Microsoft feedback survey: “Windows 7 start menu (concept). Here, let me show you it.”

Ah, product feedback surveys, what will we ever do without you? You share your most intimate secrets and future product ideas with complete strangers all in the name of marketing research. Thankfully Microsoft surveys are no exception.

Windows 7 Start menu searchAn anonymous tipster pointed out to me in a recent (private) Windows feedback survey sent out by Microsoft, asked how often users use the Start menu search functionality, was a screenshot highlighting the aforementioned feature but not of Windows Vista and certainly not anything we’ve ever seen before.

The most logical explanation would be of course, this is a mockup of Windows 7.

If that is indeed the case, which is impossible to prove I might add, then we’re witnessing a number of changes from the Start menu in Vista today and even the Start menu from the leaked build of Windows 7 Milestone 1.

Notably the Start pearl/button/orb rests in a curved corner that is darker to the rest of the taskbar which is now considerably more transparent and white. And quite possibly the taskbar is “double height” by default. Some applications in the start menu also have a cascade button on its right, leading me to believe its some sort of extended menu, for what purpose I don’t know.

There are also a few things in this screenshot which stand for the wrong reasons. Some of the applications have icons which doesn’t match. For example, Outlook has the Windows Mail icon and PowerPoint has a XAML file icon. Then on the right side, the link buttons which are expected to be “Pictures, Music, Games etc” have been replaced by Lorem Ipsum filler text.

In case you were wondering, the screenshot has since been removed from the web server where the survey was hosted. It has been replaced with a more familiar screenshot from Windows Vista. Obviously, too late.

67 insightful thoughts

  1. *sigh*

    De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum. It’s a famous speech. Look it up and tell me, after reading it, why this proves that the screenshot is an internal mockup.

  2. The cascading application menus feel to me like they would cascade out to most recently used documents from that app?? For example, the Word application icon would cascade out to the the most recently used Word documents.

  3. I think it’s more likely an old mockup of Vista from before Office 2007 came out – hence the two Office apps not having their own icons.

  4. Agreeing that it is a mockup, my answer for the survey,

    “…asked how often users use the Start menu search functionality..”

    I use a lot and I really love the Search feature in Vista 🙂

  5. 1. I’d like to see how the quick launch bar fits in.

    2. And how readable text is on that very transparent section.

    3. If the task bar height is increased, it had better be for something useful. In the mockup it’s about 1.5 times the height of the current task bar – too short to fit a second row of items, but high enough to look fairly annoying.

  6. @Jono: Yeah, I had the same thought. But the tipping point for me were the RTM icons for Windows Media Player, Windows Movie Maker etc. They were a big secret, and never released before RTM so the chances this is something from the Windows Vista archives is very small if not impossible.

  7. Great find! But I think this is only an internal mock up by a designer to try something. It is definitely not a final design, just look at the reflections: there is a new reflection on top of the blue orb. And it looks like there is no visual “connection” between the Start button and the menu.

    The cascading menus are a great idea! Hopefully the black rectangle wasn’t just a replacement for the new small pins, we have seen.

    BTW, has anybody noticed in the leaked W7M1 screenshots, that the classic style Start menu is dead? 🙂

  8. Maybe its windows blinds design not a mockup at all. I use this program and it does change the look of windows vista and its not hard to change a folder icon.

  9. Yo Long,

    Nice screen ! I think the same as Ozmael for the extended menu.
    I love the orb and the “more” translucent bar !

    I really hope that Windows 7 will be more about personalization because vista is really poor about that .. even xp has more choice ( 3 default ones + royal noir + media center blue).

    I think that even if this screenshot “could be” from Windows 7 (after milestone 1), the “real” UI that will be used for Windows 7 will be far from Vista .. and far from what we have seen in the Milestone 1.

    I really like the new features in Windows 7 Milestone 1… it would be perfect if you can find someone with the “iso” of the Milestone 1 !

    keep working Long.. so great job so far !

