Vista StartMicrosoft published an interesting patent on July 12th that details what could very well be a Windows Taskbar replacement. The images associated with the application can be viewed in this PDF that I put together, otherwise you need to have a TIFF image viewer (or QuickTime) installed to view the images in your browser.

The patent details what Microsoft calls Clipping Lists, and the details at this point are pretty slim. The Microsoft Research group working Clipping Lists say that it will offer:

  • Significantly faster task completion times
  • Significantly fewer task switches
  • Adding change detection is even better!
  • Faster task resumption after switch

As with all patent applications the mockups are in black & white with poor quality, so it’s hard to make out what Microsoft is really trying to get across here. For comparison sake this is what the patent demonstrates as the current state of the Taskbar:

Windows Taskbar

The new Clipping List will let users group and order applications in a sidebar in whatever fashion they would like. Here’s a mockup of what that might look like:

Windows Clipping List

To make it easy to monitor the progress of running applications you could expand them to contain a thumbnail. For example, at a glance you would be able to see when your presentation software is done loading a video:

Windows Clipping Lists

Looking around I came across a presentation that was given on the Clipping Lists, and it had screenshots that were a little more colorful but still lacked any elegance:

Windows Clipping List

There you can see what two "categorized" items look like with some live previews of the running application.

It’s still not clear whether Microsoft has intentions of replacing the Taskbar in the next version of Windows (due out in 2009), but I definitely welcome something that is more productive. I think that Microsoft is on to something with their ideas here, and with the increasing popularity of widescreen monitors it is inevitable that the Taskbar will move into the sidebar.

So what do you think of the idea? Do you think that this is more productive than the current Taskbar and Mac OS X’s Dock?

Source: I Started Something