Exploring Windows 7 on the Mac: the Taskbar

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Once past the fairly painless installation of the Windows 7 beta, Mac users will be struck with deja vu. This new version of Windows looks more like Mac OS X than any previous edition ever offered by Microsoft.



Mac users will feel more at home than ever whether running Windows 7 in a virtual environment, using Boot Camp, or running the system on a generic PC. Less translation between Windows and the Mac desktop means less frustration and fewer interruptions. This segment looks at some of the strongest similarities that debut in Windows 7, starting with the new Taskbar.



The ultra new Taskbar



The new Taskbar in Windows 7 is so greatly improved that Microsoft?s more vocal proponents have begun calling it the Ultrabar, just as Apple fans began calling the new Dock in Leopard the UltraDock.



Actually that never happened. Mac users only complained that the new Leopard Dock in beta, when slid to the vertical side, depicted apps being suspended without any apparent gravity, and insisted Apple correct this problem.



The ultra new Taskbar in the Windows 7 beta is distinguished from previous editions of Windows in that it now shows one icon per application (below), rather than a series of bars that either represented each window on screen, or in some cases an application with many windows open. Mac users will appreciate this more sensible, consistent, and familiar approach Microsoft has taken as they work between the two environments.



Windows 7 beta:







Windows Vista:







Windows XP:







One size fits all



There are still some differences between the Taskbar and the Mac OS X Dock: the Windows 7 version (which may yet still change before its release) must be manually "unlocked? before resizing it, and then can only be resized in half inch-sized increments.



Even so, resizing the Taskbar neither resizes the icons (as it would in Mac OS X) nor provides more vertical room for organizing Taskbar items (as Windows users might expect). You can?t organize icons in vertical rows, making it fairly useless to change the vertical height of the Taskbar. There?s also no Dock-like magnification.



Taskbar app icons sit within a metallic looking panel which becomes glass-like blocks that highlight when the app is active in the foreground or running. The early betas of Mac OS X in 2000 similarly lacked both a transparent background and smooth vector scaling (below, Mac OS X DP3).







Patented Dock features



Windows 7 won?t ever look entirely like the Mac?s Dock because Apple successfully applied for a patent on the Dock back in 1999; it was granted last October. The patent makes specific claims related to magnification, auto resizing as new icons are added, auto-hide, rollover text labels, user reorganizing of the icons, and other specific features developed by Apple, in contrast to the prior art citec in the patent filing (below).



To protect its claims, Apple even asked Google to stop hosting an experimental Dock-like interface online. Apple?s patent shouldn?t prevent Microsoft from using its new Dock-like Taskbar entirely, but it does limit what features Microsoft can copy. Having said that, some features, such as the Dock?s zooming magnification effect, are far more fun than they are useful, resulting in many users turning it off after the novelty subsides.



Other aspects of Apple?s patent may be hard to enforce, but it appears Microsoft is treading lightly in its implementation. Apple was only granted its Dock patent four months ago, so Microsoft may also not have been aware of it during the development of the current Windows 7 beta Taskbar.







The road to today?s Dock



Microsoft?s essential adoption of the Mac OS X Dock results in a desktop that looks and in some cases behaves more like the Mac than Windows ever has since 1995, a definite plus for Mac users who might need to switch between the two environments.



Despite the patent covering specific features, neither Apple nor Microsoft can claim having invented the general Dock concept itself. Apple?s original 1984 Mac had no need for a Dock because it could only run one application at a time. As the Classic Mac OS gained the ability to run multiple apps on screen at once, Apple toyed with different interface add-ons that handled app launching and window management, but the Dock as we know it developed outside of Apple.



A number of Apple employees joined Steve Jobs? NeXT after he left Apple in 1986. That company created an early Dock for the NeXTSTEP operating system that represented each running application with a block, which could be rearranged along the sides of the display. Blocks could also update themselves to provide status updates. NeXT patented that design in 1992 as an invention credited to Jean-Marie Hullot, Steve Jobs, and Christopher Franklin.



