Mac Dock and Windows 7 Superbar - Part 2

In the first part of this series, we had a brief look into the history of the dock and Windows 7 superbar. Today, we will go through some of the basic functionalities that both dock and superbar provide and have in common.

The dock can hold any number of items and resize them dynamically to fit while using magnification to clarify smaller resized items. Applications that do not normally keep icons in the dock will still appear when running and remain until they are quit.

Running items are distinguished by an indicator at the bottom of their respective icons.

When you quit an application whose icon resides in the dock, the indicator disappears. When you quit an application whose icon doesn't reside in the dock, its icon also disappears from the dock.

The dock has a left side and a right side.

The left side holds only applications, running or otherwise. The right side of the dock is for "everything else": files, minimized windows, stacks, and the trash.

The sides are separated by a vertical crosswalk. Icons and stacks can be rearranged within their limits on each side. Drag anything off the dock from either side, and a small "poof" of smoke appears, indicating that the user is about to erase that item from the dock (though not permanently from the system.)

The dock provides progress indicators and sometimes dock icons bounce when notifying, and will keep doing so until the user accesses them.

Notifications can behave in any number of ways, depending on the application. For example, Mail can show the unread messages count as they come in.

The Windows taskbar also holds any number of items and as the number of items in the taskbar grows, users get a small vertical scrollbar to scroll through the other items.

Any application that is not a part of the superbar still appear in the dock when running and remain until they are quit.

The applications running appear as overlay icons in the superbar and others appear normal. In the screenshot below, we can see that the applications - Windows Explorer, IE, Windows Media Player are running and the applications - FireFox, MSN Live Messenger, not running.

The superbar application also indicates that there are multiple windows or instances of the application open by providing extra overlays

Some applications provide progress - like downloading a file from Internet or copying a file from one folder to another using Windows Explorer. The superbar now provides feedback about the progress by turning that application icon into a progress bar

The superbar also has a left side and a right side

The left side holds the various applications in the superbar. The right side of the superbar is the notification area. Users can now configure the notification area on how it should behave and is in total control of the user. The user can customize which applications to show notifications and not.

In the coming weeks, Neowin will be comparing the various features of the Mac OS X Dock and Windows 7 Superbar. Our next part in this series will see some cool features in the mac dock, adding & removing items to the dock, superbar and application previews. However, this series will not conclude on which is better, rather explore and compare the options available with the Dock and Windows 7 Superbar.

*Neowin User Christian Szabo also contributed to this article

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I really like both of them actualy. The dock is very easy to use and if you have lots of windows you can press F4 and all the open windows will be displayed evenly accross the screen for you to see. These are also live previews.
The superbar is really good also in the way it handles open windows and items that you have open.
But I like them both.

Slightly confusing trying to get used to the new Superbar in Windows. I'm just used to so many years of the classic quick launch / start menu / system tray setup that any change is a bit befuddling - despite being a Mac user and being used to the Dock.

I do like the new UI tweaks on the superbar though - the mouseover colours / effects, progress bars in the icons, etc.. really cool little ideas from Microsoft

The Windows taskbar also holds any number of items and as the number of items in the taskbar grows, users get a small vertical scrollbar to scroll through the other items.

That's not the case any more. In 7048, the icons will shrink automatically to fit in one row(just like mac dock), and the vertical scrollbar no longer show up. Much easier to use than the 7000 version of superbar.

Exactly. Adium, Apple Mail, Transmit, and Coda all have notification systems on the dock icons. The calendar icon also changes to match the date.

just thought i'd throw my two cents in, the superbar looks more professional than the dock, which i would guess is what MS is aiming for and in terms of functionality, the superbar can be used for just about anything, i'm loving it

In the first screenshot, how has the poster got those translucent grey containers around the stacks? Seems like quite a handy thing to do since I have trouble sometimes working out which stack is which, without hovering over them.

Users can now configure the notification area on how it should behave and is in total control of the user. The user can customize which applications to show notifications and not.

Isn't that already the case with Vista? I just right-clicked on the Taskbar and went to Properties. On the Notification Area tab I can pretty much do that.

Yea, I think a lot of stuff in Windows 7 is the same in Vista, it's just a new name, and the media is accepting Windows 7 for some reason.

It's all got to do with marketing and the media, that's whats gonna make Windows 7 successful, i think.

andrewbares said,
Yea, I think a lot of stuff in Windows 7 is the same in Vista, it's just a new name, and the media is accepting Windows 7 for some reason.

It's all got to do with marketing and the media, that's whats gonna make Windows 7 successful, i think.



Yup hit the nail right on the head. You have always been able to do this but for some strange reason the media thinks its a new feature because they hated vissta.

andrewbares said,
Yea, I think a lot of stuff in Windows 7 is the same in Vista, it's just a new name, and the media is accepting Windows 7 for some reason.

It's all got to do with marketing and the media, that's whats gonna make Windows 7 successful, i think.

majortom1981 said,
Yup hit the nail right on the head. You have always been able to do this but for some strange reason the media thinks its a new feature because they hated vissta.

You were never able to easily stop icons from appearing in the notification area under any previous version of Windows. You could only hide them (to the arrow) unless that application featured an option and many didn't.

