Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

Summary: Jump Lists are a new feature in Microsoft Windows 7 that are designed to make it easier to find what you want and perform common operations associated with an application. As I’ve been working with Windows 7, I’ve learned to take advantage of Jump Lists and really love the boost in computing efficiency.

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Guest post: For more posts from Greg Shultz, see TechRepublic's Microsoft Windows blog.

Jump Lists are a new feature in Microsoft Windows 7 that are designed to make it easier to find what you want and perform common operations associated with an application. Jump Lists appear on the Start menu as well as on the Taskbar when you right-click on an icon. As I’ve been working with Windows 7, I’ve learned to take advantage of Jump Lists and really love the boost in computing efficiency.

Recently, I was extolling the benefits of the Jump List to a couple of friends, and one of them blasted my newfound penchant, saying that the Jump List feature was nothing more than a glorified My Recent Documents menu. (Obviously, he is still using Windows XP.) I responded that he was actually right, but he was also wrong.

It’s true that the Jump List feature is an enhancement that can very easily trace its origins to the Recent Documents feature, which by the way first made its appearance on Windows 95’s Start menu as the Documents menu. However, delivering a listing of recently opened documents is but a small piece of what the Jump List provides.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll introduce you to Windows 7’s Jump List feature. As I do, I’ll show you the Jump Lists for several applications and describe the features in more detail.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a prerelease version and that the look and features of Windows 7 that I will discuss here may very well change between now and the time the operating system is actually released.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Jump List feature in a nutshell

The Jump List feature is designed to provide you with quick access to the documents and tasks associated with your applications. You can think of Jump Lists like little application-specific Start menus. Jump Lists can be found on the application icons that appear on the Taskbar when an application is running or on the Start menu in the recently opened programs section. Jump Lists can also be found on the icons of applications that have been specifically pinned to the Taskbar or the Start menu.

Jump Lists on the Start menu will appear a little different than Jump Lists on the Taskbar. However, they will provide the same functionality.

By default, the Jump List can contain the application’s shortcut, the ability to toggle pinning, the ability to close one or all windows, access to specific tasks associated with the application, and once you begin using the application, a list of recent documents or destinations depending on the application.

Now that you have a general idea of how Jump Lists work, let’s take a look at the Jump Lists for several applications.

Internet Explorer

Let’s begin with the Internet Explorer Jump List. In Windows 7, the Quick Launch bar is gone, and the Taskbar itself acts as a place to both launch applications as well as access running tasks. By default, Internet Explorer is pinned to the Taskbar and has a Jump List.

When you right-click on the Internet Explorer icon, you’ll see a Jump List like the one shown in Figure A. As you can see, the Jump List shows two sections, which are referred to as the Tasks section and the Destinations section. In this case, the Destinations section contains the History category, which as you can see is a standard History list, and the Tasks section contains the Taskbar tasks, which allow you to launch Internet Explorer and unpin or remove the application icon from the Taskbar.

Figure A

Internet Explorer’s Jump List shows two main sections.
When you launch Internet Explorer, the Close Window task is added to the Tasks section, as shown in Figure B. Of course, this new task allows you to close Internet Explorer.

Figure B

When an applications is running, a Close Window task appears in the Tasks section.
As you would expect, the items showing in the History category will cycle out of the list as new items are added. If you want to keep a specific item from the History category on the Jump List, you can pin it to the list. When you hover your mouse pointer over the right side of an item, a thumbtack icon will appear. If you click the thumbtack icon, that item will be pinned to the Destinations section of the Jump List in the Pinned category. This procedure is illustrated in Figure C.

Figure C

You can keep items by pinning them to the Jump List.

Windows Media Player

By default, Windows Media Player is also pinned to the Taskbar and has a Jump List. However, since Windows Media Player is a different type of application, its Jump List works and looks a bit different, as shown in Figure D.

In this case, the Tasks section has two separate panels, with the Tasks panel containing what are called User tasks and another panel containing the Taskbar tasks. The Destinations panel contains the Frequent category, which in this case lists frequently accessed locations inside of Windows Media Player. As you can see, this Jump List also has a Pinned category.

Figure D

Windows Media Player’s Jump List works and looks a bit different.

Paint

Now let’s look at a more standard type of Jump List , such as the one associated with Paint. When you launch Paint, its icon appears on the Taskbar, and right-clicking on the icon reveals a Jump List like the one shown in Figure E. You can see that this Jump List contains the Pinned category, the Recent category, and the standard Taskbar tasks. In this case, notice that the last item reads Close All Windows, because there are multiple instances of Paint running.