Other graphical desktops in the late 80s had also used a Dock-like shortcut bar for launching apps, including Acorn?s UK equivalent to the Mac, the 1987 Archimedes. In the early 90s, Apple itself used a Dock-like launcher in the Newton OS for its Message Pad PDAs. NeXT's patent covered specific inventions related to its Dock, which were unique over the button bars commonly used in many places.



By 1995 Microsoft had consolidated control over the desktop PC. Rather than including a Dock-like interface in its new Windows 95, Microsoft chose its own path with the new Taskbar, resulting in a fifteen year lapse of Dock-goodness on mainstream PCs.



Different to be different



The Windows 95 Taskbar (below) displayed a long rectangle for each task running on the desktop, resulting in a more obvious indicator of the number of applications and windows that were active compared to the standard System 7 desktop on the Mac, but quickly becoming illegible as the Taskbar filled up with rectangles.











Microsoft had also started charting its own course in other areas of the graphical user interface. Rather than following Apple?s Human Interface Guidelines, which had a decade earlier codified a document-centric view of the computing desktop, Microsoft adopted the MDI (multiple document interface) windowing system.



Rather than using a central menu bar reflecting the current application and putting individual documents each in their own window, MDI puts an application?s menus and toolbar on a floating window, and embeds each of its open documents in a window within that window (below). For the Taskbar, this meant that a rectangle-represented task could be a document in an application, or could be an application with multiple documents.







The waters muddied as Microsoft began breaking its own conventions, first by making some apps behave more like Mac apps, (such as Word, where each document became a free standing window), while leaving other apps as MDI (such as Excel, which retains the embedded document windows idea), while also embracing tabbed windows, which incorporate multiple documents into a single shared window without any window nestling.



The Taskbar initially served only to select between running tasks, but Microsoft then added a Quick Launch area where users could drag app icons for easy startup. This handy feature was actually turned off by default in Windows XP, making a trip through the Start Menu necessary for launching new apps.



Return of the Dock



In Mac OS X, Apple adopted the NeXT Dock as a replacement for a number of interface conventions that had been bolted on to the Classic Mac OS over the years, including the Control Strip, the Application Menu, and the Launcher, as described in the Road to Mac OS X Leopard: Dock 1.6.



Mac OS X?s new Dock not only handled all of those functions, but also served as a way to quickly highlight what apps were open, as well as acting as place to dock minimized windows and frequently opened documents, among the other features Apple patented.



To show off the new system?s advanced graphics compositing engine, Apple also added transparency around the icons in the Dock, vector scaling for resizing the Dock?s icons to any size, a smooth zoom magnification that playfully highlighted the icons as they were moused over, and a bounce notification animation for applications seeking attention. This made the Dock a conspicuous, central aspect of the new Mac desktop.



The Dock comes to Windows



For over ten years, nothing significant happened to the Windows Taskbar apart from the application of new themes. After the release of Vista, Microsoft set out to develop conceptual ideas of how to rethink the Taskbar for the next major version of Windows. The ideas experimented with different types of round dial controls and busy box information panels to replace the standard Taskbar (below).







As Vista failed to gain traction in the market however, Microsoft canceled the more experimental ideas and worked to solve the real problems users had with Vista, converting Windows 7 from a major new release based on a new "MinWin" kernel to a more conservative update of Vista that supplied a simpler, more consistent interface and could be shipped at least a year sooner.



The result was a new Taskbar that borrows extensively from the NeXt/Mac Dock, with icons per application rather than per document, place holders for apps that can be launched, and Docklet menus for selecting an application?s individual windows or other menus specific to the application.



Microsoft also added some new things, including an icon scrub feature that highlights an application's open windows similar to Exposé, as well as a recently used items "Jump List" for each docked application. Apple has yet to show its hand on coming enhancements to the Mac OS X desktop in Snow Leopard, but the back and forth borrowing between Apple and Microsoft may likely incorporate some aspects of the Windows 7, such as its expanded Docklet menus.



There are other new commonalities between Leopard and Windows 7 that Mac users who move between the two will likely find appealingly familiar, as the next segment will examine.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 93
    Ah, the power of entrenchment and incumbency, especially when combined with a lack of shame.....



