7+ Taskbar Tweaker and Windows 8.1 Update 1

As some of you know, Microsoft is working on an update for Windows 8.1, called “Update 1″. Also, some of you might know that 7+ Taskbar Tweaker doesn’t work with this update installed. There’s a topic on UserEcho about it, and users are wondering how come I don’t fix the issue. In this post, I’d like to shed some light on the situation.

Why doesn’t the tweaker work with the update installed?

It’s just an update, right? Not a new Windows version. The taskbar looks the same. How come that the tweaker is not working anymore?
Well, the thing is that the tweaker depends on the exact structure of many internal elements of explorer. Any small change can make the tweaker break, and the fact that it doesn’t can be attributed to the great care of Microsoft for backwards compatibility. At least, that’s the way it was until “Update 1″.

Since Windows 7, the earliest OS supported by the tweaker, Microsoft didn’t introduce major changes to the OS while the NT version number stayed the same. Even with Windows 7 SP1, the tweaker worked without adjustments. With Windows 8.1 Update 1, the situation is different: the OS has changed, but its version stayed the same.

What does it mean in the short term?

In order to add support for Windows 8.1 Update 1, lots of adjustments have to be made, similar to the adjustments I had to make when adding support for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
While I’d be glad to add support right away, there are a couple of things to consider:

  • Availability of the final RTM version of Windows 8.1 Update 1. To be able to add support for the OS, I need to be able to work with it. They say that there’s a leaked build of the RTM version, but recent news mention a newer version, which means that the leaked one is probably not RTM. Google for Windows 8.1 9600.17042.
  • Availability of debug symbols. While they’re not a must, they significantly simplify the porting process. As far as I know, there are no debug symbols available for the binaries of Windows 8.1 Update 1 yet.
  • Time. Porting requires time, and there’s not always plenty of it.

What does it mean in the long term?

The fact that Windows 8.1 Update 1 is the first time when the OS changes, but the OS version doesn’t, means that Microsoft is changing its tactics. It seems like Microsoft tries to move to a more rapid development cycle. The question is – how rapid is it going to be? If the updates are going to be too frequent, I might not be able to keep the tweaker updated.

How can I help?

Unless you work at Microsoft, you probably can’t help me with the first two points mentioned above. But you can help me with the third one.
You can donate the project to help me dedicate time for the porting.
Include the w8u1p (Windows 8.1 Update 1 Porting) word in the donation comments to specify that your donation is targeted for the porting.

Below is a progress bar of the donations, with the goal set as the estimated time the porting is going to take, with an average wage.

$1204 out of $1000

All donors will get access to early alpha versions during the porting process.
Also, the top three donors will get mentioned in the changelog.
If the goal is hit before the RTM is released or before the debug symbols become available, I’ll start working with what we have.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Update (April 14): The goal was reached! I want to thank everybody who took part and donated for the porting. The first alpha version is available for testing (more details).

Posted in Software, Updates by RaMMicHaeL at March 15th, 2014.
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54 Responses to “7+ Taskbar Tweaker and Windows 8.1 Update 1”

  1. Sebastian says:

    “If the updates are going to be too frequent, I might not be able to keep the tweaker updated.” – why not considering open source, where your user could keep it updated?

    • RaMMicHaeL says:

      From my experience, that’s not how things work. People tend to say something along the lines of “make it open source, and people will help you with development”. Who are those people? Are you, for example, going to invest your time reverse engineering explorer? You might say that you don’t have the skills, but then again, not many do.

      • Ventsislav says:

        I for one am interested in reverse engineering overall and have done software for the purposes. I use your tweaker beacause its very useful and always liked the idea about it hacking the explorer.

        Don’t know if I will be able to understand the things u have done, if you make it open source. But I’m willing to try and invest time in reversing and researching the new functions or offsets or what is used to rewrite the logic.

        • RaMMicHaeL says:

          and have done software for the purposes.

