When I use XP, I simply cannot use it on a day-to-day basis without ObjectDock.  I use it primarily for both my main apps, and for quick access to certain folders.  It’s handy to be able to just fling my mouse over to the side of the screen, and have a large target to click, rather than picking out a tiny little button in the QuickLaunch toolbar.

Now, OD, and other apps like it, are simply copying the OS X dock .. and that’s fine.  But guess what? So is Windows 7, in their new dock taskbar .. and that’s fine, too.  And that’s because its a good idea.  And good ideas should never be proprietary.  By combining running and non-running apps into the same space, you place the icons in the same order all the time, so that you always know where everything is.

But, there’s one other big use for docks: docklets.  There’s no such formal name in OS X, but in the Windows docks, docklets are miniature apps which run inside the dock itself.  In essence, they are basically widgets or gadgets that confine themselves to that dock’s icon, or an icon-sized window that the app author can paint however he likes.

For instance, I have a OD docklet that not only runs iTunes when I click it, but also displays the album cover of the song I’m listening to instead of the iTunes icon.  I also have a Thunderbird icon which doubles as an IMAP email checker.  There are thousands of docklets that give you weather updates, monitor RSS feeds, display system monitors, etc.

And this is where 7’s new taskbar is not doing it for me.  As a software author, I would love to be able to design an app that can change my app’s dock icon to whatever I want; whether its to draw a miniature calendar with upcoming appointments, or to display the iTunes album art instead of a static iTunes icon.

Adding such functionality into 7 shouldn’t be that difficult for Microsoft, given that their already extensive work into gadgets, and they’re existing partnership with Stardock (to create the Dreamscenes in Vista Ultimate).  In the end, giving programmers more control gives users a better experience down the line.

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