At a Glance
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, currently in free beta, 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, it opens the bin, 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.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software. The public beta that was scheduled to end June 30, 2011 has been extended; the vendor has not provided a date for the final product release.