Taskbar in Metro UI idea -- suggestions, UI improvements, suggestions, and request for comments. RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I'm very happy to see the progress of Windows 8, but I believe a lot of work needs to be done ;)
    I'll cut to the chase (it might be best to forward this to the UX team too...):

    The issue:
    Metro UI does not have a taskbar, one of Windows' most recognizable characteristics (like the Start Menu -- but that exists as the Start Screen now). All the functionality and paradigm of Windows 8 as a blended desktop experience is lost when someone goes into Metro UI. Also, the paradigm switch from going between Start Screen/ Metro to Desktop is still VERY jarring to many users. You have to make it make sense, and as of now, its still a bit shaky

    The proposal:
    Bring the taskbar into BOTH the Start Screen (not necessarily for all Metro UI apps, because full screen seems to be important for them) AND the desktop.
    Borrowing the idea from browser "app tabs" -- the Start Screen and desktop can thusly coexist together as APPs that are perpetually open on the taskbar. Since they are "apps", the taskbar still serves its purpose of keeping things where they are supposed to be.

    As for the placement on the taskbar, not much has to change. Put the Start Screen app on the left, where it exists now and put the Desktop app on the right, where it exists on the taskbar as the "show desktop" button.

    When using Windows 8 with Metro UI, you want to get across the idea that the traditional desktop is an application from within Metro. You want users to understand this. Yes, the desktop can be used alone, but you can also use it with Metro! The ideas, as it stands in the developer preview, still clashes. With this taskbar, and with the Desktop clearly displayed as an APP, that idea can carry across more easily for many people.

    This effectively makes a NEW taskbar, maintaining its old functionality, but also adapting itself for the new Metro. People have entertained the idea of having Metro apps open from within the desktop.... Well, this new taskbar kinda entertains the idea in a reverse way.

    Why do I want this? I still kinda want a way to know what programs are open, even in Metro. I want to know what Metro apps are open, and what desktop ones are too. I know the paradigm of Metro apps "constantly" open idea doesn't carry over well -- so that idea needs to worked on.

    Fine tuning the idea:
    As mentioned above, Metro apps paradigm doesn't mix/ match with this taskbar. However, the desktop open programs and pinned apps/ sections/ webpage carries over nicely -- IF ONLY done correctly.

    For visual association, I think Metro apps (if they were to show up in the taskbar in any way, shape, or form) should be closer to the left side, next to the Start Screen app tab. Desktop apps (and pinned apps) should be grouped closer to the Desktop app tab.

    Problems with the idea:
    What is Microsoft trying to get at with Windows 8, the desktop, and Metro UI?

    Is Microsoft trying to create a Metro UI desktop experience? Yes, they are.
    Are they trying to improve the desktop too..? Yes...

    Well, which is it? What matters most? BOTH of them, of course. This new taskbar blends the idea of Metro and Desktop nicely. If Microsoft wanted to focus on Metro exclusively, then they would need to make the Desktop transition less jarring (which it still is to many). That means the desktop would be more Metro like. However, if you wanted a blended experience, first get across the idea that the Desktop is an application. How can you show that? The taskbar! The goal then is to make the taskbar conform to the new paradigms, but respect the paradigms that have been timeless to the whole Windows experience.

    Aside from philosophical decisions, this also raised other questions: what about the notification area (system tray, as referred to others)? Where do you put that if desktop is at the right and metro is at the left?

    Well... The notification area, as I see it, is an idea that exists purely in the Desktop portion of Windows 8, and not Metro. With this new blended Metro/Desktop taskbar, the system tray should exist only in/ with the desktop app. I think the UI designers would find a better placement for it, but just saying -- notification area = a desktop thing, and thusly should only exist within the desktop app.

    Don't forget!
    "Whereas Windows 7 was about returning to roots, Windows 8 is about maintaining those roots while moving forward in a big and new way."
    A Windows user, when moving to different versions of Windows, can always count on the start menu behaving like it always has and the taskbar existing always as a a way to switch apps.
    That is lost with Windows 8. With a taskbar in Metro, it can make it less scary and jarring when transitioning ideas. You're on a desktop, and you have a desktop. As recognizable as the Start button is, so is the taskbar. The Start Menu has been promoted to the Start Screen, and now exists as a above the desktop. The taskbar is also important, and one of the most recognizable features of Windows. Why not make it exist above the desktop too?

    P.S. -- Minor fixes to Metro UI's Start Screen
    The Start Menu for me has always served 4 purposes:
    1. Launching programs
    2. Easy access to popular Windows Explorer locations (Documents, Pictures, etc)
    3. Easy access to popular Control panel sections (Administrative tools, Networks and Printers, etc.)
    4. Power options
    With the start screen -- I can only see Launching Programs replicated at first glance.... So that makes one check....
    And then there apparently is an option to turn on some control panel tiles... So that kinda makes two (but its off by default, so not really..?).

