One of the things that you probably use the most on your Windows computer is the Taskbar, right? I’m not just talking clicking because think about how many times your eyes wonder down to see what time it is in the System Tray. One thing that I find that Windows Vista (to be released January 30, 2007) still lacks are some features that make using the Taskbar more efficient. Let’s see if we can find some freeware tools that will make things a little easier…
–What the Taskbar Can Do By Default–
There is one thing that the Windows Taskbar can do by default that most people don’t realize, and that’s performing operations on multiple windows simultaneously. This is by no means an extravagant trick but if you didn’t know about it then you’ll probably find it to be useful.
If you Ctrl+Click on multiple Taskbar items and then right-click you’ll be presented with some operations that you can perform on all of the selected programs. Whether it be closing them all, minimizing them, or tiling/cascading them so that they are easier to see:
–Easy Access Calculator (Homepage)–
Over time I have noticed that I trust my mental math less and I reach for the calculator more. I guess that is more figuratively speaking though, because more times than not I find myself popping up the built-in Windows Calculator to get the job done. Most of the time I am wanting to just add or multiply a few numbers so all I need is something simple.
Have no fear…the Taskbar Calculator is here! It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that your graphing calculator has, but I would say that it is a fair match for the Windows Calculator. All you have to do is type in an equation like “7+3″ and press Enter to have it show you the result. This could come in handy if you’re not a registered user on our site and you’re having troubles with the spam protection. ;)
–Virtual Dimension (Homepage)–
Virtual Dimension greatly surpasses the Windows XP PowerToy that Microsoft released for Windows. It does all kinds of really great stuff and even offers a window that can be placed on your desktop to show which applications are currently open on which desktop (pictured below). You can make that window as big or small as you would like.
As if a well-made virtual desktop manager wasn’t enough…this also adds features like minimizing a window to the System Tray or making it partially translucent. These options are available when you right-click on an item in the Taskbar and go to the Virtual Dimension menu (pictured below). There you’ll also find an option to move the application to any of your other virtual desktops. Talk about a great way to reduce clutter! The application officially works in Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP but I have also tested it in Vista and can verify that it works great on there.
This is one application that I am surprised Microsoft has kept so silent on. They haven’t even put GroupBar on the PowerToys for Windows page, but this is one thing that should definitely be on there. Here are a list of things that you can do with GroupBar:
- Drag and drop reordering of items in the Taskbar
- Drag and drop arranging of items in groups (pictured below)
- Perform actions on groups of windows such as closing, minimizing, or maximizing all of the windows in the group
- These bars can be simultaneously placed in multiple locations on the screen
- You can save the state of your open windows so that you can do things like restart the PC and quickly resume where you left off. You may want to be careful when using this feature though, because it isn’t like what happens when hibernating your PC. GroupBar tries to store key information about the program that you have open, such as with Microsoft Word it will store the file location of what you currently have open, and then upon restoring the session it will re-open the file. Saving sessions only works with the more popular applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, and Shell/Explorer (folder windows). It is customizable though, so you might be able to save sessions for other applications as well.
I talked about the next version of Windows, codename Vienna, in an article yesterday and offered possible solutions that Microsoft may use to replace the Windows Taskbar. New functionality is quickly getting limited and I think Microsoft has taken the Start Menu as far as they can in Windows Vista. There are few people in the world who have a good idea of what to expect in the next big release of Windows…but whatever it is will take some getting used to. By the time Windows Vienna is released we will have been accustomed to the Taskbar and Start Menu for 15-years, and I’m sure it will be hard to let go.