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Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar


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I installed Windows 7 this week after my Vista installation finally started going really whacky while I was in Europe. All things considered Vista has been good – the previous install lasted nearly 2 1/2 years without a repave which is more than any OS I’ve had ever had installed before.

The Windows 7 install went fairly smooth for me – no install problems although I screwed myself royally doing an upgrade from Vista using an RC build instead of final! Duh! In the end I reinstalled from scratch and used the Copy My Settings Wizard in Windows to get many of the system settings moved over. While a new install of Vista is fast, the copying of settings is very slow – those took 3 hours for storing and retrieving and I assume the same thing happens in an upgrade which took nearly 5 hours to run total. Ouch.

Otherwise the Windows 7 installation has been a non-event. Things worked, drivers installed automatically (except my nVidia drivers) and the system runs smoothly. Which is a good thing – an OS install without problems is a good install! From that perspective Win 7 was much smoother than Vista in its early days.

Can’t say I notice any big differences in operation or performance other than this system being a new clean install and running a little snappier because of that. Especially my Visual Studio installation seems to be happy from a brand new install rather than having been upgraded through 3 different versions and betas over the 2 years the old OS install lasted <s>.

The one day to day noticable difference: The Taskbar

From a UI perspective there isn’t much that’s changed from Vista except that the UI has smoothed out a little bit. UI Elements look a little cleaner and animations and effects all work a little bit cleaner. Windows 7 feels more crisp because of it. Small esthetic differences I guess and they are for the better. The only feature that has affected my daily operations though is the Taskbar in Windows 7. The taskbar has many improvements like nice pop up hover views of open windows which is useful in my chaotic desktop where I have way too much shit open for my own good all the time :-}. The pop up viewer that shows all open instances for a given application with a little preview is quite useful.

I also like the ability to hide taskbar application titles to gain a little more space on the toolbar as well as the icon differentiating active applications more clearly.

However, one thing I don’t like on the Windows taskbar is the ability to pin programs to it which provides functionality similar to what the Quick Launch toolbar used to accomplish. Actually the ability is cool enough but the way the pinned programs behave is rather sucky.

There are a few problems with this:

  • It’s easy to confuse what’s an open application and a pinned application resulting in me often starting new instances of applications that I really don’t want to start. The visual clue what’s pinned and what’s active is too subtle.
  • The other is that pinned applications mix into the active application icons rather than showing as a separate group. This defeats the purpose of a quick link where an icon lives in a common location and is always visible.
  • The pinned icons are take up too much space – they take up way more space than the 16 pixel icons I use and real estate on the taskbar is already critical. In short pinned icons are treated just like running apps except they are static and act as launch buttons.

Over the years I’ve come to rely heavily on my QuickLaunch bar for a few things that I constantly use throughout my day. Browser, email,  and a few applications that aren’t installed apps (ie. not accessible via the Start Menu) or require parameterized startups are on my QuickLaunch bar.  Alas, there’s no QuickLaunch in Windows 7 at least not natively. I lamented this fact on Twitter and got back an earful from a number of other folks also missing the Quick Launch bar.

Setting up a Quick Launch Toolbar

Luckily you can still create a Quick Launch although this process is manual and you have to explicitly add items to it. But you can recreate the behavior at least.  Here’s what my setup looks like:

TaskBarQuickLaunch

Notice the ‘QuickLaunch’ toolbar on the left before the standard set of Windows 7 icons that make up the core taskbar in combination with the “Always Combine, hide Labels” taskbar configuration option.

This works by creating a custom toolbar and manually adding icons to it.  To create a custom toolbar:

  • Right click on the taskbar and select Toolbars
  • Select New Toolbar
  • Select or create a folder where your shortcuts are stored
  • Name the folder which will become the toolbar name

NewToolbar

Make sure the toolbar is checked in the toolbar list so it displays. Once the toolbar is created you can start dragging shortcuts into from the desktop or from other toolbars. Unfortunately you can’t just drag and drop pinned shortcuts – to move those unpin them and drag them to the desktop and then drag them into the new toolbar.

One thing you’ll want to do to the new toolbar is remove the Show Text and Show title ticks on the toolbar’s context menu so you get just the small icons to display.

