A typical taskbar button on Windows provides the user with the name of the active application, as well as an icon to identify the application. When you click on this taskbar button, the application will either appear or minimize to the taskbar. This is a simple and well-known procedure when it comes to Microsoft's Windows operating system.
In a patent filing revealed today, Microsoft has filed a patent for a 'rich presentation taskbar button' that takes the typical taskbar button behavior to the next level. In fact, Microsoft is labeling this as an invention.
The way it works is simple -- hovering over the taskbar button offers you a preview of the application or offer the user dynamic information relating to that application. For example, when you hover over the Windows Media Player taskbar button, you are shown a dynamic preview of the application, along with simple controls to pause/play or skip a track.
For the most part, this feature has been present in Windows and we have been using it for quite some time now -- a feature called "hover preview." However, the patent filing reveals other ideas and uses for the rich presentation taskbar button, including the ability to see sports results, news events, buddy lists, and much more.
"This type of rich presentation taskbar button can display a wide variety of information such as but not limited to multiple icons, icons of different sizes, special formatting of text, animations, scrolling text, dynamic information that is updated on an ongoing basis and that pertains to the application useful to the user, etc. Such information may include, for example, dynamic information pertaining to the application. Examples of dynamic information associated with the application that may be displayed in a rich presentation taskbar button include status information, progress meters, or other information that may be provided by the application such as securities information, weather forecast information, sports results, news events, auction results and status, application status information, buddy lists, etc," the patent filing states.
Example of a jump list for the Windows Media Player application
Microsoft provided another example of how this feature would be useful for users. For example, when communicating via instant messaging, a user will input text into the messenger's application window when the application is active. However, when minimized, the user can utilize a rich taskbar button to continue the conversation without having to bring the application back to focus. This allows the user to continue the conversation and read incoming messages.
Another example is the ability to see the progress or status of a process that the application is performing. For example, when copying a large file, you can see the status of the progress right on the taskbar button itself.
As I mentioned above, most of these features are already implemented on Windows. Copying a large file will showcase the progress on the taskbar. Various applications will feature "jump lists" when you right click on the taskbar button, allowing you to conduct various tasks on the application with ease.
Throughout the patent filing, Microsoft touts this feature as an invention. Clearly the majority of these features have been implemented, but it would be fantastic to see how far Microsoft wants to take the taskbar when it comes to providing useful information. How cool would it be to manipulate Modern apps via the taskbar? Gone are the days of simple taskbar buttons that show just the icon and application name.