Taskbar thumbnails and tooltips delay RRS feed

  • Question

  • So thumbnails are useful for some applications/documents, particularly those with a highly graphical nature. However, distinguishing between half a dozen Windows Explorer windows through thumbnails is hopeless and Excel, while showing each document as a different taskbar button, does not provide thumbnails of each document so this feature is useless. (Hey, Microsoft, how about an Excel 2007 update to allow document thumbnails to be displayed?!)

    Therefore, having the windows title appear in the tooltips above each thumbnail is often the most useful way of destinguishing between them. There are 2 problems with the interface:

    1) (A problem since Vista) is that first there's a delay before the thumbnails pop up, then there's a second delay before the tooltip pops up above the thumbnail. The time between hovering over a button and seeing the text tooltip becomes significant enough to be annoying. If there's an option (even hidden in the registry) that lets you control these delays I have yet to find it.

    2) The text tooltip only shows up for the thumbnail you hover the cursor over. Again, I don't see the point of this. If you're dealing with an application where different windows are more easily destinguishable by their text labels, it would be useful for all the tooltips to show up at the same time so you can quickly find the window you're looking for.

    Ideally, I'd like to see the tooltips for all thumbnails come up at the same time, which is simultaneous with the thumbnails and I'd like to see the thumbnails come up faster.

    Now, I'm sure there's probably some well thought out reason why the UI has been designed this way, but it just doesn't work for me. So how hard would it be to include adjustment to these delay times in the settings somewhere and an option to have all tooltips come up at the same time? This wouldn't affect the default behaviour but would make life far less frustrating for more advanced users.

    In any case, if there is a hidden registry settting or something that can affect this behaviour, please let me know.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 9:06 PM


  • Those are good ideas, and you should send feedback on them. I will pass them on too.  

    There are not any available registry changes that would do that, from what I have seen so far.

    Rating posts helps other users
    Mark L. Ferguson MS-MVP
    • Proposed as answer by Alex T Jr Friday, January 16, 2009 8:05 PM
    • Marked as answer by Mark L. Ferguson Monday, January 19, 2009 4:40 PM
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 1:49 AM

All replies

  • Those are good ideas, and you should send feedback on them. I will pass them on too.  

    There are not any available registry changes that would do that, from what I have seen so far.

    Rating posts helps other users
    Mark L. Ferguson MS-MVP
    • Proposed as answer by Alex T Jr Friday, January 16, 2009 8:05 PM
    • Marked as answer by Mark L. Ferguson Monday, January 19, 2009 4:40 PM
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 1:49 AM
  • When you say I should send feedback, do you mean through the feedback link on the titlebar of most windows? I have been sending feedback through that link. Is there anywhere else we should go? I also try to post here in hopes that someone with the power to make changes will care somewhere... :)
    Monday, January 19, 2009 4:58 PM
  • Yes. If you had an MSDN subscription, the "Connect" site for beta work allows bug filing. I will pass this along. Thanks.
    Rating posts helps other users
    Mark L. Ferguson MS-MVP
    Monday, January 19, 2009 5:13 PM
  • Hi again,

    I'd like to elaborate on this if maybe you can pass the feedback onto the right place. (Not that I think there are going to be many UI changes between now and the release, but I'll try...)

    I've noticed that the Window title IS displayed above the thumbnail, if AND ONLY IF, the application windows are grouped in the taskbar. So if you use the (default) always group windows or if you use group when taskbar is full and you have enough windows so that an application get grouped, then the titles are displayed above the thumbnail. In the latter case, only the grouped application's thumbnails will have titles. The applications that are still ungrouped will not have titles.

    I don't really understand why this distinction is made. There should be titles above all thumbnails, or at least an option in the taskbar customize control panel to enable this.

    However, the problem is that even when the titles are displayed, only 1 line of text is used. So if the title is too long to fit above the thumbnail in one line, then it is truncated and part of it is replaced with "...". Again, I find title text is often more useful to destinguish between windows of applications where there is not enough graphical or layout detail to make thumbnails useful. So if the title is truncated it may not be possible to distinguish between windows with similar titles. So you again still end up requiring having to individually hover over each thumbnail (or taskbar button if ungrouped) to bring up the tooltip which will have the full title without truncation.

    So if UI remains the same, at least having the option to bring up the tooltip faster or instantly (and bring up the thumbnails faster or instantly) will be useful.

    However, what might be better is having the option to use multi-line titles so if the title doesn't fit fully above the thumbnail it will be expanded to multiple lines so all of it can be seen. Then if you have multiple thumbnails you can see simultaneously the full title of all of them, rather than having to view them one by one.

