart from this article being being relatively old news it doesn't quite go far enough for people that like to drag their feet in the way of progress.
Why not enable small icons and shrink the taskbar to half size, you can even choose not to use aero themes and go really back to basics.

ThomMcK said,
Anything you could do with the quicklaunch toolbar is still there in the new version, some people just like to use it as an alternative Start Menu.

Except for user-defined menus/sub-menus of apps. You can't do that with the new taskbar or start menu, sadly.

I do really like the new taskbar and the not-so-new start menu; I just think they've failed to cater to the in-between apps that you use frequently while doing certain tasks, but not all the time.

Well for that purpose you would use just create a new toolbar like you could since Windows 95.
Why not just organise your Start Menu how you want it? You can add/rename/move/create the Start Menu folders and shortcuts within explorer

ThomMcK said,
There's no going back to the old taskbar once you get used to the new superbar (which took me about 5 minutes).

Anything you could do with the quicklaunch toolbar is still there in the new version, some people just like to use it as an alternative Start Menu.

Apart from this article being being relatively old news it doesn't quite go far enough for people that like to drag their feet in the way of progress.
Why not enable small icons and shrink the taskbar to half size, you can even choose not to use aero themes and go really back to basics.

I love the new superbar too. I am usually not against change at all, but there is one nagging issue i find with the new super. Programs that still use multiple windows are very difficult to use with the superbar because they are all collapsed into one icon and you have to move your mouse over that icon to switch between it's windows or even see the status of those windows.

Take Messenger for example. As it exists right now, each conversation is a separate window. In the old taskbar, i could see the status of each conversation without clicking a thing or moving my mouse. With the superbar, if i get a new msg, all i see is a single icon without any idea who actually sent that message without moving my mouse over the icon. I also find that alt-tabbing (while more pretty than previous versions) is not as responsive as before and the aero peek that you get when alt-tabbing is actually more distracting than anything else.

Besides these minor issues, i do like windows 7 very much.

ThomMcK said,
Well for that purpose you would use just create a new toolbar like you could since Windows 95.
Why not just organise your Start Menu how you want it? You can add/rename/move/create the Start Menu folders and shortcuts within explorer

Because the toolbars haven't been updated for the Windows 7 taskbar and have usability issues as a result (see my post below).

Modifying the top level of the Start Menu is no longer possible, except for pinning things in a flat list. That's no good as I have more items than that and want them categories into sub-menus.

Modifying the All Programs part of the Start Menu... Well anyone who has ever tired to do that knows it's a constant fight against the mess that happens every time you install software. I stopped doing that back in Windows 98. That part of the Start Menu is, unfortunately, something the user doesn't "own" because it gets modified by other software often without the user's say-so. (See also: The My Documents folder.)

as much as i love the new taskbar, im having trouble getting used to it, so i switch back, then my taskbar gets full, so i go back to icons, i cant decide lol

Why.... I ask?

The Win7 taskbar is more than just a nervous 'compression' to the earlier versions & QuickLaunch: its about the more appropriate association of a program & its so-called shortcut. It emphasizes on the accessibility of the program itself on the taskbar, as against being an inanimate icon 'linked' to the executable. The Jump lists, the highlighting, all justify this concept of binding the properties, or contents of the object, to the object, in its entirety!

Omkar� said,
Why.... I ask?

The Win7 taskbar is more than just a nervous 'compression' to the earlier versions & QuickLaunch: its about the more appropriate association of a program & its so-called shortcut. It emphasizes on the accessibility of the program itself on the taskbar, as against being an inanimate icon 'linked' to the executable. The Jump lists, the highlighting, all justify this concept of binding the properties, or contents of the object, to the object, in its entirety!


It doesn't matter how much you will try to rationalize the new "Superbar", it will still be a way more inefficient way of managing your current open applications.

The amount of mouse clicks involved in going back to a window you were previously is super annoying. For example: clicking on the app's icon (or hovering the mouse over it) and selecting the window you were using.

I'm sorry, but this seems to me like change for the sake of change. In fact, when I reverted to the old taskbar, I became much more productive (and way less annoyed).

Caleb said,

It doesn't matter how much you will try to rationalize the new "Superbar", it will still be a way more inefficient way of managing your current open applications.

The amount of mouse clicks involved in going back to a window you were previously is super annoying. For example: clicking on the app's icon (or hovering the mouse over it) and selecting the window you were using.

I'm sorry, but this seems to me like change for the sake of change. In fact, when I reverted to the old taskbar, I became much more productive (and way less annoyed).

The new way is much more efficient for me, the amount of windows i have to have open at work the old taskbar was hard to find hte program I wanted, with the new one, its much easier to get to, much faster to get to the window im looking for.

Caleb said,
It doesn't matter how much you will try to rationalize the new "Superbar", it will still be a way more inefficient way of managing your current open applications.

The amount of mouse clicks involved in going back to a window you were previously is super annoying. For example: clicking on the app's icon (or hovering the mouse over it) and selecting the window you were using.

I'm sorry, but this seems to me like change for the sake of change. In fact, when I reverted to the old taskbar, I became much more productive (and way less annoyed).

Fully agree. The new "Stupidbar" (my name for it) is just one of several changes just for the sake of change, and clearly a change for the worse, making things much less efficient.
Vista already had a huge deal of completely poinhtless changes just for the sake of change, and most times a change for the worse. It's not as bad with Win7, but still. It seems they were still desperate to change many things just so they could tell people how different everything is now.

dyreryft said,

The new way is much more efficient for me, the amount of windows i have to have open at work the old taskbar was hard to find hte program I wanted, with the new one, its much easier to get to, much faster to get to the window im looking for.

Ugh, I also have _plenty_ of windows open, that's why I use a double taskbar if I have to.

With the current "Superbar" I have to click twice (or hover-click) to get back to where I was previously, and I do switch back and forth pretty often so this gets annoying very fast.