09 April 2011

Coolbarz: Enable Desktop Toolbars In Windows 7

Coolbarz Icon

When Windows 7 launched, it brought a hell of a lot of new OS usage conventions. If you upgraded to it from Windows Vista it was a noticeable jump, but not big enough for you to not get up to speed with the OS in a matter of days.  If you instead upgraded to it directly from Windows XP, then it was more than a jump, it was a leap to a OS where everything felt revamped or new.  Because of that, Windows 7 took away a lot of the features that were a mainstay in Windows XP. Simply because they were either no longer really needed or because they were rethought and replaced. Desktop Toolbars is one of those features that were taken off from Windows 7. The reason for that being Windows 7 super taskbar.  But if you found yourself wishing the feature was still there, then read on.

Coolbarz is a lightweight .NET 2.0 based portable (self contained exe) app by Brynt Younce that allows you to have up to 4  XP-like (peek-a-boo by cursor hover) desktop toolbars in Windows 7. 

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(Icons only Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar with open settings panel and Icons with text Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar)

Features

  • Provides up to 4 familiar looking toolbars for any or all sides of the screen.
  • Conveniently customizable to suit your functional and visual needs, including fading effects and transparency.
  • User profile support so each user can have their own configuration.
  • Standalone tool with no installation required.
  • Intuitive user interface with update notifications.

Coolbarz Desktop Toolbars got everything you remember from the Windows XP feature with a lot of more controls and settings, so you can better customize them for your day to day use.  Seen from that perspective Coolbarz is great.  Unfortunately, in my opinion this is not enough to make it feel home in Windows 7. As much as it is supposed to be a Windows XP feature in Windows 7,  I think it also needs to be able to live within the context of Windows 7 itself. So the things it misses* in order to be able to do that are:

1.- Aero Glass styled Translucency

Right now you can customize the colors in the Desktop Toolbars and set for level of transparency. This works but only if you happen to be using Windows 7 Standard theme. With full Aero Glass enabled, the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbars feel quite out of place.  This can be clearly seen in the desktop screenshots I added to this post.

2.-Icon Resizing

Because of how you can customize the Windows 7 super taskbar and how the size of the icon in it can vary because of that and because of the resolution of your desktop. There should more than one icon size for the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar icons. This way it would integrate better too.

3.-Hot Streaked Icons 

I like the fading effects in Coolbarz, but what would be even better if the icons in the Coolbarz Desktop Toolbar had the “hot streak” color cursor-hover effect that the Windows 7 super taskbar icons got.  This last one is more of a stretch, but would be nice if possible, or even if just fauxed.

*By pointing out what I think it still misses, I am not doing it so to take away from the app being great, just what I think could be added to make it excellent.

Coolbarz is a neat little app, the fact that it is fully portable and almost weightless (only 100kb!) makes it great. But this app really only should be used if you don’t want to use the Windows 7 icon switcher (for when you have pinned more apps into the taskbar that can fit in) or/and If you want to have a Shortcut Icon free Windows 7 Desktop. 

Linkage

Coolbarz Documentation

Coolbarz Info

Coolbarz                                       <—Direct Download Link

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2 comments :

Anonymous said...

The latest version now has small icon support and scrolling capability.

Avatar X said...

@Anon1:

Thanks. will be updating the post shortly.

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