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Windows 7 Taskbar Not So Similar To OS X Dock After All 545

cremou brulee writes "Redmond's photocopiers have been unusually busy for the last couple of years, with the result that Windows 7 copies a lots of Mac OS X features. First and foremost among these is the Dock, which has been unceremoniously ripped off in Windows 7's new Taskbar. Or has it? Ars Technica has taken an in-depth look at the history and evolution of the Taskbar, and shows just how MS arrived at the Windows 7 'Superbar.' The differences between the Superbar and the Dock are analyzed in detail. The surprising conclusion? 'Ultimately, the new Taskbar is not Mac-like in any important way, and only the most facile of analyses would claim that it is.'"
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Windows 7 Taskbar Not So Similar To OS X Dock After All

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  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:24PM (#26569055)
    but is it better?
  • by Cyko_01 ( 1092499 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:30PM (#26569109) Homepage
    ..the article in one sentence:
    Mac OSX displays a button for each application open, and Win7 displays a button for each document that is open and then groups them by application.

    nah! that's not the same at all!
    • by spoco2 ( 322835 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:34PM (#26569137)

      And Windows never had a TASKBAR with BUTTONS for APPLICATIONS before Mac even had a dock.


      For god's sake, grow up, OSX is not some holy friggen grail of OSes that everyone copies you know.

      • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:43PM (#26569215) Journal
        It's called "nextstep". Look into it.
      • Sorry everyone, Wendy's had the Superbar long before anyone else. []

        Seriously though, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Who gives a shit if the "Superbar" looks like the "Dock" or if one car looks like another or if three movies came out this year with suspiciously similar premises.

      • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:50PM (#26569729)

        But when Apple copies something it's innovation. When Microsoft does it, it's child porn.

        • by spectre_240sx ( 720999 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:15PM (#26569887) Homepage

          Personally, I don't necessarily care if one company copies a good idea that another company has. What I don't like is when that company comes out and acts as if they were the first ones to have the idea and that it's better than anyone else's. Going a step farther, if they bastardize what they're copying and still proclaim its greatness, that's just utter bullshit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I agree, but enough companies do it often enough that I stopped caring that much. I favor openness and innovation over complete compliance with patent law/spirit of fair attributation, and though I think both are important, I feel it's more important to err on the side of innovation.

        • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday January 23, 2009 @06:40AM (#26572475)

          It's funny because it's true.

          I find the iPod's wheel is often described as a revolutionary peice of design and used as an example of the amazing things Apple does.

          Unfortunately, the Creative Zen had a side scroll wheel years earlier that you'd scroll up and down to scroll through songs and click in to select etc. etc. The wheel on the iPod is different only in that you move your finger round the wheel straight on rather than having a physical wheel you scroll up and down- the concept is identical, only the implementation is different.

          If anyone truly believes Apple is some great innovator and that there ideas didn't stem from existing ideas then they're pretty oblivious to how just about all businesses work. Apple did what Apple do well, they made the idea popular, making it popular doesn't necessarily mean they innovated and invented in the first place though.

          The usual hypocritical response by what I can only call the extremist element of the set of all Mac fans would probably be "the wheel is different because it's used front on therefore it's innovation" but to take that stance the hypocrisy is that one could equally argue that the Windows 7 sidebar is different enough to be classed as innovation rather than immitation then also, which you can be sure the most extreme of Mac fans simply would not accept. When they're forced into a corner of applying the same principles to Microsoft as to Apple or choosing hypocrisy, they choose hypocrisy.

          I don't hate Apple, I don't hate people who love Apple, I hate people who can't be objective and realise things for what they are.

          • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Friday January 23, 2009 @11:54AM (#26575141)

            Obviously it's an evolution, but it's a big one.

            Scrolling on the front wheel is a single continuous motion. On a side scroll wheel you have to stop, come back, and scroll again.

            Innovation doesn't meant that no one thought of pieces leading up to something, it means you made some jump in how those pieces were used that makes a significant difference in final quality/usefulness.

          • Unfortunately, the Creative Zen had a side scroll wheel years earlier that you'd scroll up and down to scroll through songs and click in to select etc. etc. The wheel on the iPod is different only in that you move your finger round the wheel straight on rather than having a physical wheel you scroll up and down- the concept is identical, only the implementation is different.