Now, in Windows 7 you can actually stop any icon from appearing in that area.

Ripoff of Macs, and not even useful. An application preview dock would be much more useful. Or something along the lines of expose. Anything but this.

How is having a separate application preview dock 'much more useful'? You're probably thinking along the lines of OS X storing minimized windows on the right hand side of the dock, mixed with stacks and the trash. But what for? That's wasted space.

As for the copying comment, give it a break for crying out loud.

andrewbares said,
Yea, it is a rip off of windows, as Neowin said.

What is a rip-off of Windows? The dock? Also, when has Neowin ever said this?

I'm looking forward to Windows 7, personally after using both Doc and Superbar, I like the superbar better. Also, it's Windows Live Messenger, not MSN Messenger. I'm wondering if this comparison is premature, MS is still tweaking the superbar.

Michael Jacob said,
so it is like alt+tab or flip 3d? nothing like hover-then-click-window?

It's nothing like alt+tab (that's cmd+tab)
You press the Expose key F3 (F9 on earlier macs) and then hover over the window and click it. (I have a hotkey on my mouse set for expose, which makes it much quicker)
ctrl+F3 shows only the windows of active application

I tried a Flip3D emulation under Windows XP and thought it was pretty awful compared to Expose (which I first experiened under Linux). Expose has two forms. The first "zooms out" and sorts all open windows such that none are overlapping. Windows are still updated in real-time, which makes it a nice way to monitor multiple things at once, as well (even though that isn't the purpose). When you hover over a window with the mouse it will highlight and display its title, and clicking it brings it to the front.

That's arguably a more informative way to choose windows that how alt+tabbing was in Windows XP. But what if you have tons of windows open? There comes a point where using Expose results in many windows being displayed, some of which are too small to make out. That's where the "second form" comes in. It's possible to use Expose such that only an active program's windows will minimize and be displayed all at once. For example, suppose I have my web browser, some Excel spread sheets, a few Powerpoints, and a few Word documents. I want to switch to a specific Word document, but using Expose results in too many windows being shown at once and it takes too long to discern which one I want each time. How do I go about it? First, go to a Microsoft Word document (any document) - this can be done quickly by alt+tabbing and selecting Microsoft Word (alt+tab in OS X only displays a running program, rather than individual instances/windows within that program) or click on Word from the dock. Next, use the application-specific Expose. This will cause all open Word documents to enter the Expose view, but all other open documents will stay where they are, greyed out in the background and not moved. This is a very underutilized feature and I don't believe it's switched on by default, but it's incredibly useful.

Ledgem said,
I tried a Flip3D emulation under Windows XP and thought it was pretty awful compared to Expose (which I first experiened under Linux). Expose has two forms. The first "zooms out" and sorts all open windows such that none are overlapping. Windows are still updated in real-time, which makes it a nice way to monitor multiple things at once, as well (even though that isn't the purpose). When you hover over a window with the mouse it will highlight and display its title, and clicking it brings it to the front.

That's arguably a more informative way to choose windows that how alt+tabbing was in Windows XP. But what if you have tons of windows open? There comes a point where using Expose results in many windows being displayed, some of which are too small to make out. That's where the "second form" comes in. It's possible to use Expose such that only an active program's windows will minimize and be displayed all at once. For example, suppose I have my web browser, some Excel spread sheets, a few Powerpoints, and a few Word documents. I want to switch to a specific Word document, but using Expose results in too many windows being shown at once and it takes too long to discern which one I want each time. How do I go about it? First, go to a Microsoft Word document (any document) - this can be done quickly by alt+tabbing and selecting Microsoft Word (alt+tab in OS X only displays a running program, rather than individual instances/windows within that program) or click on Word from the dock. Next, use the application-specific Expose. This will cause all open Word documents to enter the Expose view, but all other open documents will stay where they are, greyed out in the background and not moved. This is a very underutilized feature and I don't believe it's switched on by default, but it's incredibly useful.


Wow, sounds confusing.

I think that the Windows Superbar is better at switching between windows. You see, on a Mac, the Dock only shows the minimized windows, so if you have something behind another window, then you have to minimize the first window before you can even see the next window.

Working with the Mac is like working with a messy desk. Apple took a more realistic aproach with designing their dock, because it only shows the minimized windows that you put there, just like if you put some papers at the bottom of your desk. Your other papers on the desk wont show up on the bottom of the desk, only the ones you put there. So if you want to get to a paper thats buried underneath a bunch of others, you have to go digging. That's like with the Mac Dock. It's a more realistic, real world approach, which I think was unnecessary.

With the Windows Superbar, every window that you have open, either minimized or maximized, shows up on the Superbar. That way, you can go straight to any window. Also, you can see what windows are open, even if their hidden behind some other maximized window. With a Mac, you could have 20 windows open behind one maximized one, but not even know it.

That's my reasoning for going with Windows. Now lets hear some refutals from those Macs!!

Ledgem said,
I tried a Flip3D emulation under Windows XP and thought it was pretty awful compared to Expose (which I first experiened under Linux).

