Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I've gotten to be a big fan of the system tray recently, and it made me wonder what it is about the system tray that's so appealing. Here's my list:

  1. Program doesn't appear when Alt-Tabbing
  2. Program doesn't clutter up my task bar

So if the system tray is cool for those reasons, why not put everything into they system tray? Here are my reasons:

  1. Program doesn't appear when Alt-Tabbing
  2. Program doesn't clutter up my task bar

What this comes down to is a difference in usage models. For me, the advantages of the system tray kick into effect when the program I'd like to use will be up all the time. This includes:

  1. Outlook (who doesn't want their email program open all the time?)
  2. Sharpreader (which incidentally should be part of Outlook, but that's a different discussion). For those who aren't aware, this aggregates news (among other things). Again, keeping up to date is a full time activity.
  3. Browser. IE doesn't have this functionality, but Brandon's blog (which referenced Tom's blog), pointed me to MyIE2, basically a shell over the IE control as far as I can tell. Browsing is now a full time activity, and warrants inclusion in the system tray.

On the taskbar goes everything else. Why? It's part of a specific task I'm trying to complete. One could argue that a browser should fall in this category, and for some people it does, but I generally have web pages up that are just waiting to be read, not part of a specific task. When performing tasks, I can now alt-tab through what's generally relevant to the task at hand. When I'm done working for the day, I generally do not have anything on my task bar. If I do, it still represents a task that needs attention.

Now if user experience folks could just bottom out some defacto standards we'll be in much better shape. Applications are still inconsistant on how to minimize to the tray (close button vs. minimize). They're also inconsistant on how to restore from the tray (one click or two). Lastly, all applications should have a general option so users can decide where to minimize based on their own preferences.

Emil's Wicked Cool Blog