When Windows 7 first came out, there was quite a bit of excitement about its innovative taskbar. Some went so far as to say it was more Mac-like than ever. Overall, users seemed to like the new look for one of the most-often used parts of Windows. But could the Windows 7 taskbar be improved? According to utility Bins (free beta, price to be determined), the answer is a definite yes.
While the Windows 7 taskbar lets you "pin" applications and turn them into permanent buttons, the rule is "one button per application," Windows 7 won't let you pin documents onto the taskbar. Bins happily breaks this rule, and lets you pin multiple applications and documents to a single taskbar icon.
Bins doesn't require a complex configuration interface: It's like making folders in your taskbar. Simply drag one taskbar icon and hold it on top of another icon. A bin instantly opens, and you can just drop your icon onto it, creating a group of two icons. The bin is then marked by a new icon showing miniature versions of both icons, so you know what's inside. Bins even lets you tell at a glance which of the applications in a bin are running--the "mini-icons" for non-running applications are dimmed out.
When you hover your mouse over a bin's icon, the bin opens, revealing the applications and documents you've placed in it. Impressively, it plays nice with Windows 7's Aero Peek feature: When you hover over one of the nested icons, its related window appears.
At the time of this writing, Bins is still in beta, and does have its kinks. When I pinned a document onto the taskbar then clicked it, it was correctly opened, but took up two slots for some reason. Also, while it does support the Windows 7 Basic theme, it provides the best experience under Aero. In other words, if your windows have translucent-looking title bars, you're all set for using Bins.
Another minor qualm I had with Bins is the lack of support for keyboard shortcuts, but the author assured me this is on the to-do list, and will be implemented in future versions.
Bins is so tightly integrated with the Windows interface that it feels like more like a set of new features than a separate application. For a system utility, that is a compliment of the highest order. I would not be surprised if Windows 8 contained at least some of Bins' functionality. Fortunately, you can have it right now--and during the public beta, it's free.