    What else can you say about MSFT!?
  • Reply 2 of 93
    I hate to say it, but the new dock in Windows 7 looks about a million times more functional. I am hoping to god they have those little pop up windows when you mouse over an app in 10.6.
  • Reply 3 of 93
    "There are other new commonalities between Leopard and Windows 7 that Mac users who move between the two will likely find appealingly familiar, as the next segment will examine."



    As a Mac user forced to used Windows, I find this whole Windows OS copying of Mac OS UI unappealing.
  • Reply 4 of 93
    Quote:

    I hate to say it, but the new dock in Windows 7 looks about a million times more functional. I am hoping to god they have those little pop up windows when you mouse over an app in 10.6.



    Compared to MS old taskbar?? I guess so considering MS basically got inspired by OSX dock, hmm...well your idea of those tiny pop up windows is useful but I dont understand why Mac users need it, we rarely minimize our window, we just place something over it, want to switch it back? Just use expose app/ expose all. Of course OS X Expose is much better then the Windows version.
  • Reply 5 of 93
    Ok, I am going to say this really simple for all the Windows users out there: Microsoft has managed to copy almost everything from OS X. The new taskbar looks identical to the dock in OS X. be original for once microsoft!!
  • Reply 6 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by slapppy View Post


    "There are other new commonalities between Leopard and Windows 7 that Mac users who move between the two will likely find appealingly familiar, as the next segment will examine."



    As a Mac user forced to used Windows, I find this whole Windows OS copying of Mac OS UI unappealing.



    If you use a Mac why should you be bothered if MS copy OS X. Surely if the OS X way is better you should be pleased that more people can advantage from its productivity.
  • Reply 7 of 93
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member
    Lets face it, micro$oft is best at what it does best: copying Apple
  • Reply 8 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post


    Compared to MS old taskbar??



    No man, compared to the 10.5 dock. I don't give a crap if they stole some aspects of OSX's dock it really doesn't bug me. What DOES bug me is that with 50+ windows open, it becomes really friggin hard to find the one photo or word document that I am trying to edit. Im a criminally insane multi-tasker, and i would love for an immediate pop up that shows me all open Ps, Ai, ID, DW documents etc. Ok, yes I can click on the app and then press a keyboard or mouse shortcut, but its even easier to be able to do it with a simple mouseover, and it makes SO MUCH SENSE. Also, documents are collapsed into the app instead of hanging out on the right and expanding the dock size! Brilliant! And that's just two of the features. Yes OSX expose is better, as are a million other things, but there is one thing that is obviously not, and that's the dock. The win 7 dock puts OSX's to shame in my opinion.



    The new windows dock also just looks aesthetically better. THERE! I said it. Its just nicer. Just because it is pretty doesn't mean it was stolen from OSX. It looks like an upgraded XP bar, not the dock.
  • Reply 9 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sausage&Onion View Post


    I hate to say it, but the new dock in Windows 7 looks about a million times more functional. I am hoping to god they have those little pop up windows when you mouse over an app in 10.6.



    I think this debate is going to end up being the same as the one about web pages that provide pop-up thumbnails of the web site pointed to. In my experience there is some small sub-set of users that really, really like this kind of functionality but the majority do not like this.



    I'm on the side of those that think this approach is a "muddifying" break with good UI design.



    I would also argue that in my experience, those that like these kind of thumbnail pop-ups are generally the over 50 crowd, or technophobes that prefer "everything to be in front of them" on the same page.



    I've never met anyone who is computer literate or technologically competent that likes this approach, but my sample is mostly limited to the few hundred people I deal with on a daily basis.
  • Reply 10 of 93
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by qualar View Post


    If you use a Mac why should you be bothered if MS copy OS X. Surely if the OS X way is better you should be pleased that more people can advantage from its productivity.



    Sure, I think it is a lingering fear that Windows will push Mac into extinction if it gets good enough, which almost happened in the 90s. Now that Apple is a much stronger company I don't think that could happen, so Mac users should just relax and enjoy. Eventually it will be like automobiles, you just get in and drive, they all work pretty much the same.
  • Reply 11 of 93
    I haven't used it so correct me if it's comfortable to work with but the screengrabs of the four different concepts look as if MS have a 'Put Stuff Everywhere' philosophy of interface usability, the opposite of Keeping It Simple, Stupid.



