Jump to page content

Bug of the moment 2009-04-29

Using Firefox in Windows, I quickly got used to being able to close tabs with the middle mouse button. (Mercifully, Internet Explorer (but not iCab) implements this also, which is fortunate for the times when I am forced to spend time using it.) I’ve long wanted to be able to close desktop windows the same way, by middle-clicking their taskbar buttons. Google suggested I might want to try Taskbar Shuffle, which to my delight I found additionally allows me to rearrange not just taskbar buttons but also tray icons by dragging them, something I’ve also long wanted.

Generally Taskbar Shuffle works really well; it’s a little rough-edged but that’s okay, and it’s far better than the dismal Taskbar Commander. However, I had a small problem with it on my work PC one day that I couldn’t recreate. The second time it happened I realised what I’d done. By the third time it was starting to become annoying.

You see, when you disable transition effects in Windows (Control Panel → Display → Appearance → Effects), you would expect the taskbar to obey, but it does not. I disable transition effects primarily because I’m very sensitive to the delays they introduce, delays which make my computer feel a lot slower than it really is. However, the taskbar button slide animation has an additional drawback:

View complete screenshot

When you close a window, it creates a gap on the taskbar. Sometimes, I accidentally double-middle-click (middle-double-click? muddle-click!) and the second click falls on this gap, before the animation swallows it up.

While middle-clicking the taskbar with Taskbar Shuffle running normally does nothing, middle-clicking the gap broadcasts a panic message across the session. Every program within the blast radius catches it, craps itself and dies. Explorer (above) displays the shutdown dialog, but when you cancel it, most of your apps are already gone, and the desktop no longer shows any icons. Firefox normally falls over dead, but this time it decided to spawn at least twenty confirmation dialogs:

View complete screenshot

You can see my FTP server in the taskbar there, also on its way out; this is a little odd as it runs as NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM. It is not itself a service (only a child of bpftpserver-service.exe), although I suppose its presence on the console session desktop is what allows it to receive shutdown messages for the console session.


For the curious, taskbar animation is disposed of through Win+Break → Advanced → Performance → Settings → Visual Effects; you will need to rebuild your preferences as it refuses to inherit from the Display control panel. For those whose laptops are too lame to provide a working Break key, you want the System control panel for the above.

Posted 29th April 2009 – Comments and questions?