Many users may not be aware of this, but in Windows XP and Windows Vista you can actually stretch the taskbar at the bottom of the screen up to gain more real estate. You can make it double or triple its normal height so you can fit more applications in the QuickLaunch menu if you want, and you can have more programs open simultaneously and still view them all separately rather than dealing with the annoying ‘feature’ where all of the instances of a program are collapsed to one taskbar entry and you have to sort of manually sift through the list that pops up to try and find the one you want. I have leveraged this feature to expand my taskbar for years, making it twice the normal height so I can have more applications in QuickLaunch and more programs opened simultaneously. I don’t need to do that in Windows 7 (although it still possible if you choose).
First of all, instead of the QuickLaunch toolbar, Windows 7 lets you ‘pin’ applications. You can pin them to either the Start Menu or to the Taskbar (or both). Items pinned to the taskbar appear as icons and the applications can be launched by simply clicking on the icon. Similarly, when applications are launched by other methods, they also appear as an icon rather than the wide tabs you are used to seeing in the Windows XP or Windows Vista taskbar. And, only one icon appears per application- similar to that annoying collapsed tab I mentioned above. However, with Windows 7 it is not annoying- its brilliant! Simply hovering over the icon for the application brings up thumbnails of all instances currently running and hovering over the thumbnail instantly displays that instance full screen so you can quickly, easily, and visually find the application or instance you want to use.
The coolness doesn’t end there though. For applications that are pinned to the taskbar you can right-click to bring up a history menu that lets you jump straight to specific instances. For example, I can right-click my Internet Explorer icon and view my web browsing history to find a specific site, or right-click the Microsoft Word icon to view the history and open a specific document. Applications pinned to the Start Menu behave the same way. There is an arrow next to the application that opens a menu of songs played recently in Windows Media Player or spreadsheets recently viewed in Excel. It is sort of like an application-specific edition of the Recent Items menu on the Start Menu (it is an option though and may not be displayed unless you have configured it to do so).
I know that people get comfortable with the way they do things and they are reluctant to change- even if the change in and of itself is good. With any new operating system or application there will be updates and modifications. If there weren’t, why would they bother releasing a new one?? Often these changes have a learning curve before they become second-nature, but this Windows 7 taskbar is a change I find very intuitive and very smooth and I instantly fell in love with it.