    Or the 'Consistent Reactions Are Probablyunimportant' philosophy.
  • Reply 12 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sausage&Onion View Post


    No man, compared to the 10.5 dock. I don't give a crap if they stole some aspects of OSX's dock it really doesn't bug me. What DOES bug me is that with 50+ windows open, it becomes really friggin hard to find the one photo or word document that I am trying to edit. Im a criminally insane multi-tasker, and i would love for an immediate pop up that shows me all open Ps, Ai, ID, DW documents etc. Ok, yes I can click on the app and then press a keyboard or mouse shortcut, but its even easier to be able to do it with a simple mouseover, and it makes SO MUCH SENSE. Also, documents are collapsed into the app instead of hanging out on the right and expanding the dock size! Brilliant! And that's just two of the features. Yes OSX expose is better, as are a million other things, but there is one thing that is obviously not, and that's the dock. The win 7 dock puts OSX's to shame in my opinion.



    The new windows dock also just looks aesthetically better. THERE! I said it. Its just nicer. Just because it is pretty doesn't mean it was stolen from OSX. It looks like an upgraded XP bar, not the dock.



    It sounds to me like you are not really multi-tasking at all. You just seem to like to have everything open all at once on your desktop so you can always find things.



    This is an indication that you are not using your computer as a multi-tasking device so much as just a giant switch between everything and everything else. This is an inefficient "old-fashioned" approach to computing, and kind of echews the real power that using a computer can provide in many ways.



    This is the same theory (often used by the same personality type), as keeping everything in giant sliding piles on your physical desktop instead of using the "power" of the filing cabinet and folder system.



    This is not a dig at you personally, this system worked fine for Einstein who was of course a genius. It is inefficient for most people though as it requires *you* to do the work that the computer could easily do for you, and unless you *are* a genius, that's hard work!
  • Reply 13 of 93
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,811member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sausage&Onion View Post


    No man, compared to the 10.5 dock. I don't give a crap if they stole some aspects of OSX's dock it really doesn't bug me. What DOES bug me is that with 50+ windows open, it becomes really friggin hard to find the one photo or word document that I am trying to edit....



    50+ windows!?



    sausage&Onion meet Spaces. Spaces this is sausage&Onion could you please help him out.



    I find multiple desktops to be a great help. I usually have four set up; one for Parallels running my OpenBSD web server, one for web programming/developing, one for drawing and one for general use.



    Actually, right clicking on an application icon in the dock brings up a menu that usually contains a list of open windows belonging to that application.



    OS X offers many ways to organize and view. I notice most people just aren't familiar with the features or are just flat out against using them as if to say, "I don't want your kind of help."
  • Reply 14 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sausage&Onion View Post


    The win 7 dock puts OSX's to shame in my opinion.



    I switched to Mac about a year ago and don't want to switch back, but I have to agree that the Win7 taskbar looks better than the Mac OS X dock. I don't like how the OS X dock minimizes each window to its own icon. I really like how you can mouse over a taskbar icon in Win7 and see all the open windows for that application, while also making the other applications transparent. Assuming it runs smoothly and quickly, that seems a lot more functional than Expose. Expose organizes the windows on the screen in haphazard fashion, and the window thumbnails are too similar for me to be able to quickly jump to what I want. Win7, on the other hand, ties the window thumbnails to the application icon, so you always know exactly what you're looking at. Very smart, I hope 10.6 adopts some of these ideas.



    By the way, the Mac Finder is horrible. That's definitely been the worst thing about switching to Mac, in my opinion. Can we please get something better? Windows Explorer is far better in my view.
  • Reply 15 of 93
    As always, Mac OS X and Windows assert themselves (in that order) as the best GUI operating systems, superior in most ways to Linux and the various Unixes. I run OpenSolaris at home, with a GNOME configuration that looks a lot like Ubuntu's.



    There are not one, but two "taskbars" (panels), instead of one.