    First, improvement to Launching programs:
    Classic view, like how the Control Panel does it.

    On a desktop environment, the big tiles are nice and flashy for typical users. For power users, we want information, speed, efficiency, and just things to either get out of our way or work with us.

    Simply said, too much of screen estate is wasted by the large tiles. Also, mice are very precise.

    What I want is a classic view. Yes, a listing of ALL PROGRAMS on the entire screen. Simple enough, and VERY powerful. It becomes more useful than the Start Menu (which needed /hacks/ to display multi-column number of programs). You have everything in this classic view and it behaves even better. Need I say more?

    About the other three:
    So... Where do I got to turn off Windows 8? Okay, maybe not in the immediate start screen, but somewhere easily accessible.

    Popular Windows Explorer links: the tile only opens windows explorer, to libraries. I know where I need to go, and the old Start Menu did that for me. Can there be a section where I pin some of my favorite hotspots on the program tile, or an area which slides out on tap/ hover or something that lets me pick where to go.
    (NOTE: With the new taskbar, with Windows Explorer already pinned, its less of an issue. Parallel it to breadcrum navigation and the up button. Which one works better? You decide. I'd like both :) !)

    Popular Control Panel links: when I hit the control panel tile, I don't expect to see a Metro-centric control panel. I want the full thing... So what I said for the above applies here too -- help me get where I want faster.

    P.P.S -- Restore functionality in the new Task Manager process view
    More specifically, selection of which column details to display. These details are important for the... Erm, detail-computer centric (like me). PID matters to me. Pages, virtual memory, private pool, public pool, execution path (!! this one is BIG -- it serves as an easy visual cue to malware!!), the whole schpeel. Don't forget it!

    P.P.P.S -- Highlight files with unicode filenames differently than regular files
    This request is mainly made as a response to the "Can we believe our eyes?" from Microsoft Malware Protection Center's blog post (http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2011/08/10/can-we-believe-our-eyes.aspx
    ). If NTFS alternate data streams are blue, can unicode be like... orange or something?

    P.P.S. -- new keyboard layout inclusions... please?
    Still requesting the Colemak keyboard layout (http://www.colemak.com/
    ) be included in some way shape or form... Anyone..?
    • Edited by Happy-Dude Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:03 AM
    Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:03 AM

All replies

  • Thanks Happy Dude!

    Regarding the Task Manager request:

    1) From the Processes Tab, right click on the columns (e.g. Right Click on Process) and you will get the option to add more details such as the PID.  This view includes the most commonly used columns.

    2) For more details you can select the Details tab and right click on the columns, choose Select Columns to get the details you are looking for. 


    David Perry - MSFT

    Friday, September 16, 2011 7:27 PM
  • I like this idea. So basically at the bottom of the Start Screen you will see a Windows Taskbar with your pinned applications and the "Show Desktop" button that acts like the current Desktop tile, right? If so, I would really like to see this idea implemented so that for desktop-oriented users the Start Screen is more like an overlay on top of desktop apps. For desktop users, the persistent taskbar will provide familiarity to the new system and if users don't want to see the taskbar for a more tablet-centric experience, then the option to auto-hide the taskbar will fit this situation well. The taskbar should hide for Metro apps like you suggested, but will come up by default when the Windows key is pressed. I find myself switching between Metro and desktop often and this new taskbar would really help with that.


    I also propose allowing the Start Screen to be partially transparent so that users can see what programs (Metro and desktop ones) are doing while the Screen is up. Also, an All Programs or All Apps tile, and Documents/Pictures/Music/User tiles on the Screen could help familiarize users with how the Screen is the successor to the Menu.


    Additionally, I think the Settings button on the Charm bar should have a Windows 7-esque pop-out menu for fast access to power options. The current method is great for touch users but not for mouse users.

    Friday, September 16, 2011 9:09 PM
  • Re the Colemak keyboard layout: You can easily create a Colemak layout yourself using the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator tool, which is available in the Download Center. (See http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=22339.)
    Saturday, September 17, 2011 9:08 AM
  • I second Happy-Dude from "A" to "Z"
    Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:34 PM
  • Great idea! Also, tapping in a blank area of the metro start screen should show/hide the proposed metro taskbar, like video controls in iOS
    Saturday, September 17, 2011 7:07 PM
  • The Metro interface is beginning to grow on me. Steven mentioned the fact that we need to give it time to see how it settles with each individual and it's certainly paying dividends for me. I own an iPhone 3GS and often want to quickly check out the weather or drop a quick tweet. When I hit the Start button on my keyboard, the Metro interface tiles quickly pop up and without wasting time I'm transported to my destination. It feels a lot like being on my phone and personally I find that a very soothing sensation. It's not jarring or abrupt and my entire concentration stays on the app in question. I've even begun to pin tiles of my frequntly used Windows programs. I'm beginning to like the Windows Task bar less and less. The main reason is Live Tiles. I'm predicting lots of Application Vendors will begin rolling out Live Tiles for their programs. So, for example, I could control my playlist from a Live Winamp Tile in Metro. That would be too cool. Right now you have to move your mouse over the icon in the taskbar to do anything meaningful. I like the idea of all tiles alive with information and feautres so that you can control most common features without diving into the application. Another plus for the Metro tile layout is that everything is clumped together so the eye doesn't have to do too much searching. In contrast, the taskbar (especially mine with well over 30 icons) can be quite distracting sometimes. The eye has to sweep right across.

