Taskbar Explained

In computing, a taskbar is a bar displayed on a full edge of a GUI desktop that is used to launch and monitor running applications. Microsoft incorporated a taskbar in Windows 95 and it has been a defining aspect of Microsoft Windows's graphical user interface ever since. Some desktop environments, such as KDE and old versions of GNOME, include a more configurable taskbar. Other operating systems may use different methods for task management or application launching such as a panel or a dock.

Microsoft Windows

The default settings for the taskbar in Microsoft Windows place it at the bottom of the screen and includes from left to right the Start menu button, Quick Launch bar, taskbar buttons, and notification area. The Quick Launch toolbar was added with the Internet Explorer 4 shell update, and is not enabled by default in Windows XP. Windows 7 removed the Quick Launch feature in favor of pinning applications to the taskbar itself.

The taskbar was originally developed as a feature of Windows 95, but it was based on a similar user interface feature called the tray that was developed as part of Microsoft's Cairo project.[1] [2] [3]

With the release of Windows XP, Microsoft changed the behavior of the taskbar to take advantage of Fitts's law.[4]

Taskbar elements

Customization

The Windows taskbar can be modified by users in several ways. The position of the taskbar can be changed to appear on any edge of the primary display. Up to and including Windows Server 2008, the taskbar is constrained to single display, although third-party utilities such as UltraMon allow it to span multiple displays. When the taskbar is displayed vertically on versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista, the Start menu button will only display the text "Start" or translated equivalent if the taskbar is wide enough to show the full text.[16] However, the edge of the taskbar (in any position) can be dragged to control its height (width for a vertical taskbar); this is especially useful for a vertical taskbar to show window titles next to the window icons.

Users can resize the height (or width when displayed vertically) of the taskbar up to half of the display area. To avoid inadverdent resizing or repositioning of the taskbar, Windows XP and later lock the taskbar by default.[17] [18] When unlocked, "grips" are displayed next to the movable elements which allow grabbing with the mouse to move and size. These grips slightly decrease amount of available space in the taskbar.

The taskbar as a whole can be hidden until the mouse pointer is moved to the display edge, or has keyboard focus..

Screenshots

The taskbar was not available in versions before Windows 95.

Desktop toolbars

Other toolbars, known as "Deskbands", may be added to the taskbar.[19] Windows includes the following deskbands but does not display them by default (except the Quick Launch toolbar in certain versions and configurations).

In addition to deskbands, Windows supports "Application Desktop Toolbars" (also called "appbands") that supports creating additional toolbars that can dock to any side of the screen, and cannot be overlaid by other applications.[20]

Users can add additional toolbars that display the contents of folders. The display for toolbars that represent folder items (such as Links, Desktop and Quick Launch) can be changed to show large icons and the text for each item. Prior to Windows Vista, the Desktop Toolbars could be dragged off the taskbar and float independently, or docked to a display edge. Windows Vista greatly limited, but did not eliminate the ability to have desktop toolbar not attached to the taskbar.[21] Windows 7 has deprecated the use of Floating Deskbands altogether: they only appear pinned into the Taskbar.

Other desktop environments

Acorn Computers

An early implementation of the taskbar concept is seen in Acorn Computers 1987 Arthur operating system, for their Acorn Archimedes computer. It is called the Icon bar and remains an essential part of Arthur's succeeding RISC OS operating system. The Iconbar holds icons which represent mounted disc drives and RAM discs, running applications and system utilities. These icons have their own context-sensitive menus and support drag and drop behaviour.

AmigaOS

AmigaOS featured various implementations of taskbar concept, and this inheritance is present also in its successors (AmigaOS 4.0, AROS, MorphOS. There could be AppIcons (Quick Launch Icons) lying on the windows manager desktop of Amiga (called Workbench) since AmigaOS 2.04 (in 1991); also very appreciated in Amiga are "dock" utilities, just as like as in MacOS. For example Amidock born as third party utility, has then being integrated into AmigaOS 3.9 (2000), and an enhanced PPC Amidock version runs into AmigaOS 4.0.[23] . As long as AmigaOS interface is highly customizable, it could also being integrated with taskbar utilities whose aspect could be more or less similar in aspect to the taskbars of Windows. For example AmiKit is a freeware compilation of more than 300 Amiga programs. It could be used to enhance experience of native Amigaos 3.9 or any version of AmigaOS 3.5 or 3.9 running into Windows Amiga Emulator WinUAE. Amikit features a windows-like taskbar utility (called Amistart) that is being loaded by default at startup [24] . AROS operating system has its version of Amistart too that is provided with the OS and free to be installed by the users, while MorphOS has being equipped with a docking utility just as like as AmigaOS or MacOS.

