The so-called superfluous “Quick Launch” and Windows 7

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. Update: 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.

// Oliver

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.

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7 Responses to The so-called superfluous “Quick Launch” and Windows 7

  1. hitzi says:

    Liegt die Dokumentation auf einen Netzlaufwerk? Programme/Verknüpfungen, die nicht lokal auf dem Rechner liegen, können nicht an die Taskleiste (und auch Startmenü) geheftet werden. Es gibt aber einen Workaround – einfach ein lokales Programm (Taschenrechner zum Beispiel) an die Taskleiste heften und dann über einen Rechtsklick auf das Symbol in der Taskleiste->Programname->Rechtsklick->Eigenschaften die Pfade/Icon so ändern, dass sie auf das Programm vom Netzlaufwerk weisen.

  2. Andrej says:

    I’m hiding behind the Win XP machine my work provides, and so I haven’t taken the plunge to either Vista or W7.

    But soon. Soon.

    These usability tips are of great value, though. Part of it is professional deformation, as I’ve been studying various usability books for months, in preparation for a project that was ultimately cancelled. But the knowledge and associated high expectations remained. It’s like developing a taste in wine or chocolate — knowing what’s possible, ordinary stuff becomes unacceptable.

  3. Oliver says:

    Hallo hitzi, nein die Dokumentationen sind alle auf Laufwerk C: (auch Systemlaufwerk) lokal installiert.

    Der Trick ist aber sehr interessant, danke.

  4. Christian says:

    Ich nutze “VistaStarMenu”, dass es kostenlos hier gibt:

    Ich liebe es, weil man alles über Tastenkombinationen regeln kann. So habe ich auf die Hauptseite des Startmenüs meine Lieblingsprogramme gelegt, die ich durch Eingabe von ein bis drei Ziffern aufrufen kann, z.B. TrueCrypt über 666 🙂
    Dies gilt auch für Ordner, die in Gruppen zu bis zu 9 Ordnern zu einem Buchstabe zusammengefasst sind und dann weiter zu Nummern aufgeteilt werden und das rekursiv!
    Leider ist diese Nummernvergabe irgendwie nicht fest, so dass Änderungen am Menü durch Änderung an der Nummernvergabe einhergehen.
    Was ich aber auch gerne mag, ist die Möglichkeit Buttons direkt ans Menü anzuzeigen, mit dem man den PC auf alle möglichen Arten Herunterfahren, Schlafenlegen usw. kann.
    Das Menü enthält ein Eingabefeld zur Suche im Menü und gleichzeitig zum Ausführen von Kommandozeilenapps.
    Zudem scheint es in Delphi programmiert worden zu sein, zumindest die Strings in der Exe deuten daraufhin. 😛

    Bei VS2010 habe ich zudem das Hilfesystem auf Online gestellt.

  5. Oliver says:

    Just posted this:

    Evolved or devolved?

    I like the new way of configuring the TNA, but the classic start menu was removed although the new one does not even find regedit.exe when I type “reg”. What kind of search box is that? But let’s not dwell on the removal of choices there, since the FOSS project “Classic Shell” has picked up the ball that MS and their QA department dropped.

    But the taskbar does by no means replace the old one. Neither functionally not aesthetically. First thing: I can still add new “bars” like the quick launch or desktop bar used to be (simply add the quick launch as a “folder bar”). So I try it, but every so and so many reboots Windows just changes its mind and simply *forgets* about my preconfigured quick launch. Yes, it disappears *completely*. Preconfigured you say? Hell, tried moving one of these “bars” around? I can tell you that the taskbar is a stubborn beast. I’m used to have the quick launch next to the start button, but even when I unlock the taskbar (just in case someone thinks I missed that option), I’m not allowed to move the revived quick launch left of the language bar. Besides, instead of *moving around* with changes in the TNA, any additional or disappearing icons in the TNA will cause the revived quick launch to change order of the icons it holds instead of sliding it left or right as is. Brilliant, since the quick launch is pretty much only quick to use when you don’t have to look where to click. Meanwhile I found out that by undocking the language bar, then moving the quick launch and then docking the language bar again, it is indeed possible to move the quick launch next to the start button. But why these hoops?

    But the worst thing is yet to come. No idea how often you folks at MS use your own documentation in CHM format or the newer format in VS 2005 and 2008, but has *anyone* in the MS QA dept *ever* tried to pin one of these to the taskbar? It’s just impossible. That shiny new taskbar will simply not allow you to pin *anything* from the start menu onto the taskbar – only select items. And with the “usability improvements” that the revived quick launch provided, I thought already there is no functional replacement anymore – until I found the solution for the quick launch.

    You know, it’s one thing to force everyone to use that so-called improved taskbar and start menu, but perhaps you should have been careful to carry over all use cases, before “improving away” important features.

    Sorry, but to me this is a marketing win and a QA fail.

    … as “Oliver (grumpy “new taskbar” hater)” here.

    Let’s see whether it’ll be approved 😉

  6. hitzi says:

    Hab’s grad bei mir noch mal durchgetestet. Direkt über das Kontextmenü können tatsächlich nur Anwendungen angepinnt werden – egal, ob im Startmenü oder Taskleiste. Man kann keine Exceltabelle, Textdatei, Scripdatei, Hilfedatei, … anpinnen. War mir bis grad eben noch gar nicht aufgefallen.

    Funktioniert aber über den oben genannten Umweg.

  7. Oliver says:

    My post was of course not approved by the MS employee(s) who administrate that blog.

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