Microsoft wants to decouple Windows 10 taskbar from Explorer.exe

Taskbar could be getting separated from Windows File Explorer
(explorer.exe), with the feature possible getting its separate
process in future. References to these changes were spotted in
preview builds of Windows 10’s Sun Valley update, also known as
version 21H2.

Until now, in all the latest versions of Windows 10 and other
editions, Taskbar and explorer.exe have coexisted. The
“Explorer.exe” process is responsible for File Explorer and
displaying most of the user interface (UI), which includes the
taskbar, Action Center, and taskbar as well.

Usually, Explorer.exe works without a glitch, but when it
freezes, it could render your desktop useless and hide the
taskbar as well. When this occurs, you cannot interact with the
taskbar or other experiences, which includes the apps pinned to
the taskbar or the jump list (right-click menu).

On Windows 10, you can resolve these issues by either
restarting the operating system or the Windows Explorer process
using Task Manager.

To address these problems for once and all, Microsoft is now
planning to move the ‘Taskbar’ out of Explorer.exe.

In the latest preview builds, references to “taskbar.dll” have
been spotted, which appears to suggest that Microsoft wants to
maintain a separate process for the taskbar in future.

Taskbar process

It’s worth noting that only parts of the taskbar are currently
being moved from Explorer.exe and the taskbar is not getting
its own process anytime soon. Explorer still contains the
taskbar code, but in future, it would be possible to switch to
the DLL implementation, which will reduce the dependence on
Explorer.exe.

It could also allow the taskbar to run more smoothly. By
reducing dependence on Explorer, Microsoft should be able to
protect it from potential issues which might be caused by File
Explorer.

Updated taskbar
Search bar is partially broken when using early bits of the
new taskbar.dll

For consumers, end result is a more reliable taskbar experience
and a more responsive one too, because it won’t be dependent on
File Explorer any longer.

As shown in the above screenshot, the new taskbar.dll doesn’t
seem to be working properly and it renders a broken search bar.

At the moment, it’s unclear if this change could also enable a
slightly quicker launch time for jump lists (right-click menu),
a
problem which was pointed out by Google engineer and
acknowledged by Microsoft in 2020.

New taskbar features

In addition to performance improvements, Microsoft has been
testing the news and weather widget for the taskbar, which is
designed to serve your latest updates using Microsoft Edge and
Windows Search infrastructure.

The concept is similar to Google Discover and it basically adds
a news feed to the right side of the desktop, as shown in the
screenshot below.

Taskbar feed

It will display top headlines, weather, sports, finance and
news based on your interests or topics selected in the
Microsoft MSN account.

Other improvements for File Explorer

Other than that,
Microsoft is also working on new colourful icons for Windows
File Explorer.

Explorer

These new modern icons are based on Microsoft’s Fluent Design
and it’s part of the company’s plan to revamp the visual
interface of the operating system.

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