That "unlocked" Windows 7 taskbar is also unfinished

That "unlocked" Windows 7 taskbar is also unfinished

Summary: My hat’s off to blogger Rafael Rivera, who returned from last week’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference and apparently didn’t sleep until he figured out how to unlock the flashy new Superbar interface that Microsoft showed off at PDC but didn't make available to PDC attendees. Rafael's clever hack does indeed unlock an alternate interface for Windows 7 Build 6801, but in this post I want to throw a giant bucket of cold water on your expectations. The unlocked interface is missing some key features, as I explain.

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My hat’s off to Within Windows blogger Rafael Rivera, who returned from last week’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference and apparently didn't sleep until he figured out how Microsoft had hidden Windows 7's flashy new Superbar interface. The Superbar was on display in every demo, but it's MIA in the builds that were handed out to PDC attendees (including yours truly). As Rafael noted in his post, he "stumbled upon an elaborate set of checks tied to various shell-related components, including the new Taskbar."  He’s posted the unlock instructions over at his website.

Here’s the short version: Download the small UnlockProtectedFeatures utility program, change permissions on Explorer.exe, kill the Explorer process, and then start UnlockProtectedFeatures from an elevated command prompt. Here's what it looks like:

Unlock protected features utility from Rafael Rivera

I’ve downloaded the simple utility Rafael created, tweaked file permissions per his instructions, and successfully revealed the larger taskbar.

And now I want to throw a giant bucket of cold water on your expectations. Although this technique unlocks an alternate interface for Windows 7 Build 6801, it does not mean that you will see the interface Microsoft showed off at PDC. I spoke with Rafael yesterday and he confirmed that the “unlocked” UI has a number of odd behaviors that suggest it is incomplete; he's also updated his post accordingly.

So what's wrong with the Superbar in build 6801?

For starters, every taskbar button on the unlocked 6801 taskbar has an arrow that appears on its right when you move the mouse pointer over it. (The technical term for this is a “split button.”) That arrow is gone from more recent builds. In a PDC presentation entitled Design Principles for Windows 7, Microsoft ‘s Samuel Moreau showed this exact design and indicated that it had been rejected in favor of cleaner, more current designs. (Fast-forward to just past the 30:00 mark to see the full discussion.)

Here’s the rejected design that Moreau showed off. See that arrow to the right of the Word button? That's a split button. Click it to display the Jump List for Word.

Rejected design for Windows 7 taskbar

Now look at the unlocked taskbar in Windows 7 Build 6801, the one handed out at PDC. You can see the same split button and the same behavior where I've clicked to the right of the stack of Explorer buttons.

Unlocked taskbar from Windows 7 Build 6801

And here’s the (presumably finished) design as it appeared in the PDC builds:

Windows 7 taskbar design as shown by Microsoft at PDC

Other features are missing or incomplete as well. The Peek feature doesn’t work with thumbnails on an unlocked 6801 build; you have to click on a thumbnail to switch to the window before you can see its contents.  (For details on how the Peek feature works, skip ahead to the 33:00 mark in Moreau’s presentation and watch for about two minutes.) Jump Lists aren’t working on the Start menu, nor is the Show Desktop shortcut in the lower left corner working as expected.

In short, it looks like one small piece of the Superbar is included in Build 6801, but other crucial components and functionality are missing. That will lead to a woefully incomplete picture for anyone who tries to follow these instructions and thinks they’re seeing the real Windows 7 user experience.

So why is this happening?

It helps to look at the date and time stamps on the Windows system files in the 6801 build. Most of them are dated September 14, which indicates the date the build was finalized. It typically takes at least a couple weeks of testing and tweaking from the time a milestone candidate (in this case Milestone 3, or M3) is locked down and when it’s declared fit to ship. So the user interface available in the PDC builds is at least two months old and could be more than three months old.

So, hats off to Rafael for his mad reverse-engineering skills, but don’t expect too much from the unlocked Windows 7 interface.

Update 6:30PM PST: Steven Sinofsky pops by the Talkback section and leaves this note below:

You've got it right. Our plans were to complete the user experience for the beta milestone and the PDC build is the M3 milestone (final stop before beta). So the UI is not complete in either functionality or design.

This doesn't represent what we showed at the PDC demonstrations as you correctly point out (based on Sam's session).

Fortunately, there's plenty of stuff that's already finished (or mostly so). 

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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Talkback

41 comments
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  • Completely defeats MS' purpose....

    The whole idea was to show complete features. Unlocking incomplete features will have a negative effect when people start finding the bugs. Good idea MS to keep these features locked that weren't complete, but unfortunately they were unlocked.
    dcoaster
    • Not completely... this build is for narrow distribution

      MS' doesn't intend for this version to have wide distribution anyway. If this distribution was controlled, there would be nothing to unlock. To those who didn't get a copy directly from MS, then they shouldn't be upset if they are exposed to uncompleted features, especially if such features required special steps to expose. For those not running this build at all, these trivial superbar distinctions have little meaning.
      blimey
  • Getting excited over a taskbar...

