GroupBar Prototype from Microsoft Research

A recent post about Microsoft Scalable Fabric prompted me to browse through the MS Research Download page, where I ran across GroupBar [download]:
"GroupBar is a prototype for demonstrating the use of window-grouping features in an XP TaskBar-like interface. The window tiles in the GroupBar can be rearranged in any order or dragged and dropped into lightweight "groups" that allow one-click task-switching and convenient group operations."

Microsoft GroupBar

It's been available as a Microsoft internal download for a while, but was just released for public download earlier this month.

More info about it here:

I've used it a bit and really like the idea. One problem I've encountered is that it duplicates a lot of the functionality in the standard taskbar, but doesn't include the Taskbar Notification Area (do not call it the systray!), Quick Launch, etc. You can set your TaskBar to AutoHide, but clicking the GroupBar Start button causes it to pop up.

The GroupBar page has this tip, which helps a bit but is still kind of kludgy:
Handy usage tip: Resize (by unlocking and dragging the edge) the "real" TaskBar to be as small as possible while still visible (about 35 pixels wide). This allows you access to the systray and and any of your existing TaskBar deskbands (e.g. QuickLaunch). You can place GroupBar along the same edge as the existing TaskBar if you want.

It's way above the quality I'd expect in a prototype, but it's not at the integration level you'd expect for a full Windows feature. I've been playing with it off and on since it was released. It seems like it would be great on a big screen or dual monitor setup, but I'm not completely sold on the idea of running it along with the existing Taskbar.

I'd love to see this kind of grouping in tabbed browsers, by the way. That includes IE7. I use the Firefox SessionSaver extension to save tab groups, but it would be nice to have this a little more integrated with the browsing experience. Maybe if I used the GroupBar more, I wouldn't care so much about tabbed browsing, though.


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