            Yes, the "concept" of a wheel to scroll through lists is the same. But the physical experience of the interface is actually quite different. On an edge-contact scroll wheel, you can only move the list as far as the length of your thumb (or finger) pad before you have to pick up and reposition. This limits how fast you can move through the list. On a flat-contact scroll wheel, you can scroll through an infinite list continuously, which is faster. And (crucial detail) the iPod software actually scrolls the li

    • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:49PM (#26569265) Journal

      Actually no, you're wrong--OS X displays a button every application that you decided to put in the Dock, whether they are running or not. Additionally, there is a document shortcut area of the dock which also shows minimized document/application windows (if document, independent of which app they are part of).

      • by The Great Pretender ( 975978 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:08PM (#26569843)
        The funny thing about this was that the OSX dock concept never worked for me while windows works fine. I was a windows user for years, I'm not even sure if I started before 3.0, but I remember most my grad work being done on 3.1. So Windows is engrained into my skull. When I moved jobs recently they had me use OSX (Leopard). I thought what a great time to check this out. After 1 year I insisted on going back to Windows, and Vista no-less. I'm not saying that OSX was bad, it was in my opinion as unstable as Vista and just as annoying with updates, hibernate, length of time for shut-down/start-up etc. What really did it in for me was the work flow, I was so used to Windows that I could never really jive with the Mac GUI and especially dock. I had lived for years off of the quick launch bar and instant document jumping via the task bar. Now likely I wasn't using OSX effectively, but I can tell you from an empirical 12 month test that clicking on a word tab at the bottom of the screen was more efficient for me than minimizing the document so that I could find it later as it went to the dock or hunting around all tiny images when using the Expose button. In addition the ugliness of having all those application 'listed' along the bottom of the screen by icon was not great either. To me the major space on the dock should have been for very quickly finding the document of choice, and the whole Stacks was just a fancy short-cut to the desired folder. I suppose that I came to the conclusion that I wasn't "metrosexual" enough to use a Mac. However, there was a bunch of things that Windows should be stealing from the Mac
        • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:29PM (#26569983) Journal

          You're not weird--some of the original MacOS Human Interface Guide (HIG) designers agree with you (e.g. [] -- many of your criticisms mirror his).

          When I got my first Apple laptop (10.3 powerbook) it took me awhile to get used to OSX. Probably because I was used to FreeBSD/Linux desktops, I adjusted fairly fast, and almost always have a Terminal window open. I remember a lot of frustration initially though, when I couldn't do things the windows way.

          Stacks (introduced in 10.5) were one of those things I didn't like at first, but now LOVE for my Downloads folder only. Making the screen corners hook to Expose were another thing that took some getting used to, but I now seriously miss when I'm using Windows/etc.

          I would say that OSX and vista re equally STABLE rather than unstable...though to be fair, I haven't had stability problems with windows since Win95/98/ME...

  • Disappointing (Score:5, Informative)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:35PM (#26569145)

    Normally Ars stuff is pretty good, but that article is *very* ordinary, with a lot of conceptual, functional and historical errors.

    The main thrust is correct, however, the Windows 7 Taskbar is clearly a descendant of its Windows 95 Great-great-grandfather, not the bastard child of NeXT and MacOS.

    • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:12PM (#26569455)

      As a Windows user, I found this article very informative. Every time I have used OSX in the past, I have been frustrated with the application/window behavior. Understanding the motivation behind the way the operating system UIs work will probably go a long way to reducing my frustration in the future.

      • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kent Recal ( 714863 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:56PM (#26569761)

        Understanding the motivation behind the way the operating system UIs work will probably go a long way to reducing my frustration in the future.

        Good luck with that, didn't work for me.
        I still use my macbook occassionally and I still hate their separation between window and application switching.
        In general, when I "ALT-TAB" (or "CMD-TAB" fwiw) then I want to quickly browse through all windows that are available to me. The UI is invited to provide a smart ordering for me (i.e. show other windows of the current application first) but the mental effort of distinguishing between a "window switch" and an "app switch" never worked for me.

        But frankly OSX as a whole just isn't for me - even though I really wanted to like it and literally worked for 2 months straight only on my MacBook in an attempt to learn it. The semantics of the dock are still counter-intuitive to me and showstoppers like mandatory click-to-raise or the absurd "magic titlebar" ultimately made me go back to my linux desktop.

        • Spaces (Score:4, Informative)

          by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:58PM (#26570237) Homepage

          You needed to use Spaces. Group any number of applications and windows into the same or adjacent spaces, then use control-arrows or control-numbers to immediately jump into the correct space.

          See: Confessions of a Space-o-holic []

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:36PM (#26569155)

    It waddles. It quacks. It's a camel!

