How to make the Windows 7 taskbar better in an instant

I’m a huge fan of the new Windows 7 taskbar. From Jumplists, to pinning icons to the taskbar, to the long-overdue option to juggle icons into whatever order you wish, it makes my working day precisely 62% easier.

However, there is one thing I’m not so keen on: the habit of piling multiple windows from the same application behind one another like a deck of cards, like so:

Icons stacked

This is particularly problematic with Outlook 2007. Quite often I have multiple emails open at the same time, and there’s no way to sort between them at a glance. Yes, I know I can hover over the Outlook icon to get the thumbnail previews, but that makes opening the email a two-step process with a little pause in between, while you wait for the little thumbnail animation to appear.  In the words of the immortal DI Grim from The Thin Blue Line, I haven’t got time to “fanny around” with that “namby pamby, hoity toity” nonsense.

Thumbnail-previews-462x85

Worse still, alerts such as meeting reminders often get hidden behind that Outlook icon. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to apologise for arriving late at a meeting recently because the alert was tucked behind the fourth blade.

There is, however, an easy solution. Right click on a blank space on the taskbar, choose Properties and choose Combine When Taskbar Is Full from the Taskbar Buttons dropdown menu. Now you’ll get the best of both the Vista and Windows 7 worlds: chunky taskbar icons, with each window given its own icon and small text labels to boot.

Taskbar-ungrouped-462x17

On a 1,280 x 800 screen you’ll get enough space to squeeze in six or seven icons, which is probably enough to suit most people’s needs. The worst that can happen is the windows start stacking up again, so you’re no worse off than you were previously. And you won’t need to apologise for missing meetings.

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