          This would be interesting to see (if the software is public, of course) :)

          • Sebastian says:

            So you think my comment would only be valid if I was a computer science master student, who has experience with c/c++ coding, spy++, Windows API, Windows debugger, window messages hooking etc.? Yes – I do understand why you need the tools you mentioned and your post and do have quite a lot of experiences with this.

            So now, may I ask again why you do not would like to open source it? I have quite good experiences with it and always found someone who uses the tool, likes it and wants to improve it if I did not have the time to do so. But I also did not want to earn money with those free time projects.

            • RaMMicHaeL says:

              So you think my comment would only be valid if I was a …

              No, that’s not what I think. I made an assumption that you’re not familiar with reverse engineering because, well, not many are. Of course, I don’t know you, and my assumption may be wrong. What I wanted to say is that I’m familiar with projects which are/became open source, and that didn’t turn them automatically into being maintained.

              So now, may I ask again why you do not would like to open source it?

              Of course, my observation above is not always true. There might be people who will work on the project if I make it open source. Why don’t I do it? Because I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it. I spent so many hours on it that releasing the sources doesn’t feel right to me. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my opinion in the future.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “…the tweaker depends on the exact structure of many internal elements of explorer. Any small change can make the tweaker break…”

    I know there are some alternatives for Windows Explorer.
    http://superuser.com/questions/90/replacement-for-windows-explorer

    Can’t the tweaker be also independent?
    Now it seems a good opportunity to develop the tweaker as Independent Software.

    Less reverse engineering And more help and options in open-source? Isn’t it?

    • RaMMicHaeL says:

      The post is about 7+ Taskbar Tweaker. I don’t see an alternative for the Windows taskbar on your list.

      Of course, a taskbar clone can be theoretically written, but it’s not an easy task, and it makes it much more difficult if you aim for a high quality clone.
      The taskbar uses many algorithms which are not documented anywhere, e.g. the algorithm of enumerating windows, of handling hung windows, various interactions with the system, and more. Even if you undertake the task, you cannot get away without some reverse engineering. And I’m not sure it’s going to be easier than implementing a tweaker.

      P.S. you might be interested in the blog of ReactOS. The guys are implementing an explorer clone, including the taskbar and the start menu. We’ll see how far will they get.
      http://reactos.org/blog

      • Anonymous says:

        I think a team will work only on the taskbar is more efficient than cloning all components of the Explorer.
        I’m not saying it’s easy But the question is, for the distant future, would it not be more worthwhile?

      • Greg says:

        It’s a bit more than implementing an Explorer clone. ReactOS is an attempt to recreate Windows from the ground up using 100% open source code and no Microsoft proprietary code.

  3. Andrew says:

    There is a typo in the post title.

  4. Black_Ps` says:

    Leaked version is RTM. Please see.

    http://bav0.com/windows-81-update-oem-letter/

  5. There is a typo in the post title.

  6. Donatas says:

    So Windows 8.1 Update is out. And the lack of Taskbar Tweaker support for it is a blocking issue :/

    I’ve already donated $25 once right after support for Windows 8 was added and would consider doing it again. Could you please inform us when you’ll have a beta version?

    • RaMMicHaeL says:

      Hi Donatas,

      Thank you for your support.
      I’ll publish a blog post when the first alpha will be available.

    • Greg says:

      Donatas says:
      April 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm (Quote)

      So Windows 8.1 Update is out. And the lack of Taskbar Tweaker
      support for it is a blocking issue :/

      Not only that, but any user of Windows 8.1 that doesn’t install Update 1
      won’t be allowed to install any security patches from Windows Update
      until they do, opening their systems upto a similar level of insecurity
      as the now no longer supported Windows XP.

      Thanks to this unnecessary decision from Microsoft, the lack of 7+TT
      support for Windows 8.1 Update 1 becomes a serious security issue.
      So we can hold off installing it until 7+TT is updated to support it,
      but can’t install any other MS updates in the meantime.