Unix and Unix-like

KDE

In various KDE distributions, the taskbar is run by the Kicker program, which shows rectangular panels that can contain applets, one of which is the taskbar. Applets can be arbitrarily relocated, for instance, the notification area can be moved away from the taskbar. The bar can be placed not only at the bottom, but also at the top or (vertically) at the left or the right and its size can be altered (from 24 to 256 pixels), as well as the length in % of the screen size. And several other bars with various specific functions can be added in different locations, e.g., one bar at the left and one at the right or even overlapping (one fixed and one with automatic hiding).Since KDE 4, the taskbar is implemented as a Plasma widget.

GNOME

Similarly, the GNOME desktop environment uses its own type of taskbar, known as panels (the program responsible for them is therefore called gnome-panel). By default, GNOME usually contains two full-width panels at the top and bottom of the screen. The top panel usually contains navigation menus labelled Applications, Places, and System in that order. These menus hold links to common applications, areas of the file system, and system preferences and administration utilities, respectively. The top panel usually contains a clock and notification area, which can double as a sort of dock, as well.The bottom panel is commonly empty by default, other than a set of buttons to navigate between desktops and a button to minimize all windows and show the desktop, due to its use in the navigation between windows (windows minimize to the bottom panel by default).

These panels can be populated with other customizable menus and buttons, including new menus, search boxes, and icons to perform quick-launch like functions. Other applications can also be attached to the panels, and the contents of the panels can be moved, removed, or configured in other ways.

Window managers that provide an integrated taskbar

Other Unix environments

There are many programs that offer standalone taskbars for desktop environments or window managers without one. Example include pypanel, fbpanel, perlpanel, tint2, and others.

Apple Macintosh computers

The Dock, as featured in Mac OS X and its predecessor NeXTSTEP, is also a kind of taskbar. The Mac OS X Dock is application-oriented instead of window-oriented. Each running application is represented by one icon in the Dock regardless of how many windows it has on screen. A textual menu can be opened by right-clicking on the dock icon that gives access to an application's windows, among other functions determined by the app. Minimized windows also appear in the dock, in the rightmost section, represented by a graphical thumbnail. The trash can is also represented in the Dock, as a universal metaphor for deletion. For example, dragging selected text to the trash should remove the text from the document and create a clipping file in the trash.

The right side of Mac OS X's Menu bar also contains several notification widgets and quick access functions, called Menu extras.

Notes and References

  1. US. 5825357. patent. Continuously accessible computer system interface. 1998-10-20. Malamud, Marceau, Grauman, Levien, Oran, Bolnick, Barnes, Johnson, Scott. Microsoft Corporation.
  2. Web site: The Windows 95 User Interface: A Case Study in Usability Engineering. Kent Sullivan. April 17, 1996. CHI 96 Design Briefs. 2008-10-22.
  3. Web site: Why do some people call the taskbar the "tray"?. Chen. Raymond. Raymond Chen. September 10, 2003. 2008-04-20. The Old New Thing. Microsoft.
  4. Web site: Giving You Fitts. Harris. Jensen. August 22, 2006. 2008-01-14. Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog. Microsoft.
  5. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511448.aspx Windows Vista Developer Center - The Windows desktop
  6. Web site: How to remove items from the notification area in Windows 2000. November 1, 2006. 2008-10-21.
  7. Web site: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511448.aspx. Microsoft Developer Network.
  8. Web site: How To Manipulate Icons in the System Tray with Visual Basic. 2004-07-15. 2009-01-23.
  9. Web site: How to use the System Tray directly from Visual Basic. 2006-09-26. 2009-01-23.
  10. Web site: System Tray Icon Sample. 2009-01-23.
  11. Web site: System Tray Balloon Tips and Freeing Resources Quickly in .NET. 2002-11. 2009-01-23.
  12. Web site: Microsoft Time Zone. 2004-10-20. 2009-01-23.
  13. Web site: The Taskbar. 2011-06-09.
  14. Web site: Shell_NotifyIcon Function. 2011-06-09.
  15. Web site: How To Manipulate Icons in the System Tray with Visual Basic. 2011-06-09.
  16. Web site: When I dock my taskbar vertically, why does the word "Start" disappear?. Chen. Raymond. Raymond Chen. September 20, 2003. 2008-04-20. The Old New Thing. Microsoft.
  17. Web site: Differences with Windows XP Home Edition. November 3, 2005. 2008-04-20. Windows XP Resource Kit. Microsoft.
  18. Web site: Cannot Move or Resize the Taskbar or Any Toolbars on the Taskbar (MSKB279774). January 25, 2006. 2008-04-20. Knowledge Base. Microsoft.
  19. Web site: Notification Area. Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines. Microsoft.
  20. Web site: Using Application Desktop Toolbars. Microsoft.
  21. http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/Help/5cca95d3-219a-436b-b016-831296b821ad1033.mspx Create a shortcut toolbar on the desktop
  22. http://support.microsoft.com/?id=226111 DeskBar Options Tab in Taskbar Properties Is Not Functional
  23. http://www.qdev.de/?location=amiga/amidock Amiga Amidock Homepage
  24. http://amikit.amiga.sk/ Amikit "preinstalled software environment" Homepage