Figure E

The last item in the Tasks sections is Close All Windows, because multiple instances of Paint are running.
Applications that appear on the Start menu, either in the recently opened programs section or the pinned section, have a slightly different look. For example, the Jump List for Paint shows up as a submenu that appears when you hover over the icon on the Start menu, as shown in Figure F. You can launch the application by clicking its icon, or you can load any of the files from Pinned or Recent categories by clicking the item.

Figure F

The Jump Lists for applications on the Start menu appear as pop-out submenus.
You’ll notice that in this example Start menu, there are Jump Lists for XPS Viewer, Adobe Reader, Getting Started, Sticky Notes, Notepad, and WordPad. All these Jump Lists are similar to the one in Paint.

What’s your take?

I’ve shown you just a few of the Jump Lists that you’ll find in Windows 7, but there are many others that provide similar features. And, as applications begin to appear that are designed for Windows 7, you’ll start to see custom categories appear on the Jump Lists.

What do you think about the Jump List technology? Do you think that it will improve efficiency? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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15 comments
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  • It is nice to see MS innovating when no one else has been

    The OS market is full of "me-too" cloners so it is nice to see Microsoft innovating fantastic and useful features like Jump Lists.

    [i]Cupertino, start your photocopiers!![/i] :)

    Just like when Apple copied (poorly I might add) Windows' "Restore previous version" functionality with Time Machine, I'm sure Apple is going to copy this (poorly) but come up with a better name for it. Personally, I care more about the functionality than the name but the name seems awfully important to the Apple fans so I'm glad that while we get the functionality that makes us happy, they get the neato names (5 years later) that make them happy. Well, they don't get it for free of course, it costs them $500. :)
    NonZealot
  • Innovative & Useful

    As a student, I use the beta build of Windows 7 on a laptop and find jumplists overwhelmingly useful when I have certain items which work with certain programs, such as CNBC Plus, which only works in IE.

    So, open it in the program, sign in as required so it will be signed in automatically, then pin it in the jump list and viola, one quick click glide up, click on the link, and I have my live video in a couple seconds.

    The truth of the matter is that this, alike to the small touches inside Vista, make the experience that much better. Breadcrumb navigation introduced in Vista makes using Explorer in XP/2K horrible in my opinion, and the newer links on the left make Vista's seem that much out of date. The point of the matter is that it's the small touches that make a world of difference, and this is just one more of those,.
    clindhartsen
  • I don't need it because I use the Instant Search

    I don't need Win7 because with Vista I use the instant search for everything
    qmlscycrajg
  • Brilliant

    The jump lists feature is one of those
    innovations that when you first see them you
    can not understand why nobody got that idea
    before.

    IT pros understands the concept of processes,
    programs and applications. We understand that
    in order to interact with, say Excel, we have
    to <i>start Excel</i> first.

    The jumplists feature is thinking outside the
    box. A common user does not inherently think in
    running applications and processes. He/she
    simply knows that the computer "has" Excel. Why
    should it be so hard to interact with
    applications? Why should users solve puzzles to
    get work done?

    Avoiding the puzzles is what jump lists do.
    They merge the application specific actions
    with the OS primary navigation system. They
    blur the distinction between processes and
    installed applications. The main menu system
    expose very application specific features such
    as creating new documents, frequently used
    lists, management tasks etc. Without needing to
    start the app (process) first.

    Great innovation. Soon to be copied.
    honeymonster
  • RE: Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

    On first appearance, I hate it.

    I don't have icons on my desktop; I don't use the Recent Documents function nor the Recent Apps.

    I use the Quick Launch extensively for precisely the functions I choose in the precise order I want them, so I don't have to think about them.

    My object is to render the OS invisible and less distracting.

    How does one turn off this irritating Jump List "feature"?


    JJB
    JJ Brannon
  • Yes, Its great

    Its really a great feature.
    My desktop is clean now, as it does not have
    anything except Recycle Bin and My Computer.
    Now, I have put my Word Documents into some
    folder in My Documents (instead of putting 'em
    on desktop) and pinned them on jump list.
    Now, I no more need to explore to some folder
    to read my ebooks. I simply read them through
    my adobe reader jump list. I can go to some
    favorite folder of mine, just by going through
    pinned items in windows explorer.
    I can open some of my favorite images, just by
    going through my picassa jump list. I can
    access my favorite website just with my IE jump
    list.
    It actually save alot of time of mine.
    ArnavM
  • RE: Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

    I think the jump lists are a great idea in theory, and can really offer some time savings. My problem, however, is the fact that I use relatively few apps that really support robust jump lists. I use Firefox, not IE. I use foobar2000, Songbird, and VLC for media players; I don't really use WMP. While these still offer some functionality from jump lists, it is pretty basic in comparison to apps that were designed with jump lists in mind.