    Hop over to the KDE stand and see what MS could do (if it copies correctly).

    Nothing new.
    nizuse
    • Wow.

      What a stupid comment. Just because they're using 32x? icons doesn't mean they're copying them. Also Win1 had 32x? icons. Get over yourself.
      Panda X
      • It's not the icons....

        It's has lot of the same features and looks.
        mrlinux
        • ...

          KDE took its looks from Windows, second what features are you talking about? Seriously has anyone thats comparing Windows taskbar to KDE even used KDE before? I seriously doubting it.
          logicearth@...
          • KDE goes beyond Windows

            It is far more customizable. Although for some it is "too" customizable, KDE is still nicer than any Windows task bar. Although the Vista search box does work better.
            T1Oracle
    • Actually...

      I have, and personally I think KDE sucks.
      To each their own I suppose, but I just don't se where KDE is so great. But again this is a personal opinion.
      ShadowGIATL
    • I originally had the same thought

      It looks like KDE. I'm assuming it has some other new features.
      storm14k
    • Speaking of copying......got one word for you.

      Vixta. <br><br>
      http://www.linux.com/feature/120278<br><br>
      Read the first sentence for Vixta's entire purpose in life. <br><br>
      Should i be laughing now? Or is that a distro that doesn't count? <br><br>
      It's like watching one of those Linux vs. Windows (vista) youtube videos where they show the "burning" menus over and over again, as though at some point it would somehow become cool, or the useless cube graphics. <br><br>
      The truth is KDE is very good, but it still is a little kludgey and simply is not nearly as polished and appealing overall as the Vista and aero UI. <br><br>
      Don't get me wrong, it's getting close. What's a good comparison.....linux gives you SDTV and Vista is HDTV. I think that is fair. <br><br>
      That being the case, what would MS want with anything from KDE for Windows 7? That is nonsensical. ;)
      xuniL_z
  • Jump Lists.

    Jump lists work fine for me in the start menu of 6801. Just how they were shown in 6933. But yeah the Aero Peak and SplitButton are a bit picky. Other than those 2 things, I believe it's a great change.
    Panda X
    • Yeah.

      It takes a while for the jump lists to start collecting "recently opened" items on the start menu for some reaosn, but it does indeeed work properly.
      Alan Burns
  • Indeed.

    You're correct.
    Panda X
    • Whoops.

      Message originally for dcoaster's reply.
      Panda X
  • Thanks for the commentary

    Ed,

    You've got it right. Our plans were to complete the user experience for the beta milestone and the PDC build is the M3 milestone (final stop before beta). So the UI is not complete in either functionality or design.

    This doesn't represent what we showed at the PDC demonstrations as you correctly point out (based on Sam's session).

    --Steven Sinofsky (blogs.msdn.com/e7)
    steven_sinofsky
    • Thanks for the info Steven.

      I feel some great work coming out of Redmond. Thanks again for yours and the Windows team's hard work to regain the "hype" for Windows that has since moved to the "other side".
      dcoaster
      • Well done Steve?

        Don't bee too keen to congratulate Redmond let them put something on the street a bit closer to a beta first. Other bloggers seem to be suggesting MS is going to screw upgrades yet again.

        If you want thank them for their hard work then also suggest they get rid of the idiots in their black team who seem to be up to their tricks again in both Vista and XP trying to screw the competition (eg Firefox) with "security" updates which happen to bring back memory problems -have you not noticed Firefox has just got slower again and started using more memory for no apparent reason.
        martin23
        • ...

          [i]"have you not noticed Firefox has just got slower again and started using more memory for no apparent reason."[/i]

          Maybe you should take that up with Mozilla that there product is preforming under your expectations. I don't see how Mozilla's inability to work with the new security model of Windows Vista is the fault of Microsoft.
          logicearth@...
          • We have been here before?

            Ok some of us who have been around for a while know what games MS got up to with Netscape and they seem to be doing the same again. Nothing to do with Mozilla just MS playing tricks they need to get market share back for IE and so .....

            Its easy to test just keep a system away from MS updates and check the difference.

            Or you could fall for the same idea that MS has sold for years that somehow the coders at Mozilla (any other third party software company) just get confused. My experience was that it was always the MS coders who were weak.
            martin23
          • Then please backup...

            ...your claims with proof, I'll very much like to see it. I want to see how Microsoft is making it impossible for Firefox to perform and work with memory. So come one lets see the evidence not half baked conspiracy theories!
            logicearth@...