Written by WATYF on Friday, 23 September 2011 (7625 hits)
Category: .NET Programming
Well... it's been about 800 years since I last posted something on this blog. There was a blog post that has been sitting in my queue (mostly finished but not published) since December of 2009. I finally threw that up today just for kicks (not that there's anything useful in the article ). I don't exactly take the time to write much any more... I've closed down the recording studio, so I don't even have the "musical" side of things going any more to post about... and lately I just haven't run into any programming problems that are interesting enough to post a solution for. But Microsoft decided to really, really piss me off again, thus awakening me from my slumber, so I've decided to come out of retirement to offer this (possible) solution for all you poor souls out there who have noticed that...
...WINDOWS DOESN'T HAVE DOCKING TOOLBARS ANYMORE??!?!?1!?eleven!?
With the advent of Windows 7, I no longer have an easy way to open all my apps... and what does a nerd do when his OS doesn't have a built in way to do something? That's right...
...he writes his own.
I'll be happy to tell you all about my custom docking toolbar, but first, as usual, I'd like to start out with some pointless and meandering ranting...
To be clear, this type of stupid move is by no means "news". Microsoft has been doing monumentally dumb stuff with their GUI's since Office 2007 (just see the many , many , many , many articles I wrote on that topic for more info)... but for some reason, even the disaster that is the Office "Ribbon" didn't cause the (literal) jaw drop I did when I found out that Microsoft has completely removed the docking toolbars that have existed in Windows since... well... the beginning of time.
I've been using a left-side, auto-hiding, docked toolbar with shortcuts to all of my commonly used applications for about a decade now, and it's one of the handiest parts about Windows. I don't have to dig through submenus... I don't have to "pop up" a quick launch menu or do anything involving menus or multiple clicks... I just whisk my mouse over to the left side of the scene and instantly there are shortcuts for every app I would ever need to use 95% of the time.
(the concept of "one click", of course, being something that Microsoft has completely forgotten about in their ridiculous new UI methodologies)
Some time ago, I got stuck with Windows 7 on my home laptop. It's 64-bit machine and putting my old XP Pro install on there would have been a huge hassle, so I figured I'd at least try to make Windows 7 work. This involved numerous registry hacks and digging around for hard-to-find customizations along with several different third party applications that were needed to get WIndows 7 back to a "usable" point. And the lack of docking toolbars was probably the biggest issue. It was a deal breaker for me. There was NO way I was going to hunt around in menus or use so much as a single click more to get to stuff that I've been instantly able to access for ten years, so I went out to find a third party app that might be able to emulate that feature.
Long story short (this is short???) I found a few third-party docking toolbars... Nexus... Sevendeskbar... and Rocketdock.
First I tried Sevendeskbar... it had an issue with auto-hiding that rendered it unusable. I also didn't like the way in which shortcuts were added.
Rocketdock didn't even look like something I wanted to use (YMMV).
Then I tried Nexus. That worked for a while... it took some time to customize it (it's very Apple-esque out of the box) and even then there were a few small nagging issues, the main one being that the toolbar would "steal" the cursor focus every time you activated it (for example, if you had the cursor in a text field on a browser and then moved your mouse out of the way and it moused-over the toolbar, the cursor would no longer be in the text field in your browser). Also, it doesn't stretch the whole length of the screen (top to bottom) so you can't just drag your mouse anywhere on the left side to get it to pop open... you have to drag it to exactly where the toolbar is.
I dealt with it for a while. It wasn't bad. Definitely better than nothing, but when my work decided to make me use Windows 7 as well, I figured a second look was in order. There weren't any new contenders out there so I bit the bullet and started looking into writing my own toolbar.
It was a long and painful journey (which may be chronicled in future blog posts), but eventually I came up with my usual "hack" way or writing something that did what I needed.
I'm offering it here free of charge with one caveat... it isn't customizable. I wrote it for myself, so it's suited to me. It docks on the left side. It's auto-hiding. It uses small icons with no text. If that's how you like your toolbar, then this is probably the closest app out there to the old XP docking toolbars. If that's not how you like your toolbar... then there's not much this app can do for you.
Now, I don't discount the possibility that I will add customization features in the future (ability to dock on right or top, ability to change the size of icons and add text, etc) if there appears to be sufficient interest, but for now this is just me throwing it out on the internet in case there's someone else who's a annoyed as I am about the removal of docking toolbars from Windows 7 and just so happens to like the same kind of toolbar setup that I do.
So, without further ado... here's a link to the setup program. Use this at your own risk and have fun.
Oh yeah... and I've included a screen shot of it in case you wanna check out the goods before you commit to a download.