A few years ago, I had mixed feelings about the system tray in Windows XP. If a program is in the system tray then it means it is always running. Always running programs like clock, volume control, program agents like Yahoo! Messenger and antivirus are always there.
The problem we had with XP is that there was no easy way to manage the icons in the system tray. Either they were there or not – there was no way to remove them unless you want to kill the process or totally uninstall the program. In Windows 7, they tried to fix the problem by providing an easy way to customize the behavior of each icon. Now you have the control to show the icon always, show only notifications, or hide icon and notifications all the time.
This allows the system tray, now called “notification area”, to be free of unsolicited icons. There is catch here though since the area will only show what you set to show – you wouldn’t know what new programs are running until you click the arrow to display the hidden icons. Remember that an icon could be running and consuming a great deal of resources even when its icon is hidden in the notification area.
You can access the programs the same way as you access the old system tray. Right click an icon and see what’s the available operations for that program. For example, utorrent has it’s own set of unique operations if you right click it’s system tray icon:
Another noticeable additions are the smiley and frown icons which lets testers send a positive or negative comment about Microsoft’s latest OS. If you click the smiley it will open a window that will let you enter feedbacks in text along with your current screenshot.
Clicking the clock will show you a good looking calendar and analog clock which you can use to change the time and date settings.
Also if you click the bar at the right side of the clock it will show you the desktop. This is a big improvement from XP’s quick tray approach where in the desktop shortcut icon is located along with the executable icons. I like this new desktop shortcut because I think it is a cleaner approach than XP.
I think the new system tray is better than the older designs. It is cleaner to look at and is best for folks who want a neat interface. I also like the fact that you can hide icons at will. However since the icons are hidden, there is an extra click needed to access the hidden icons. I will take cleanliness of the system tray interface over the price of an extra mouse click.
If you want to try the windows 7 release candidate, check out our post about obtaining a legal copy for free complete with instructions on how to burn it on a DVD so you can use it to install on any compatible computer.
Ben Carigtan shows you how it’s done.