  • KDE (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:42PM (#26569199)

    Windows 7 - KDE4 for Windows ~

  • 'Ultimately, the new Taskbar is not Mac-like in any important way, and only the most facile of analyses would claim that it is.'

    If by that he means to say that "the way it looks, feels and acts" are not important criteria for comparing the Mac OS X dock and Windows 7's Superbar, then I have to agree with him completely and whole-heartedly. I imagine the source code of each are completely different right?

  • Windows 7 'Superbar.'

    I'm going to get rich when I invent a machine that lets me stab people in the face over the internet.

    Except there wont be anyone to run my marketing campaign :(

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:53PM (#26569303)

    We arrived at the pretty much same place after starting somewhere else, so that makes it very, very, very, very different. Very.

    • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday January 23, 2009 @09:25AM (#26573451) Homepage Journal

      The suggestion elsewhere that an open source version of the dock might be called "SpackleMonkey" is apropos. If you patch leaky paradigms often enough, they begin to resemble each other: big balls of spackle.

      For me, the pre-OS X version of the Mac were about as good as things get. It was like those Japanese sedans that are alike as peas in a pod because their design was very task centered. I have found OSX just as annoying as Windows. Although it looks fabulous, it does so at the expense of getting in the way.

      This is the down side of Jobs' recreation of Apple. It is no longer a computer company. Yes, its still a user interface leader on its music players, but it's focus is on doing an impressive job on fine details. That works fine for iPods, but it doesn't work for computers, which users ask so much more of. The Dock is a prime example of a clever, obtrusive solution to a problem which had been handled with quiet competence before. In its jolly, gleaming, bouncy default state, it hogs huge amounts of real estate, jiggling and wiggling and generally calling attention to itself whereas everything it does was accomplished in less space, with less obtrusiveness in older versions of the operating system. You can tone it down, reduce it, and hide it, but aside from the fact it pops out when you don't want it, the Dock was designed to work best when it's just sitting there with a few big, fat icons. I do admire the magnification effect, which is a clever bit of UI spackle, but it would have been better to make it easy to launch/select with smaller widgets.

      The key, pre OSX user interface principle that Apple followed was deference to the user, and one aspect of that is that when the user arranges things a certain way, they should stay that way. This, of course, is impossible when you combine the functions of launching and switching. Once you've gone down that route, you've thrown away the user's ability to put launch functions where he can find them without thinking. To my way of thinking, anything that takes a user's attention away from what he wants to do is bad.

      After using OSX for about a year, I've concluded I'd rather use Vista, although it's frustratingly paternalistic, insisting on doing things on my behalf because it thinks it knows better. No, I don't want you to automatically install an udpate and reboot at 3AM by default, ruining a calculation that has been running for two days. But once you've fought it into a workable configuration, and thrown enough hardware at it, you can live with it.

      It's not that I'm anti-Apple. Their iPod user interfaces are clearly superior. While iTunes has serious defects, there's no question they're light years ahead on making the whole music store to player business work. They're just no longer a company that produces a great computer user interface, from the perspective of somebody who spends well over a thousand hours a year working on a computer. Gnome, KDE and Xfce are all better to work with on if you have to do complex things, hour after hour.

  • It is similar... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Junta ( 36770 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @09:54PM (#26569311)

    Yes, the fundamental philosophy each inherited is different, but in effect at the 'dock' or 'taskbar' representation, Windows 7 and OSX end up presenting things similarly.

    He makes the point that the OSX dock is for applications and that Windows is for each window, though Microsoft is heavily encouraging grouping that makes it seem as much like the dock as possible. True, in Windows this can be turned off, but that doesn't do anything to disprove the intent is to acheive the model the Dock presents. He says that when you close the last application window, it dissapears from the taskbar. The issue there is it behaves the same on Windows 7 and OSX, if an application exits, then the dock icon or taskbar presennce will disappear unless persistantly set.

    He mentions things like the presence of the notification area as proof of difference, but all it really proves is that MS had a few different design ideas as they went and they must support all of them as a consequence.

    Just like WindowMaker largely deals with non-GNUstep applications and makes them seem NeXT like through some of the best window group identifying methods in an X system, Windows is trying to fight clutter by removing quicklaunch and taskbar redundancy, and enabling the taskbar presence to be manipulated to replace system tray presence.

    • He mentions things like the presence of the notification area as proof of difference, but all it really proves is that MS had a few different design ideas as they went and they must support all of them as a consequence.