      This isn’t RaMMichael’s fault of course, but that of Microsoft.

      • Donatas says:

        I solved this problem with a small donation. 7+TT was really worth it. I think everyone can spare a beer or two to get alpha/beta versions early ;)

  7. Dakota C. Blake says:

    Hello RaMMicHaeL. I’ve been toying around with Windows internals for a bit (a few months). I do have to admit, it is a pain in the rear to have one “small” update come along when you’ve just finished making something less bug-ridden since variables, memory locations, and so on change frequently even in the smallest of updates.

    My question to you is: would there be any way that we (more specifically you if you choose to keep it closed-source) could make it so the DLL could be registered with regsvr32? This would be a huge improvement (in my opinion of course) since we wouldn’t have to wait for ~30 seconds for Windows startup apps to load. Registering the DLL with the system would be a good option for seamlessly loading with Explorer. There’s a good example of an app that does this called OldNewExplorer. The DLL loads the proper settings from the registry when Explorer starts, reducing memory usage even further. This could potentially also open up some possibilities (if you subclass Explorer’s process) like changing the Start orb in memory or editing the fixed Start orb width so we could use bigger buttons.

    Whew, that was an essay. Anyway, that all being said, I’m more of a UI designer than a backend developer. I know how hard this would be to implement, so this is just a friendly suggestion. What you have here is a great program that works great as it is already. You’ve made it far with this in the time you’ve been working on this. For you, the Microsoft sky is the limit.

    • RaMMicHaeL says:

      Hi Dakota,

      Thank you for the feedback.

      I can’t say, as I’m not too familiar with regsvr32. I believe it has advantages (.e.g no delay upon system boot) and disadvantages (e.g. requires administrator rights). I don’t believe memory usage is an issue, the tweaker is very lightweight and requires a minimal amount of resources. It would be interesting to try it someday. Having said that, currently my #1 priority for the tweaker is adding support for Windows 8.1 update 1.

      This could potentially also open up some possibilities (if you subclass Explorer’s process)

      The tweaker already does that by injecting a dll library.

      • Dakota C. Blake says:

        I can’t say, as I’m not too familiar with regsvr32. I believe it has advantages (.e.g no delay upon system boot) and disadvantages (e.g. requires administrator rights). I don’t believe memory usage is an issue, the tweaker is very lightweight and requires a minimal amount of resources. It would be interesting to try it someday. Having said that, currently my #1 priority for the tweaker is adding support for Windows 8.1 update 1.

        I, to, am not familiar with it. I can’t seem to find (much) documentation on it either. Maybe an alternative to that would be to make a service that automatically injects the DLL when Explorer starts? It could possibly be similar to what you’re doing with the GUI right now – injecting into the process when it finds Explorer. But instead of running the (current) injector+GUI when a user logs in, just the injector would run when Windows starts, eliminating/minimizing any (visible) startup delay, and the GUI could be started after the fact by the user. It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth, but just a concept.

        I just had another (big and probably not-so-easily-doable) idea: make the settings UI integrated with Windows’ Control Panel (similar to how Stardock’s Fences does it: http://www.snapfiles.com/screenfiles/fences2.png). This would help new users find the control panel again when they need to change settings. It might not be worth the effort it would take, but it’s just an idea for the (not-so-near) future.

        I wouldn’t expect to see any major changes in the tweaker at this point, since your #1 priority is getting it working with Update 1, which is entirely understandable.

        • Dakota C. Blake says:

          I just donated what little I had in my Paypal. I doubt you’ll get any of it because of fees, but I don’t have any more money than that. I definitely wish I could donate more.

          • RaMMicHaeL says:

            Thank you for the support! Any amount is appreciated.
            A simple example: I’ve put a progress bar with the goal of $1000 in this post. If only 5% of the users of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker would donate $1 each, the goal would be reached. The fact of your involvement is, in my view, more important than the amount you can afford.

