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.
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.
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.
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.
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.