Windows Longhorn Concept Taskbar
(Click to Enlarge)

One thing that many Vista complaints have in common is that they nearly all say that “it’s not Longhorn.” That’s true, Microsoft made a lot of changes along the road of Vista’s development, and they burned through new concepts faster than a Hummer burns through a gallon of gas.

One concept that Long Zheng pulled up from the grave is a design showing off an extra-tall Taskbar, or what he calls the “double-decker” Taskbar (pictured above). In the design you see a polished interface for what we could be using right now in Vista, but Microsoft strayed from the idea.

If you’re like me you’ll sit there drooling at the image thinking to yourself “now that’s what I wanted to see in Vista!” But it took just a few minutes for reality to set in, and for me to realize what a massive hog that would be for your screen’s vertical space. It looks fine and dandy in a mockup, but when put in a real-life situation would it really make you more or less productive?

As it turns out all was not lost from that mockup. The bottom portion of what you see in the screenshot eventually evolved into what we now know as the Vista Sidebar. And before you go criticizing Microsoft for not even giving this a fair shot, it turns out that a similar feature, though not as polished, was available in Longhorn Build 4015 (leaked on April 28, 2003). Paul Thurrott had a screenshot of the feature in action:

Windows Longhorn 4015 Sidebar Taskbar Bottom
(Click to Enlarge)

I’m all for a newly redesigned Taskbar in Windows, but I’m glad that’s not what it turned out to be. I’ve come to love the Vista Sidebar now that there are some really great gadgets being developed for it, and I think I would leave it on the side of the screen even if I did have the option of placing it below the Taskbar. With widescreen monitors I have more horizontal screen space to sacrifice, and I have a hard time parting with my vertical screen space.

I’d love to hear what everything thinks about the Longhorn conceptual Sidebar/Taskbar combination. Before you jump to a conclusion and say that “it’s undeniably awesome,” you should think about sitting in front of a computer and using it. Would you be more or less productive by sacrificing the extra vertical screen space?