    Here's a screenshot:



    http://blogs.sun.com/amitsaha/resour...box/shot-2.png



    The top panel contains:



    1) Launchers for Applications, Places, and System

    2) Various quick launchers

    3) Notification icons and various applets

    4) Date and time



    The bottom panel contains:



    1) Show desktop

    2) Running programs (pre-Windows 7 style)

    3) Multiple desktops

    4) Trash



    It's a terribly inefficient use of space.



    KDE 4.2 also supports this inefficient use of space.



    The Dock (which Microsoft has used for inspiration for its new taskbar), for some of its flaws, combines the following functionality:



    A) Application launcher.

    B) Application switcher.

    C) Application-specific notifier (ex, Firefox is trying to install an update, so it bounces up and down).



    Microsoft hasn't implemented the Mac-style menu bar at the top, and have chosen instead to hide the window-specific menu bar whenever it can.



    Still, despite its flaws, I like the Dock, and I'm glad Microsoft is finally using its design principles. I wish GNOME and KDE would do the same.
  • Reply 16 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sausage&Onion View Post


    Ok, yes I can click on the app and then press a keyboard or mouse shortcut, but its even easier to be able to do it with a simple mouseover, and it makes SO MUCH SENSE.



    If it's too annoying to click or reach for F9 turn on the Hot Corners for Exposé.



    I find OSX a bit awkward if I have loads of stuff open so I've gotten better at closing up and putting away the stuff I'm not really using anymore.
  • Reply 17 of 93
    Please don't become Daniel Eran Dilger from Roughly Drafted. Your editorials recently seem to be becoming more and more attacking and biased than normal, which is the opposite of what I have come to read AppleInsider regularly for.



    Eg: "Apple?s patent shouldn?t prevent Microsoft from using its new Dock-like Taskbar entirely, but it does limit what features Microsoft can copy."



    Though Roughly Drafted can be informative at times, reading it is a chore because you have to take practically every tidbit of information with a heaping mound of salt due to its rampant bias and amateurish combative writing. Compare that to here or another site like MacRumors where a grain of salt is usually more than enough. MacRumors doesn't have the nice editorials you usually put out though (particularly for example the Road to SL series), so seeing what keeps me coming back to this site starting to go the way of the Dilger is disappointing.
  • Reply 18 of 93
    Quote:

    By the way, the Mac Finder is horrible. That's definitely been the worst thing about switching to Mac, in my opinion. Can we please get something better? Windows Explorer is far better in my view.



    Are you kidding? Windows Explorer is my least favorite feature about Windows. It seems a little better in Windows 7, but not much. I guess, like everything, it is a matter of opinion.
  • Reply 19 of 93
    gustavgustav Posts: 823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JasonX View Post


    Expose organizes the windows on the screen in haphazard fashion, and the window thumbnails are too similar for me to be able to quickly jump to what I want. Win7, on the other hand, ties the window thumbnails to the application icon, so you always know exactly what you're looking at. Very smart, I hope 10.6 adopts some of these ideas.



    You do know about the Expose application key right - it only shows the windows for the current application.

    Quote:

    By the way, the Mac Finder is horrible. That's definitely been the worst thing about switching to Mac, in my opinion. Can we please get something better? Windows Explorer is far better in my view.



    To each, their own I guess. I can't stand that Windows lists all the folders first, and then the files. Their hierachical view is very cumbersome too.
  • Reply 20 of 93
    Quote:

    By the way, the Mac Finder is horrible. That's definitely been the worst thing about switching to Mac, in my opinion. Can we please get something better? Windows Explorer is far better in my view.



    What? Okay so we agree that Finder is horrible. It's being horrible since the beginning of time. And we can only hope Apple fix it in the Snow Leopard.



    But layout and functionality wise, it's waaaayyyy better the Windows Explorer. As a matter of fact, I find WE more and more annoying from 2000 to XP then to Vista, it gets slower increamentally, definately more crush prone, crazy shotcuts & most visited everywhere. I was so frustrated by Vista's Windows Explorer, finally decided to start to use the vastly visually unpleasing Total Commander instead. It took a while to get use to, but 2 days later I never intentionally opened a WE window ever since.
Sign In or Register to comment.