    Like I said, the Metro interface is growing on me, and this with a keyboard and mouse.

    Having said that, I was APPALLED that I had to google how to shutdown and restart my computer. The best sequence I discovered on my own was by logging out from Metro and then shutting down. Please MSFT, how is Start -> SETTINGS??!?!?!->POWER the most intuitive way to shut a windows PC, hell any PC down. Shutdown is NOT a setting in any sense or manner!! It is a simple command to end your Windows session. Steven, you should have the head of the person who designed that on a plate! :P


    Did I mention I've used every windows OS since 3.1. I couldn't face myself while googling for the shutdown procedure. I kept praying that it was in an obscure, retartedly unintuitive location. Thank god my prayers were answered.

    • Edited by Gobledegook Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:12 PM
    Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:07 PM
  • I couldn't agree more, the concept of Metro is fantastic but it's execution can be a lot better.

    I suggest changing the style of the taskbar when moving between types of apps to let user to understand that it's not only a program running with a different style above the desktop, but instead it's a full, completely new interface working by itself.

    I would also suggest keeping the progress bar on the tasks, it's really important since you are moving the desktop to a different plane. Also pinning apps to desktop for those who want to blend the concepts in their own way.

    • Edited by Caian Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:52 PM
    Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:50 PM
  • For some reason, in Task Manager, in the Users tab... sorting on the columns didn't seem to work as expected. For example, clicking status didn't bring all the suspendeds to top/bottom. Same for other columns sorts... in Users.

    Task Manager tabs... I don't like using the word 'Image' for programs, processes or whatever. 'Instance' is a little more vague, but fits in with jargon. Image is a loaded word... pictures, graphics, images... they go together.


    • Edited by RpDnn Monday, September 19, 2011 12:09 AM
    Monday, September 19, 2011 12:09 AM
  • Love the Idea, only thing is: switch the Metro "start" and the Desktop "start". I'm used to the start menu on the bottom left corner.


    truthfully- we really don't  need the show the desktop button, if you want right click the taskbar, the metro start would be a better fit there.


    Absolutely genius idea

    Monday, September 19, 2011 12:35 AM
  • I agree completely with the ideas presented here. The concept of Metro is really, really good; Windows has needed a modernization and a reskin to keep competitive, but staying strong to it's roots and useful to it's power users is very important as well. However, I really can't understand all the hating (maybe that is too strong a word). For a pre-beta all the main facets of the OS work amazingly, with the exception of UI nitpicks. I mean, come on - this is a complete redesign of Windows. It's bound to have problems and inconstancies (even major ones).

    UI detailing, organization, and ordering is usually a later-development concern, even end-development. This is later-development, of course - but there still is a lot of time to go before everything is finalized. I'm not saying I like task-switching exactly the way it is (amongst other things, including app snapping and general functions); but give the guys here a break. They've done a great job. What it needs is a proper task switching interface, an easier, more intuitive way to shutdown, restart, etc., and more UI options for power users on Desktop PCs. With the proper work, Windows 8 could work great in both Metro and Desktop modes on both Tablet PCs and Desktop PCs.

    Personally, I like the idea of sharing a taskbar between Metro and the Desktop UI; with the desktop possibly being an app on that bar (or possibly not). Whenever a Metro App is opened, however, you would want to keep the immersion experience it is supposed to offer. There are a few ways this could be done.

    1. To access the "app bar" taskbar, you need to mouse-over the start area of the screen to access the general options menu which would then include a switch to activate the app bar. It could be activated and hidden at will.

    2. Remove access to the app bar while within any Metro-style apps, but keep it only on the readily-accessible Start Screen and Desktop.

    3. Include the app bar in the right-click menu of the various Metro Apps. This would allow for a nice experience in full-screen games, as they may not have a right-click menu and hence the app bar would be hidden and only accessible via the Start Screen (better for immersion).

    4. Similar to 3, include the App Bar in the right-click menu, but have it hidden at the bottom of the bar and accessed by a click-drag or simple click. This would be better as an option.