      You are exactly right... Apple has the handicap or luxury (depends on your viewpoint) of TWO persistent areas on the screen - the menubar and the dock. Windows has one - the "Superbar". Apple applications could put notification stuff in either the dock or the menubar, and most applications seem to favor the menubar. Incidentally, on my laptop this is a pain since it has run out of room and they don't have a way to unhide icons short of switching to an application with fewer menus!

      Anyway, I've digressed... b

  • Why didn't the author of the Ars Technica piece write it in such a way that we are in position to easily zoom the graphics? All detail is buried in tiny [un-zoom-able] sizes! I am not happy at all. Heck these are not the nineties.

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @10:34PM (#26569621)

    Did they copy it? Did they not? Do I care?

    Is it useful? Does it do what it should? Does it make my work easier? That's what I care about. There are things that are clever. And, bluntly, I'd rather have them copy a good concept than come up with a completely moronic one (Office 2007, I'm looking your way!) just to be "different", just to have nobody claim they "Xeroxed something else".

    Honestly, why should I care whether Windows, Mac, KDE, Gnome or whoever else copies anything from whoever? Ain't the damn patent lawyers not busy enough already, do we have to start with the same crap? What I care about is whether the system is reliable, fast and easy to use. Where they got the idea for it, I do not care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirSlud ( 67381 )

      You probably shouldn't care, because you don't. But some people do care, and some people work in fields where they *have* to care (well, more likely, they *like* caring about stuff like this which is why they work in UI and OS GUI development, either in programming or design fields.)

      Honestly, why should I care whether Windows, Mac, KDE, Gnome or whoever else copies anything from whoever?

      The article asked "is it a copy (ie, is it very similar)?" not "did MS copy Apple?" Those are two very different questions

  • Windows never had an "application switcher". It was always a window switcher. It just seemed like an application switcher when the processes all consistently only put up one top level window.
  • For as long as I remember now, I've wanted a way to do the following with the Windows Taskbar:

    1. Reorganize the order of what windows I have open

    2. Send windows to background taskbars (desktops), so I could be using different sets of apps at once

    Hopefully they could add some minor usability features like this; I feel like I'm regularly working against the taskbar to get things done.

  • The windows taskbar has long had the quicklaunch bar, as well as the ability to add other folders as toolbars pointing to whatever folder. So it has been both a application launcher (you could set large icons too) and a window manager for a long time. This goes way back. Now it seems the application launcher areas of the taskbar are less limited. Considering this, the changes in Windows 7 are only a very small step in the direction of the OSX Dock.
  • Slight exaggeration (Score:4, Informative)

    by atraintocry ( 1183485 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:07PM (#26569833)

    Windows 7 Taskbar Not So Similar To OS X Dock After All

    C'mon, this has to be flamebait. The article pointed out some differences, and mainly tried to make the window-centric-vs-application-centric distinction we all know about already. It didn't say that they "weren't so similar after all", because that's clearly false.

    The new taskbar is nice and it has a couple of features that the dock doesn't have and probably won't ever pick up. Specifically, the window thumbnails and the fact that "jump lists" (aka contextual menus) stay behind even when the app is closed.

    I'm not accusing MS of taking ideas. I am accusing them of taking too long to implement what was the optimal solution to a design problem. Having an icon on the desktop, in the start menu, the quick launch bar, and possibly the notification area...none of which correspond to the actual open windows, which are instead listed in the task bar: stupid. Not that anyone these days has a problem with it, but still, from a design standpoint it's wasteful and annoying.

    Ars is fishing for objectivity points here, and at best is running this as a dog-bites-man story (that is, "we know the new taskbar acts like the dock, and MS has a history of playing catch-up in this area, but you'll be surprised at what we think is the truth"). The fact that the headline on Slashdot exaggerates this further pisses me off quite a bit.

    If it looks like the dock, walks like the dock, and quacks like the know the rest.

  • Oh come on, now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @11:12PM (#26569861) Homepage

    The obvious change in the new Windows Taskbar is that there are icons for non-running-applications. I don't care how you try to word it, that is the major difference between the OSX Dock and the Windows Taskbar. So Damn right it is copying it.

    But is that really bad? Yes they copied good ideas, and perhaps made their own improvements to it. But that is how we get better software! Is this somehow wrong when Microsoft does it? You mean you really want Look & Feel Patents and Lawsuits? Don't be idiotic!

    And the Microsoft astroturfers should not be showing such knee-jerk stupid reactions. Why not say *proudly* "we copied good ideas and improved on them even more!" instead of convoluted arguments that somehow they did not copy it.

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