In Windows Vista, hovering the mouse pointer over an application's Taskbar icon produces a thumbnail window view known as a Live Preview. But when you have multiple windows open, you see only one preview at a time. Windows 7's version of this feature is slicker and more efficient: Hover the pointer on an icon, and thumbnails of the app's windows glide into position above the Taskbar, so you can quickly find the one you're looking for. (The process would be even simpler if the thumbnails were larger and easier to decipher.)
Also new in Windows 7's Taskbar is a feature called Jump Lists. These menus resemble the context-sensitive ones you get when you right-click within various Windows applications, except that you don't have to be inside an app to use them. Internet Explorer 8's Jump List, for example, lets you open the browser and load a fresh tab, initiate an InPrivate stealth browsing session, or go directly to any of eight frequently visited Web pages. Non-Microsoft apps can offer Jump Lists, too, if their developers follow the guidelines for creating them.
Other Windows 7 interface adjustments are minor, yet so sensible that you may wonder why Windows didn't include them all along. Shove a window into the left or right edge of the screen and it'll expand to fill half of your desktop. Nudge another into the opposite edge of the screen, and it'll expand to occupy the other half. That makes comparing two windows' contents easy. If you nudge a window into the top of the screen, it will maximize to occupy all of the display's real estate.
The extreme right edge of the Taskbar now sports a sort of nub; hover over it, and open windows become transparent, revealing the desktop below. (Microsoft calls this feature Aero Peek.) Click the nub, and the windows scoot out of the way, giving you access to documents or apps that reside on the desktop and duplicating the Show Desktop feature that Quick Launch used to offer.
Getting at your desktop may soon become even more important than it was in the past. That's because Windows 7 does away with the Sidebar, the portion of screen space that Windows Vista reserved for Gadgets such as a photo viewer and a weather applet. Instead of occupying the Sidebar, Gadgets now sit directly on the desktop, where they don't compete with other apps for precious screen real estate.
Old Tray, New Tricks: Windows 7's Taskbar and window management tweaks are nice. But its changes to the System Tray--aka the Notification Area--have a huge positive effect.