ClearTextTitle

Finally you probably want to drag the entire toolbar to the leftmost side of the task bar. This didn’t work for me initially – it appears it’s a heck of a lot harder to drag toolbars around in Windows 7. To get this to work I had to make the toolbar bigger and keep clicking around near the handle area until the cross-hair cursor appeared. It appears you have to click on the inside of the handle in the middle of the toolbar (hence the bigger size):

 DragToolbar[11]

The drag the toolbar to the left. It won’t appear to drag actually – it’ll resize but keep dragging to the left. Eventually the toolbar should end up at the left margin. Then size it down to the desired height you should then end up with the Quick Launch toolbar looking as it should:

QuickLaunchFinal

Now when new programs install and ask to add items to the Quick Launch toolbar, they won’t automatically go to this toolbar – they’ll end up as pinned items on the main programs task bar. If you rather want them on your quick launch toolbar, unpin them and then drag them from the desktop into the quick launch toolbar.

With the Quick Launch in place I’m a happy camper damn those folks that say you should just get used to the pinned items on the new taskbar :-}.

Posted in Windows  

The Voices of Reason


 

Steven Berkovitz
August 22, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

I've found the best way to make the Win7 taskbar operate a bit more logically is to change the "Taskbar Buttons" option to "Combine when taskbar is full". This way, for the most part, running programs show up as full butotns where as shortcuts are the icons only.

Rick Strahl
August 22, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

@Steven - I used that as well when I ran in mixed mode. I still hate the fact that the pinned shortcuts show helter skelter in the middle of the active applications which defeats the purpose of a 'quick launch' in the first place.

It's kind of a bummer that the options on the drop down are so non-granular. Combine and the label display don't really belong under a single option. I'd prefer combine with labels for example, that there's no such option.

Rick Arthur
August 22, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Did you get the problem with your nVidia driver worked out? I had problems with a video driver on my laptop after upgrading to Win7 x64. Dell was saying they weren't going to publish new drivers for this 3 year old laptop, and the driver from nVidia wouldn't work. I thought I was stuck with the "Standard SVGA" driver and crappy performance.

After spending literally hours on different combinations and trying different downloads, I turned to Windows Update. In the "Optional" downloads was the driver! Windows knew all along what I needed and had it ready for download.

Maybe this is old news that Windows Update provides this kind of support. But after spending the last few years of thinking about Windows Update as that annoying thing that reboots my computer in the middle of the night, I'm now singing a new tune. Windows Update Rocks!

Rick Strahl
August 22, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Rick - I installed my old Vista driver that I've been using for quite some time. Getting a driver that worked for this machine was the worst problem I had with Vista. So once I had a driver that worked I stuck with it and reinstalled that.

Windows did not however auto-detect the nVidia card and didn't install a driver for it when it set up. I had to explicitly install the driver. I haven't seen any updates either, but this driver is working fine so I'm not terribly concerned.

Kevin Dente
August 22, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar


Cat Chen
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

I think this Taskbar design is quite comfortable to Mac users, because it's almost the same as Mac Dock.

It's easy to tell which application in Dock is running. I haven't seen any Mac user who has a problem with it. Windows users may need some time to get used to this Dock-like behavior in the new Taskbar.

DotNetShoutout
August 23, 2009

# Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar - Rick Strahl

Thank you for submitting this cool story - Trackback from DotNetShoutout

Tobias
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

>> I also like the ability to hide taskbar application titles

how?? I only can unpin programs, but I don't know how to hide open applications (like Sticky Notes)

Dan
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

I think you're overlooking the reason they pin to the same place. It's so that they are always in the same location across the bar and you don't have to hunt between open programs. It is very similar to the Mac dock, and surprisingly something that my own users have asked for in applications. It didn't make sense to me, but apparently a dynamic toolbar where contextual options appeared was too complicated, they wanted all of the buttons there in the same place all the time. I used to be a quicklaunch fiend, like 3 bars worth of it. I found that I don't really need to keep more than 7 or 8 things pinned and just hitting the window key and typing a few letters gets me to the anything else I need.

Alex O.
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

I have to agree with Dan - the new toolbar feels quite logical to me. I used QuickLaunch toolbar heavily in XP and it was the first thing I enabled after a new OS install, but I found the new behavior much better for the following reasons:
1.No need to hunt for the app icons - they are always in the same spot, whether running or not
2.The visual que between "app not running"/"single app running"/"multiple apps running" is good
3.Saves a heck of a real estate on the taskbar

Just my opinion.

Btw, the reason I finally went to Win7 RC a few month ago was because I couldn't stand Vista's performance anymore. On my HP Pavilion laptop with Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM Vista was terribly slow, gobbling up 1GB just sitting around. Win7 normally idles at below 500MB (the lowest I've seen was 460MB), but I also went through a bunch of services and disabled them.