Maybe you should have tried Flip3D under Windows Vista. You can't 'try' a feature on an older operating system using an emulation type thing and then form an opinion about it. You have to try the actual feature. The emulation may not be as good and you can't say it is until you try the actual feature.

andrewbares said,

Wow, sounds confusing.

I think that the Windows Superbar is better at switching between windows. You see, on a Mac, the Dock only shows the minimized windows, so if you have something behind another window, then you have to minimize the first window before you can even see the next window.

Working with the Mac is like working with a messy desk. Apple took a more realistic aproach with designing their dock, because it only shows the minimized windows that you put there, just like if you put some papers at the bottom of your desk. Your other papers on the desk wont show up on the bottom of the desk, only the ones you put there. So if you want to get to a paper thats buried underneath a bunch of others, you have to go digging. That's like with the Mac Dock. It's a more realistic, real world approach, which I think was unnecessary.

With the Windows Superbar, every window that you have open, either minimized or maximized, shows up on the Superbar. That way, you can go straight to any window. Also, you can see what windows are open, even if their hidden behind some other maximized window. With a Mac, you could have 20 windows open behind one maximized one, but not even know it.

That's my reasoning for going with Windows. Now lets hear some refutals from those Macs!!


If you have multiple windows within one program, you are not required to minimize the active window to see what is behind it. You can use CMD+`. You can right click the dock icon. You can use the application specific expose. You can use Witch.

I haven't tried 7048 but does anyone know if it's possible to have icons only (with no text) and no grouping?

As Dannydeman said, it takes much more time to access needed windows with grouped programs.

FoxieFoxie said,
I haven't tried 7048 but does anyone know if it's possible to have icons only (with no text) and no grouping?

As Dannydeman said, it takes much more time to access needed windows with grouped programs.

Wouldn't that be pointless? You wouldn't be able to tell which window is which with no text and no grouping.

Yea you wouldn't know which window is which with the no text.

I kind of like the no grouping setting b/c it displays all of the similar windows right next to each other, but still keeps them seperate. It's pretty cool.

CalumJR said,


Wouldn't that be pointless? You wouldn't be able to tell which window is which with no text and no grouping.


Yes and no. I am using same system on Win Vista and everything is good so far. B/C brain remembers what windows you opened first so you instantly click on the one you need.

However, this series will not conclude on which is better, rather explore and compare the options available with the Dock and Windows 7 Superbar.

Finally, an objective review.

Agreed. Posting a subjective article about the Windows 7 taskbar vs. the Dock would create a war in the news article Not what we want here

I also like the superbar, but can't say I can work faster with it then I was used to though. It's a lot more clean, and you won't overlook things like before, but since I develop websites it's sometimes a little harder when switching between a lot of Explorer Windows. The tab preview system isn't really working when you have like 20+ windows open at the same time, they should take that in consideration so it will switch to list mode when having lots of windows open.

Spot on mate, superbar is clean, uncluttered, good looking

but its horribly slow to navigate between items as far as the default mode goes which groups application windows under one icon. i think this is a sort of trade off between functionality and style ... if i ungroup the icons, the superbar becomes a mess, with non open application icons mixed with multiple icons of same applications with labels... its a mess.... the default is good but slow... we might have to get used to it though....

I use windows 7 beta on all my machines and i actually work faster with it now. I guess its one of those things once you get used to it. When i work on vista or xp machines i a mconstantly hovering over icons expecting them to pop up the previews so i can switch.

majortom1981 said,
I use windows 7 beta on all my machines and i actually work faster with it now. I guess its one of those things once you get used to it. When i work on vista or xp machines i a mconstantly hovering over icons expecting them to pop up the previews so i can switch.

yeh u are right, the point is that human mind is quite advanced at remembering the recently done activity, so if i am given a vista taskbar full of applications, i will evantualluy get used to switching between them at great pace cause of memorizing where each application taskbar entry goes. its called muscle memory i think, remind me if i am wrong. the point is i dont need to hover my cursor over an application icon to find what it is doing cause i already know it, cause i have been using it for multitasking... hope u get the picture. thats y vista thumbnail views were useless cause it only showed u small window of application that wasnt anythgn great, the only thing u can use the thumnails for is to see what an application is doing if you havent switched to it in a long time...

Actually, I think that they already have that fix in place, when more windows are open then the tab previews can show, they turn into listed text buttons.

The superbar is MUCH better looking than the dock. Personally I just can't get used to the dock in OS X, but I love the new superbar

The superbar does look quite nice, although the Dock provides some cool bits of eyecandy. For example, Windows near the dock are reflected by its glass. It's also possible to skin the dock, and there's a 2D dock available which looks quite nice depending on your desktop arrangement.

Applications can provide more than simple progess bars, too: Transmission has bubbles showing up/down speed, Adium's dock icon changes depending on application events and user status, and the iCal icon updates to show the actual date even when the application isn't running. I'm not sure if the Superbar can do this.


I disagree I think the dock looks alot better. It operates alot cleaner and,
Visually, it's so much more polished.

I really hope Microsoft has a Redesigned UI for the final version of Windows 7, because it does need. If only to separate itself from Vista.