  10. Although it is just a mockup I am concerned about it’s functionality, I like the mockup @LisKiller posted as I only use the Start Menu to Shut Down the PC and open programs through search, for example, what would cascade when you click programs with the arrow next to them?

    I agree with @Jay that this would be cool if it was just a personalisation factor, I remember the days of Windows 98 where you could have almost any colour scheme you could imagine (and to a certain extent, this is still true with the Classic Theme turned on in XP), and am drooling at the thought of customisable taskbars and start menus.

    And just one more thing [Warning! Off Topic] I can’t access my Windows Live email or messenger, and the Sign-In links on and aren’t working; is this just me or are other people also suffering…

    Great Find Long, Brilliant.

  11. Could the cascading application menus perhaps list open application windows together with recent documents opened, sites visited etc.

  12. Im thoroughly disappointed to even see them developing the start menu. ENOUGH with it. The Microsoft Research concept of a radial menu is a far more useful idea than the “start menu” that was never meant to do as much as it does now. It’s way overdeveloped.

  13. I should note:

    I think most will agree when I say that Microsoft needs to step out of its excessively managerial box and follow the Blackcomb/Vienna/7 concepts. It was a mistake to retain the Start menu in Vista, and if they repeat it in 7, nobody is going to respect Microsoft in terms of innovative design like they love to lay claim to.

    + Break the mold, give us a radial menu that opens a plethora of static commands, and some dynamic based on current locations/focus.
    + SEARCH anywhere. Begin typing, your letters appear onscreen and it blazes through WinFS (pipedream!) and locates anything relevant.
    + give us a better way to organize open programs – if they clone the apple dashboard i wouldnt even be upset. it WORKS well and that is what is important.


  14. @EricR I second that vote for a Search Anywhere feature, if that happens my head will explode, although perhaps it would be better with a keystroke so you can do it from anywhere? Otherwise it could conflict with open apps.

  15. Nice find Long!

    For me personally, I missed the keyword shortcuts and quick calculator that was originally shipped with WDS and was disappointed they were dropped in Vista. But hey, a boy can only dream!

  16. I like the idea of radial menus – it was used in Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided and aside from being somewhat limited in the amount of buttons it could support, something i know for sure isnt hard to solve, it worked fantastically well.

    Imagine this; pressing a mouse button or key, and where the mouse cursor is the Vista Orb appears, and around it appears menus such as documents, pictures, music but also the standard “new item” options. Once you mouse over a selection, the orb “zooms back” or similar and displays more options.

    Its an interesting concept, at least in my opinion, unfortunately Microsoft has proved againd and again to be very reluctant to change. Then again so is Apple, but apart from the obvious issues they are sitting on a very good OS.

  17. I think you folks are making a big assumption in believing that this is 7-related. It seems far more likely to me that it’s just a Vista mockup from an earlier dev phase.

  18. @Rhys

    I want so badly to know if this is a mockup unrelated to Windows 7.

    If it IS from Microsoft, it’s probably of Windows Vista R2 – Fiji. It was supposed to be between Vista & Vienna. SP1 was to be marchitectural updates, and Fiji was supposed to be a feature update platform, but not to the extent of Vienna/7.

    I do NOT really believe that image was legit. Even internal builds wouldn’t have messed up icons, and the overall design of that start bar was very un-Microsoft.

  19. @EricR .. fiji is the future of media center.. nothing about a Vista R2 ..isn’it ?

    Microsoft said that there were no need for a SP1 and I don’t believe that they could put a Windows Vista R2 on roads.. They are working on Windows 7 and no other Windows Vista version.

  20. OBVIOUSLY nothing changes at Microsoft… Concentrating more on appearance.
    “It runs like crap, but it looks cool” Will they ever get it right? BTW. Whatever happened to “Trustworthy Computing”?

  21. If that were Windows 7 I would not bother with it. MS still have the original programs from Windows 95 in every updated release, including Vista. Except that sound recorder has gotten less …

    Expect to see updates to all install programs with Windows 7, and PaintdotNET instead of Paint at the very least! Imagine – you are still using software from 1995 in Vista! What were they doing for five friggin years – Oh – wait – thinking of ways to annoy us …

    Do a ‘search anywhere -or- the net’ box at the bottom of the screen, put the date/time at the top right – DO AWAY WITH THE START MENU – and use the ‘Windows Media Center’ format in the center of the screen.