It's odd to say, but I kinda like 7.
Alex

Steve from Pleasant Hill
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

After 4.5 years of this current install of W2K w/SP4 and basically zero issues, I am compelled to go out and purchase an AMD Quad box at a ridiculously low price and go with Windows 7.

I fought purchasing using XP for what I considered some Orwellian practices, and avoided Vista altogether for other reasons. I am one of those people who never expect anything other than the PC to run perfectly, all the time, and so I avoid OS updates and other things.

The suspense is killing me!

Milo
August 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

the task bar is nice. but for me the BIG improvement is multiscreen and window hotkeys..

http://01792.org/blog/post/2009/08/07/Windows-7-(x64).aspx

Darrell
August 24, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

What is it with nVidia drivers? I don't think I've ever NOT had a problem with nVidia drivers on Windows at one time or another. I get them to work eventually but they seem to cause a lot of problems on Windows.

Scott Marlowe
August 24, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Windows 7 installed great on my laptop. That one was an upgrade install from Vista. On my desktop... had some chipset and video driver problems, but a quick reinstall of the correct drivers and everything was fine.

I'm becoming a convert of the new Win 7 taskbar. Jump lists are a great time-saver, and I've really gotten used to the larger buttons and what's open and what's not.

Kyralessa
August 24, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Why not just install Launchy?

PilotBob
August 25, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Rick,

Me reco would have been to stick with the new toolbar for a month or so... you possibly would have found you like it better.

One question I have it why do you need quick launch icons for stuff that you always use. I find that I ALLWAYS have FireFox and Outlook open (they don't need to be in quick launch)... so I have those two pinned to the left most of the tool bar. I "usually" have Visual Studio open so that is pinned as the third icon.

I personally also like to use the keyboard alot more than the mouse to launch stuff. So, I use PIN to start menu for stuff I launch alot but don't have open 100% of the time like Visual Studio, SQL Studio, Remote Desktop Connection pinned to the menu. Once you have this it is just a matter of tapping the WinKey, then down arrow once/twice/etc then enter.

For other stuff I tend to use the WinKey then type the app name then run... all using the keyboard. The keyboard is much fast at launching. I admit I got into this habit once I got my Mac and found launching from Spotlight so easy and fast.

I launch windows explorer with WinKey-E too.. so no need to pin or quick launch that any where. I have considered getting a hot key launching program but haven't found a need for it on Win7 with the WinKey/Search being available.

I still don't know if I like Combine, Hide labels or Only Combine when full, which shows labels. While I don't need to labels for apps like firefox/outlook I like having the labels for Windows Explorer since I tend to keep more than one of those open at different paths.

BOb

Eber Irigoyen
August 25, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

"It’s easy to confuse what’s an open application and a pinned application resulting in me often starting new instances of applications that I really don’t want to start."
I really don't see how this happens, if you click on an app which is already running, it will just bring it to the front, to run an app that is not running you would have to click it's icon, I actually like the visual clue

"The other is that pinned applications mix into the active application icons rather than showing as a separate group. This defeats the purpose of a quick link where an icon lives in a common location and is always visible."
The advantage there is that the icon is ALWAYS in the same place, you don't have to look around for it, it's always there in that spot

"The pinned icons are take up too much space – they take up way more space than the 16 pixel icons I use and real estate on the taskbar is already critical."
I only pin apps that I use the most, do you really use more than 12 apps all the time?

Mind you, I have been a quick launch hardcore fun for a long time, but since Windows 7 I converted, I use the pinned icons and for the other not so frequent apps, I just hit the Windows key, and type 2 or 3 letters of the app name and it comes right up, just hit [enter]

Rick Strahl
August 25, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

@Bob - I shut apps down especially Outlook which is such a pig and affects system operation of various of my applications. I shut apps down and run multiple instances of browsers instead of running 20 tabs in one instance. Especially true during development.

@Eber - I am running this was for now (quicklaunch down to 1 icon of one app that won't pin) and just small icons. Trying to get used to it, but still not sold.

Matias Nino
August 28, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Considering memory is getting so cheap and ubiquitous, I'd rather think of some applications/tasks as "always running". This is why taskbar pinning is so cool. By clicking them I'm not really "launching" them. I'm merely 'enabling' them into memory.

I'll be interesting to see how this develops in the future as windows application persistence starts to cross the boundaries of the local OS and perhaps into the cloud or other 'connected' remote desktops.

Carl
September 23, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Sorry but it looks like WIN7 is a no go for me (15) or my 100 clients.

