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Windows 7 Taskbar Integration for Websites

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Microsoft’s is offering some of the same Windows 7 taskbar features to website developers that they offer to native application developers. Websites can be “pinned” by dragging them into the taskbar. Once there the website shows its own icon, tooltip, and jump list as if it were an installed application. Here is an example from Amazon.

Each website is allowed to offer two sections in its jump list. The section labeled as “Tasks” are statically defined using meta tags. Up to five items can appear in this section. Items can be dynamically added to upper section using JavaScript. Both sections can contain custom icons, as can be seen in this example from Facebook.

Another feature available to web developers is the “thumbnail toolbar”. As with normal applications, this is shown only when the browser is minimized and the user hovers over it with the mouse. Websites can dynamically create toolbar buttons and respond to them using JavaScript. This example shows three buttons wired to the audio controls on a sample website.

Finally, websites can draw attention to themselves in two ways. For normal notifications like unread email, taskbar icon overlays should be used. This image from the MSDN documentation shows unread messages in a Twitter feed.

The other option is to flash the taskbar icon. As with full applications, this should only be done when the user’s attention is absolutely necessary.

For website developers it is hard not to argue against offering these features. An afternoon’s effort should be enough to take advantage of these features. This does raise the question, what do you do for your non-IE users? People won’t find this feature unless a site advertises it, but advertising an IE-only feature will most likely annoy Firefox, Chrome, and Safari users.

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