    And remember, you can say we did really, really, really, great changes to the OS, but if we can’t see some new eye candy and ‘wow’ features no one will want it!

    (Can you believe that out of, what, 60,000 employees at MS, not one of them at any time tried to copy a large file!!! So, not one knew it couldn’t be done 🙁 )

  22. I always wanted a tabbed based start menu. That would be more logical than the many UI elements which plague the current start menu.

  23. @EricR — Well I think you need to step backand look at your sources again. For one, there is no Vista R2. Fiji was never an R2, it is an update to Media Center — Plain and simple.

    Even if there was a minor, you think they would bring such radical changes about to it?

  24. What did you mean by “If that is indeed the case, which is impossible to prove I might add, then we’re witnessing a number of changes from the Start menu in Vista today and even the Start menu from the leaked build of Windows 7 Milestone 1.”

    THere is a leaked build of Windows 7? I haven’t heard anything.

  25. Hey Mr. I work there – that’s YOUR problem.
    I’d be happy to come on board and clean house. I’ve been using Windoze and other OSes most likely since before you were born.
    MS does a hack job of copying Mac a few years after the fact.
    But here’s a tips for you tough guy if they want to try to get it right in Win7.
    – Start by dropping 32bit support. Most new boxes that you had to get for Vista can handle x64
    – Time to drop all the old crap from the days of 3.0 like Paint & Wordpad. – Better yet copy Mac the right was and do a complete rewrite of the code like they did for OSX. Focus on security and code optimization instead of the girly-twirly effects.
    – More modular, less versions; Basic, Premium, Ultimate, Business, Enterprise. 2 will do fine thanks
    – Stop allowing Administrator to have a blank password and running everyone to as an Administrator. Might want to read this post:

    Save yourself the grief folks, stick with XP for now and let’s hope will get the next version right. MS can’t afford to have Win7 be another debacle like Vista.

    See ya ’round campus punk!

  26. “The cascading application menus feel to me like they would cascade out to most recently used documents from that app”

    Nice idea, but not applicable. It’s the same problem as with the + sign next to each folder in Explorer although the folder has no child folders.

    Where does the Start menu gets its data from? Does it need to “know” the applications? That would actually be the worst idea. So there would have to be an API to query the recent items of each application which in turn every application would have to implement.

    There might be other options like caching it in the registry. But I’d say it’s not applicable.

  27. Mock ups do not typically divurge from an established product by accident. They are usually designed to communicate a desired change.

    The change to a vista mockup clearly shows us they did not want to communicate a new interface idea here.

    Since that seems unlikely here, we fall back to what mockups are based on – the current version available to the creator of the mockup.

    It strikes me likely that this is a mockup accidently based on an internal, modified UI and accidently slipped out. It is both the simplest and most reasonable option I can come up with.

  28. Steve-O check out and look for something that fits your skills. I’d be proud to learn from a master like you. You have a straight-a-head approach to windows process that I can see we can only move forward. Will you be my manager? Please.

  29. I don’t see why people are deciding on whether or not they’ll use Windows 7 is based solely on the Start menu.

  30. Steve-O: You’re a moron. lol. The fact that you have SUPPOSEDLY been using windows for X number of years and saying that all Microsoft does is copy Mac shows that you are a complete idiot who can’t form his own opinion of software. “Microsoft copies Apple, boo hoo hoo!” If that’s the case, then it sucks to be Apple with their tiny cut of the OS market, huh? By your logic, we have the following:

    Apple develops because Apple is so clearly superior -> Microsoft copies Apple because Apple is so superior -> Apple users complain that Microsoft products are pure sh*t… but that Microsoft also COPIES Apple because Apple is clearly so superior -> Microsoft emerges with the vast majority of OS marketshare because they copied Apple because Apple is clearly superior. If Microsoft has found all of this success with a rehash of 3+ year old Mac features, then why doesn’t Apple… slow down dev? Oh yeah; it’s because they’re superior… SO superior, as a matter of fact, that ESPECIALLY in THIS day and age, people totally ignore Apple and just wait for the MS rehash, right? RIGHT!? CLEARLY we’re all missing the boat on something here!!!

