I was and still am really unhappy that Microsoft decided to take away our choice of using the classic start menu and task bar with the introduction of Windows 7. Not only was it faster to use, it also never required to enter the complete name of the program in order to “find” it. Example? Try entering “reg” in the search box. Guess which exact entry is missing … of course, had to be regedit.exe. On my box it shows me reg.exe and “Remote Registry Editor”, various “Register this and that” shortcuts and “RegexBuddy” (which, btw., I can only recommend to anyone working with regular expressions). Alas, no regedit.exe. Whoohoo … thanks, Microsoft! Good job! Keep it up. No problem removing the good old start menu since we have a more than adequate “replacement” now …
At least for the classic start menu there is a workaround in FOSS-form named “Classic Shell” that also lists a number of reasons why the new start menu sucks. There is only a single feature that I am so far missing from “Classic Shell” and that’s the fact that I cannot open Windows Explorer from right-clicking the start button. Why is it important? Well, most of the time it isn’t since I prefer to use SpeedCommander anyway, but sometimes I try to start even the old Windows Explorer and then Classic Shell lets me down, as it does not completely mimic the old behavior. But that’s a very minor nuisance. I love the program otherwise.
But now let’s talk about the new task bar. Apparently no one ever complained about its suck-factor, so let me help out with my rant 😉
First off here’s what I like. On the right-most part you got this little rectangular thingamy which will show the desktop when hovering over it (same effect as pressing Win+Space), or brings the desktop to the front when clicking it and switches back when clicking again (I think that is the same as Win+D). I also really like the new way of configuring the “system tray” (i.e. the “task bar notification area” or TNA to apply the technically correct term). Although I don’t particularly like the dock-like mixing of “instance” (i.e. running program) and shortcut (i.e. way to start a program), the mode which shows texts next to the program works just fine for me.
This brings me to the major sucky part: the missing Quick Launch. The recipe titled “Bring Quick Launch Back from the Dead” on this page has a lovely workaround, but the comment
The Quick Launch is superfluous with the presence of the updated Taskbar
is absolutely unjustified. And here’s why. First of all, the Quick Launch bar allowed you to stack a bigger number of frequently used shortcuts into the task bar. And I mean that quite literally. I always had two rows full of icons. If I find a screen-shot of my old system I will count, but my estimate would be somewhere around 20 to 28 icons in the Quick Launch. Now, some of you might find it very picky, but have you actually tried to pin even just 20 icons to the new task bar? Anyone? Can you fathom the problem? Even at my current resolution of 1920×1200 will you reach the limits of this approach quickly. Which means you fill up your task bar with garbage all the while you just wanted a quick method of starting programs or reading documentation. As I said, I do not despise the new task bar that much, but it just does not come close to this old way of doing things. It would have been better to make the new task bar the “Quicker Launch” or so, i.e. move the most frequently used started programs from the Quick Launch in there and retain the good old Quick Launch as well.
From superficial inspection the new task bar looks like it could accommodate two rows of shortcuts with their small icons, but the recipe (linked above) cannot fix this glitch. Unless you double the height of the new task bar you won’t get more than one row in the revived Quick Launch. Besides, the Quick Launch bar could be moved anywhere in former times, now it just sticks left of the TNA one cannot adjust its size properly, since setting the task bar to “fixed” will screw up any careful arrangement of the icons made beforehand. Oh and even at twice the default height for the overall task bar you will not be able to fit more than two rows in the revived Quick Launch bar. Brilliant.
But the actual problem why it sucks is that the good old “MSDN Documentation” (as well as many other items found in your start menu) cannot be pinned to the shiny new task bar. That would have been a very good reason not to drop the Quick Launch, but Microsoft apparently opted instead to burn all bridges and leave some of us behind, since it’s “time to move on”. What does this prove? Well, it mainly proves that the new task bar by no means obsoleted the old Quick Launch bar as claimed in the linked article. Seems their marketing department won over common sense, or QA failed – you pick.
Or wait. Perhaps I should be grateful? After all I’ve consolidated my revived Quick Launch bar to only 6 shortcuts now – out of which three are documentation shortcuts that will simply not stick to the task bar otherwise. … until I restored from a backup which had the quick launch configured, but Windows 7 “forgot” this configuration. Since I back up and restore regularly, this recipe is out of the question. this does not just happen when restoring a backup, it also happens “just so”. Hell, I hate that new task bar. Anyway, a colleague told me how to get small icons on the taskbar itself, even it that does not bring back the Quick Launch.
PS: Am I really the only dinosaur left who reads documentation from the help collections that came with Visual Studio 2003 through 2008 and can still be found in the Windows Driver Kit, older Driver Development Kits (as CHM) and elsewhere? Frankly, I hate the help system introduced with Visual Studio 2010 – which has to do with a lot of dead links there and with the fact that it’s slow despite a broadband connection.