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Bringing Ungrouping to the Windows 11 Taskbar is only the Beginning

Article posted on 3/22/2022

One of the most popular requests we received when we released Start11 was the ability to ungroup apps on the taskbar. This feature, while present in Windows dating back several decades, was removed from Windows 11.

Bringing this feature to Windows 11 was one of the larger engineering uplifts we have undertaken here at Stardock. While it is possible to enable ungrouping on the taskbar with a registry tweak and a bit of memory patching, that’s not the way we like to approach these challenges.

To support the feature for the life of Windows 11, we need to be responsible for how it is implemented. By flipping registry bits, this means that Microsoft is responsible for its implementation and if they ever remove the Windows 10 legacy code that still is baked into Windows 11, the feature will break.

To accomplish this, we rebuilt the taskbar so that we can control precisely how it functions, which is no small task. Considering how complex Windows 11 is under the hood and all the edge cases that exist for this type of functionality, it took a lot of effort and even more testing to reach the stage where we could release a beta.

Last week, we released a v1.16 beta for Start11 v1.2 (which is still in beta) that provides the ability to ungroup and center icons on the taskbar. This build also includes other features such as the ability to drag a file to the taskbar to open it, resize the taskbar to display more windows, and set a per-monitor style for your taskbar.

While this looks like a small update on the surface, we have actually created a new foundation to continue our work in making Windows more personal and productive through our software.

The taskbar is likely the most critical component of your personal productivity on Windows. Now that we have our own in-house taskbar, this means we can expand its functionality in ways that Microsoft may not. Just because it doesn’t make sense for the more than 1 billion users of Windows, that doesn't mean it can't be useful to a smaller subset of that population.

As we start to explore where to take the taskbar, we would love to know what functionality you would like to see added. While we can’t make any promises about what features will eventually ship, we are always looking for ways to enhance our applications so that they can improve your workflow.