    Also, I personally much prefer to use the group only when taskbar is full option as it's faster to find and jump to specific windows ina single step. However, there's the same problem: window title on the taskbar buttons are truncated.

    There are a few things that could be done to improve this. For intance you could have variable width buttons to accomodate the title length of the window. Not useful once you have lots of windows open, but could be useful when you only have a few.

    Another option is that now that the default taskbar is a little taller than in Vista and XP, there's actually enough room to put 2 lines of text in the taskbar button. I'd argue that if the title can't fit in one line, there should be an option to use 2 lines so that the start fo the title could be shown on the top line and the end of the title on the bottom line.

    Why is this useful? There's an option in Explorer to show full pathnames in Windows. If this is enabled, it often becomes impossible to destinguish between windows of different subfolders since the part of the title visible in the taskbar button is the same (that of the root folder path). However, when doing things like transfering files across the network, where the path is different but the subfolder name is the same, it becomes impossible to destinguish windows in the taskbar if you disable the show full pathname. However, if you enable showing full pathname and both the start and end of the title is shown on 2 lines in the taskbar, it will always be possible to destinguish between different windows without having to resort to waiting for tooltips to popup.

    Note: the aero peek feature in principle can also help destinguish windows, except that Explorer windows no longer show the path in the Explorer window title so you have to look at the address bar for the path. However, due to the breadcrumb feature, you often only see the end of a path so you can't tell, for isntance, if you are looking at the local folder or one with the same name on the network. So again, you've either got to pop up each window and click within the address bar to see the full path or resort to waiting around for the tooltip to popup with the full pathname.

    While these are relatively subtle changes to the UI, I really do think they'd make working with Windows, especially Explorer windows, much more efficient. At least they way I tend to work they would.

    Again, if there are specific reasons the UI works as it currently does, this doesn't preclude adding my sugestions as options which are off by default. There could be an 'advanced' options button or control panel if Microsoft feels it's necessary to obscure some options from mainstream users. But the options should still be there for advanced users. I'd even be happy if options are hidden in the registry, and they produce a 'tweakui for win7' powertoy to simplify changing advanced options...

    Monday, February 9, 2009 12:54 PM
  • Magritte,

    I'm in total agreement with you on the tooltip issue. Now I could probably venture a guess why a delay for a tooltip, when you design pretty things you try to keep things is some graphical harmony. The Preview is a fantastic productivity improvement (IMV) and I suppose for most ordinary people eliminates -hopefully- need for a tip. I'm saying this because the tooltip is very likely viewed by the design team as something somehow not worthy of showing all the time. We have this cool preview and then this unsophisticated tooltip. Trouble is that you are absolutely correct with respect to object navigation and recognition, in circumstances you describe.

    I could be wrong, but everything moves in the direction of designing a UI which is very rigid as far as layout. I like nice graphics and all but one needs to be careful not to go form over matter too much. Sure they could have put the entire title in the preview thumb, but that would result in thumb image being sometimes pushed down and thumbs moving up/down inside of preview frame as you roll over taskbar items. I'm pretty much 100% certain someone said "errr...this is no good". Of course easy solution would be to put window title on the bottom instead and then your preview expansion logic is not compromised if more lines of title appear. Same goes for the multi-line taskbar button title or lack there of. It would create in most cases a cluttered, seemingly disorganized look not worthy of the aero this, and pretty that. As a professional using computer for serious work I'm with you, though speaking as UI designer, I do see their point. It is a weigh-the-options kinda thing.

    I suppose the need for textual descriptions some of us miss are to some degree "fixed" by Aero-Peek. I do have to say that I actually use that more that textual info. Trouble is that you can easily get this feature to falter. Maybe it's the way I operate my mouse, but that is the way I do and it makes sense to me. I.e.hover over one preview item then move back up to taskbar and then over to hover over another item. As soon as its preview appears move down quick straight down over new preview - no Aero-Peek. And all those delays do make for more pretty desktop I'd agree, somehow more an appliance than your ordinary PC, but for some (a lot?) of us, they do decrease productivity by a significant margin.

    But even with that said, for the life of me I cannot figure out why does MS hate giving us layout, behavior options so very, very much - it seems. This I can't understand neither as a professional nor software designer. With respect to taskbar's tooltips of course we should be able to set:

    • Preview delay
    • Tooltip delay
    • Show full titles in preview
    • Preview title position
    • Always show title in preview

    All these values have to be determined by the Explorer's UI anyway so there is no reason not to give users control over them. And yes, I too hope there will be an extensive TweakUI for 7 powertoy coming. It is definitely needed. Of course developers need to make provisions for particular tweaks to be even possible in the first place.

    Monday, February 9, 2009 2:02 PM