    Ah, it all makes so much sense now! Maybe if we ALL use Windows for as long as you supposedly have, we will all see the truth! THANK YOU for enlightening us, Steve-O and thank you for telling Microsoft how to get it right with Windows 7, because simply copying Mac certainly isn’t doing it for them!

    Please continue to fuel the fire here, Steve-O. I’d love for you to speak on behalf of all of the idiot Mac fanboys litering the world and likewise, I’ll gladly be less professional than “I work there” so as to play a little more on your level. Sound fun? LET’S GET IT ON! 😉


  31. this just proves it for me… MS is going back to Longhorn with Windows 7. first the gadget/Explorer integration, then the rebirth/rebranding of Castle, then this transparent taskbar is even closer to it.

    i’m just waiting for someone to leak a screenie of Explorer with WinFS-style links on the left, a shot of Phodeo 2008, and a transparent taskbar with all the application buttons bunched together in the center…

  32. @Cullen:
    bad? hellz no! it’ll be the bestestist thing EVAR! i just hope they go through with it! and have another round of public beta testing. i think it was that mass public beta testing that helped squash a lot of bugs for Vista. can you imagine out situation now if they didn’t?

    in the mean time, i’m going to watch those Hillel Cooperman videos again and try to telepathically steer the developers in that direction.

  33. I think, that if we get maybe 10,000 users to watch all the videos at once, and focus there telepathy at the devs, we can get them to do it.

  34. Come on! That search bar location is a feature of Windows Vista and can even be configured with Windows Vista Search for XP! Please fix this soon.

    I suppose that the only reason you messed up on this is because you don’t like Vista and never use it, but that doesn’t excuse you from checking before mis-informing the general public!

  35. @Kevin:
    everyone on this website knows about Search in Windows Vista. it is clear that you didn’t read the article and just looked at the title and the picture.

    if you did read it, you would’ve realise the picture highlighted the search box (that everyone already knows exist in Vista) and the article is actually about everything else in the picture. the transparent double-height taskbar and what would appear to be a cascade control for a menu or something.

    if anyone here uses Vista exhaustively, it would have to be Long Zheng himself.

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  37. Vista search on the start menu is great. i use it everyday in the office. Searching for searching programs, launching command prompt by typing “cmd”, Remote Desktop “mstsc”, commands on the command promt also works in the search bar which some of the new vista users dont know. so its a great way of searching and launching application of you have tons of programs installed, you wont be lingering on the all programs menu anymore.

  38. Sadly enough, though I know its a mock up, it just looks like a slightly modified version of vista transformation pack with a different taskbar and transparency settings……

  39. Hey, did anyone else notice the arrows to the sides of Word & Internet Explorer?
    Apparently when you click on those, you’ll get a list of the most recently used documents/sites for them where my Computer etc is on the right. :O Sounds Awesome!:) 🙂


  40. Haha it’s so fun to read this now that we know why the taskbar is bigger and what the arrows for. People are speculating stuff and everything, it’s kind of fun to read what we thought back then. xD We were so naive.

  41. That start menu was probably here before Vista even came out. It looks just like it, but the taskbar is a weird color. BTW: I am typing this from Windows ME in virtual PC. Kinda fast.

  42. I think Windows Vista and Windows 7 Start Menu SUCKS, really SUCKS.
    when i installed a lot of software it’s hard to me find the one i want!
    If microsoft dosn’t iclude W98 and WXP starts menus i never stop using WXP!

  43. @Stevie:
    you don’t have to go through tons of submenus in Vista and 7 to get to the program you want.
    all you do is click Start and start typing the name of the program you want. it pops right up.
    give the new Start menu a chance. i’m sure you’ll come to appreciate the changes.

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