    And likely there are many other ways to do this as well. The point is to keep the OS consistent, intuitive, fluid, and immersive across all the UIs. I just hope that Windows 8 can hit these all on the head while keeping it as useful and powerful as possible.

    • Edited by Walkop Monday, September 19, 2011 12:56 AM
    Monday, September 19, 2011 12:43 AM
  • Personally I think we should borrow a page from Ubuntu and apple here (Read rest of post before flaming) Unity might not be the greatest idea ever, but I do like the idea of having a taskbar on the side that displays your open applications. You then have a bar that is displaying all your open tiles. it "grows" as you open more tiles down the side of the screen until it reaches your full screen space vertically and after that it closes that app. (desktop and laptop only) the computer can still suspend those apps on the app bar but one click will reopen them. You can also choose to "staple" and app to the bar, which means you want that app to always be open, on top and ready to go unless you manually close that tile out yourself. so something like IE or MS word when stapled would never slide down on the app bar and would always be on the top. you could also paperclip an app, which lets it fall and rise on the app bar depending on use, but never disappear off the bar. one click on the app within the app bar brings it up to the front again, while a right clip might bring up a context menu for settings on that app. (Media player might display start, stop, skip back or forward on a right click, IE might show what tabs you have open, mail might let you resync you mail account or go directly to your first 3 new messages) the app bar would have 3 options for display (always display, auto hide when tile is open but pop out when a keyboard shortcut is pressed or you mouse over in a certain way. Finally always hide would never show it unless you press the keyboard shortcut. finally every app in the app bar would have a close button and the very bottom would be a very small tab (like the tab on the taskbar on the desktop on the far right side in win 7) that would bring up PC options like log off, kill all apps, shutdown, switch users or some other options that need to be more easily seen but not displayed all the time.

    Monday, September 19, 2011 2:45 AM
  • I think the logical place for a task manager/task switcher would be attaching it to the "Charms" menu. Makes for easy app switching and killing and overlays full screen apps.

    It flows with the Metro design language yet still offers windows users a somewhat familiar "feel" to app switching it could also be assigned to an ALT+Tab keycombo.

    Please excuse the poor icons and spacing I whipped this up in like 2 minutes.

    For classic desktop users, I feel WIndows 8 should operate as closely to Windows 7 as possible. and standard ALT+Tab switching should apply.


    Not so much a "Taskbar" in the traditional sense, but a quick and easy way to see active apps that does not get in the way of the full screen Metro experience.

    • Edited by RobbCab Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:38 PM
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:28 PM
  • I'd like to see a taskbar being introduced in the metro startmenu... more or less like Rainmeter and Omnimo 4 can do when installed under Windows 7!
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:03 PM
  • Here's my opinion on these honestly..

    In windows 7, When you open Media Center, Are you not losing taskbar functionality until you either

    A) Put MC in Windowed Mode

    B) Exit it.


    Personally, I think a Taskbar in Metro would look ugly. They're doing Metro right, it's just not there yet.

    Your minor fixes to the start screen are also incorrect. You can do all this from the start screen... Have you not used Search? Just start typing say "Uninstall a Program" and then hit Settings on the sidebar, It should appear. If you want a list of all applications currently installed (There's no real way to do this yet), Just start searching, then backspace the search away. You have a Apps menu with all your classic clutter.

    Turning off Windows? Easy, Hover the left hand corner, click Settings, Power then select Power Off, Restart, or whatever.

    People who want to get to the full control panel from the Metro one can simply just scroll to the bottom and Hit More.


    Also you seem to strike me as a person who has never used Windows 3.1 or NT 3.51, There was no Taskbar. Windows 7 was not "getting in touch with it's roots" per-say. Windows 8 is really getting in touch with those roots in Metro by using Alt-Tab or by pulling another app in from the side of the screen if your working with two.

    You have no idea how many people I see online that say "OMG!! They got rid of the start menu!!" when it's really more like "OMG, They changed how we launch shortcuts (Again!)".

    Personally, I find Metro how it is now amazing. At first I was like "Ehh.. I'll give it a try.", but now I use it just like every other piece of the OS, it's like it's always been there for me. This is a big radical change the likes of which the computing world hasn't seen since Windows 95 was released when they changed from Program Manager to Windows Explorer.


    Keyboard layout inclusion however would be a great idea, I won't dispute that Happy-Dude.


    I must mention before I end this reply, that I am not a Casual user at all.. I am a power user, yet I still prefer simplicity which Metro brings very well. Can't wait to see all the changes they have in the Beta. Also I feel as though I must apologize for any wrong idea you may receive from this post, I'm merely pointing out that everything you ask about is there and simple to use. This post was not to sound mean or anything, but rather to inform.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012 2:31 AM