I have 2 systems loaned out with WIN 7 7001 Ult and Office 2007 (2010 looks even worse) and the comments are NOT good "Where is the CLASSIC Option" and when I tell them it is NO longer I am told to take WIN7 away NOT interested. And As for the Ribbon interface in Office 2007 not liked or wanted.

I have been requested by my clients to find out how to get the classic back or an interface that is classic like, and get rid of the ribbon or find and alternative O/S and office suite. I have allowed myself and the business 2 weeks to find alternatives to fix MS, after which I will be looking for NON MS alternatives.
My question is WHY MS are NOT listening to their users, if they dont, I can see WIN7 being another VISTA, it will be MS's loss (sales and profits).
I am only a small fish by MS standards (115 seats) but if I am reading the Forums and Bloggs correctly his will come into millions of LOST seats.

If they are relying on the XP compatiability mode and corporates to make up the loss, no way these businesses still have to train their users on how to get the O/S and Office to work to maximun, (COST huge and this will be at los of productivity and down grade of sales), all this at a time of massive down turn the the eccomony world wide.

Microsoft at your peril can you afford another VISTA like migration away form MS products.

Wendell
October 03, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Thank you!

not having a quick launch was driving me nuts but this solution is almost just as good.

Cheers

windows
October 17, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

The biggest problem was Looking for my Quicklaunch shorcuts that were lost after upgrading from vista to windows 7. Why the hell would they hide it from me and give me no way to find it again. Why would they take it out of one of the default options and yet leave a redundant option like "Desktop" under toolbars.

C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

or

%appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch


is where it was at and where it should stay for those who want to recreate it where it used to be, or in my case, find where your shortcuts used to be and still are after upgrading from vista to windows 7.

Annoyance #2 : Why did they change my System Tray's hiding functionality? God why.

BN
November 04, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

THANKS! I absolutely hated the shuffling pinned icons. Elegant solution!

Diane
December 21, 2009

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

I've been troubleshooting my printer not working since upgrading to Windows 7 from VISTA all day. In the process, I've lost my quickstart ribbon. How do I get it back? I have come to depend on it. (sorry, clearly not a techie here...)

jay
January 27, 2010

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

this is a great solution since the spacing on the new quick launch is horrible. one day someone will awake at microsoft and realize that new functionality should when ever possible be backward compatible and new functionality should be an option or at least allow a fallback option to the old. sheesh.

only one complaint and it is less with this solution and more with windows 7. updates cause restarts (thanks microsoft, that's a great idea, too, why make it like linux where you never restart just to change software).

restarts or crashes (which windows 7 seems to freeze with every driver oddity making forced crash fairly common), both frequently cause the taskbar to forget that i had the new taskbar folder. so then i have to go add it again and spend several minutes reconfiguring the placement of the toolbars on the taskbar.

windows 7 is a needed improvement over vista. but the commercial about "it doesn't have any of the problems of the last windows" is DEAD ON.

btw, does microsoft know that in the development community that using Internet Explorer is akin to being an idiot?

Jackized
June 22, 2010

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

If you do everything the instructions say except point to this path then you will already have the default Show Desktop and Windows Switcher. Or copy those two shortcuts to your own profile path.
C:\Users\Default\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.

Marc Roussel
August 08, 2010

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Get us back the Docking toolbar we had in Vista X64 or I presume any version of Vista add it. Having my Custom toolbar on top of the screen and not making all the Taskbar go to the top is a most have. If I upgrade my Vista x64 to 7 right now I'll lose all my toolbar set at the top of the screen. This is the reason why I do not upgrade yet. I just hope they'll put it back in a SP soon !

I really don't understand why they drop this so IMPORTANT feature.

Windy Shaffer
August 25, 2010

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

My mom just bought a laptop and I'm her personal techie. She bought a 17" screen for vision loss issues and the settings are so large that the task bar is nearly unusable. We have put our task bar on the lift side for years, so the icons double column and you can see all the open programs and the quick launch. Now with the new pinning (which does have the cool recent docs etc right click options) the darn icons are so big, that without a double column of icons [no matter how wide the bar is] I can only see 4 programs at a time, the scroll bar is hard to hit and really awkward. I'm thrilled to rediscover the quick launch so at least we can get 3 wide icons on the single launch programs but she likes the recent docs quick links for the word, IE etc, but just 6 programs pinned to the task bar requires the scroll to see the real open apps...

Pete Johnson
August 29, 2012

# re: Windows 7 and a Quick Launch Toolbar

Thanks a lot. Your blog just made Windows 7 useable. I had found countless of small applications solving this to some degree, but your blog gives a simple solution that is even better than the ole Vista. :)
 

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