    I think once third party devs start designing apps to take advantage of these features, jump lists will become quite useful. Right now, however, they feel more like a marketing gimmick than a full feature. Hopefully they will become more used (and therefore useful) soon.
    waybj
  • Jump lists are nice to have, not must-have

    It's a privacy issue for me, and lots and lots of times jumplists appear to documents I've moved or deleted or created but not saved. Otherwise, the idea was not bad. But there's nothing revolutionary or killer about it that XP users would miss out on. It would have been nicer if Recent and Frequent could be enabled/disabled separately IMHO.
    xp-client
  • I already miss them

    I've just back-dated to Vista in preparation for the RC, and I already miss my jump lists. It was great to have all of my regularly used files and programs at my fingertips. I never liked the Recent Documents feature of years past as it could not be sorted or specified. I also am OCD about icons on my desktop so this was a wonderful feature to discover. I will be itching until I get them back.
    jlhuge
  • Ho-Hum

    Add a cumbersome variant of layer-layer-layer and submenu-submenu-submenu to get to my most common tasks. Scrap the QuickLaunch bar, which I configured for ONE CLICK access to my top-5 applications I use daily. Take away One-click and give me three- four- five- clicks or more to do the same thing? And expect me to quiver with expectant adulation? NOT!

    I launched the applications directly because there weren't enough MRUs on the list. I support 50 user groups, and usually get calls from about 10 groups a day - but not the same groups daily. MRU lists were impractical because of the large number of MRU's. There were just too many, and they fell off the list to quickly, even with the maximum list length.

    Once again, remove useful functionality because some tunnel-visioned geek in Redmond thinks they know everything.

    What good is a "jump list" with 30, 40, or 50 entries on it? It takes more time to find something on a list that long - especially when the names are numbers like "billing unit code" - it's easy to grab the wrong one in a long list.

    Jump lists are probably great for a same-old-same-old day-after-day in-a-rut worker. As long as you only do a few tasks on limited data, it sounds ideal.

    But for a dynamic environment, it seems like Jump Lists is just a rat-maze of hoops, that must be jumped sequentially. No more straight-line solution.

    And the straight-line functionality is removed.

    I remember another "great idea" in computing - Bob. It will be interested to see if Jump Lists end up sharing the closet space with Bob, quickly forgotten.
    oldbaritone
  • RE: ho-hum anonymous

    @oldbaritone you can pin any application to the task bar. simple. if you need to remote desktop to 10-20-30-50-etc computers in a day you just drag click or right click to open the jump list and select the one u want to connect to and there, its up and logged in instantly. if you want to have the quick launch functionality the only thing missed out on is individual shortcuts such as one click to open 10 text files in notepad. that now takes 2. but 99% of people will be opening an app and not a specific shortcut to one of 50 text files they add shortcuts to in the quicklaunch menu. also jump lists take at most 2 clicks. not 4-5 as you seem to think. why not try using it before ranting on about how horrible it is.

    as for disabling them. dont right click on the icons? if you disable it the only thing it'll change is that you cant right click them. or drag up on them.

    @anonymous (Jump lists are nice to have, not must-have)
    i completely agree, i was just looking for how to disable the recent documents part for individual apps instead of a giant on/off, but sadly you cant.
    justins7
  • RE: Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

    @oldbaritone you can pin any application to the task bar. simple. if you need to remote desktop to 10-20-30-50-etc computers in a day you just drag click or right click to open the jump list and select the one u want to connect to and there, its up and logged in instantly. if you want to have the quick launch functionality the only thing missed out on is individual shortcuts such as one click to open 10 text files in notepad. that now takes 2. but 99% of people will be opening an app and not a specific shortcut to one of 50 text files they add shortcuts to in the quicklaunch menu. also jump lists take at most 2 clicks. not 4-5 as you seem to think. why not try using it before ranting on about how horrible it is.

    as for disabling them. dont right click on the icons? if you disable it the only thing it'll change is that you cant right click them. or drag up on them.

    @anonymous (Jump lists are nice to have, not must-have)
    i completely agree, i was just looking for how to disable the recent documents part for individual apps instead of a giant on/off, but sadly you cant.
    justins7
  • Best thing about Win 7 is Jump Lists

    It has improved my productivity by 10-20 percent.
    amasys
  • RE: Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

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    r432
  • RE: Take a closer look at Windows 7's Jump List feature

    It's a privacy issue for me, and lots and lots of times jumplists appear to documents I've moved or deleted or created but not saved. Otherwise, the idea was not bad. But there's nothing revolutionary or killer about it that <a href="http://www.btscene.com/search/term/microsoft/cat/0/">Microsoft</a> XP users would miss out on.
    vero216