            • Dakota C. Blake says:

              You’re very welcome. It’s well-deserved. I’d be glad to be an alpha/prototype/nightly tester as well. I have a lot of experience with finding/fixing hard-to-find but bad bugs.

            • Dakota C. Blake says:

              I can’t seem to get access to the alpha versions page. I put in both emails (paypal and the one I use for comments here). I think I forgot to put w81u1 in the instructions place.

  8. Greg says:

    Windows 8.1 Update 1 is now officially available from Microsoft:

    http://www.neowin.net/news/windows-81-update-1-released-now-available-for-download

  9. Mike says:

    great program, would love to see it compatible with 8.1 update!

  10. John LF says:

    Gave what I could. Thanks for writing such a great bit of software!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Amazing program, now not even 5 min with the new windows update, I realize how much I appreciate this program. Made a small donation, but forgot to add it to the donation wall, so just let me said thanks for developing this useful application!

  12. Ruben says:

    Yes, please – crashes on 8.1 Update 1

  13. Dennis says:

    me too; as soon as i installed the update today, i received the error from 7+ taskbar tweaker which read:

    “… Could not load library (107)”

  14. Paul says:

    I want to donate for w8u1p, but when I log in to PayPal I see no place for a donation comment to that effect and the “Donate $20.00 USD Now” orange button is ready for me to click to send the donation. Where do I put this w8u1p donation comment? Does it come after I click that button? PayPal SAYS I can Change the notation that that this transaction will appear on my bill as–“PayPal”–to, say, “w8u1p” *BUT* PayPal does NOT IN FACT let me Change this notation. So how am I able to make w8u1p a donation comment using PayPal?

  15. Rob says:

    Same for me getting error code (Could not load library (107)) after windows 8.1 update

  16. Patrick says:

    Thanks for creating a great program. Looking forward to the new version being released. Is there a mailing list we can subscribe to to inform us when it will be released? I may even roll back to 8.1 in the mean time – it’s such a useful piece of software!

  17. PB says:

    I had to System Restore to undo the new update, just because my entire workflow is disrupted without 7TT. Donated what I could to help the cause. Thanks for the awesome application!

  18. M-tt says:

    (Could not load library (107) any solution plzzzzzzz help

  19. Tweaker User says:

    Hi. I’m getting this error
    7+ Taskbar Tweaker: Could not load library (107).

    Please find a fix for it. THanks.

  20. Greg says:

    Another major update for Windows 8.1 could be coming as soon as August:

    http://www.neowin.net/news/windows-81s-second-update-may-arrive-in-august

    • Anonymous says:
      • Greg says:

        Quote:
        I saw an easy solution for that… :-D
        http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7044/6773646302_2c4d0c6ab0_z.jpg
        Unquote.

        Not funny.

        • Craig says:

          Kinda funny, windows 8 sucks.

          • Greg says:

            Windows 8 in it’s default setup does suck to some extent, especially if you’re more
            used to the old Start menus, but install Classic Shell to restore the regular Start
            menu in a higly customisable form (and of course 7+ Taskbar Tweaker) and then
            all of a sudden, Windows 8 doesn’t really suck anymore.

            There is even a method to kill the needless Ribbon in File Explorer without using
            any other third-party add-ons. One quick registry tweak, rename a file within
            the System32 folder, then reboot, and that’s it. The file itself (UIRibbon.dll)
            isn’t system critical, so renaming it won’t cause stability issues.

            • menace97 says:

              Thank you Greg for adding some much-needed sensibility. They added the “start button” that absolutely freaked everyone out. Now push that button, and explore, yes take the time to check out the fact that it is different… and see just how “horrible” they have made the precious start menu.

              Oh and speaking of the needless ribbon that everyone has been bitching about since it’s introduction. Before removing it, check out how much useful, easy-to access information is available to you that is not easily come by in Windows 7 and below. You can always minimize the ribbon so that it pops out like a drawer whenever you might need it. Not in the way at all. Plus with them allowing you to add commonly used commands to a “Quick Access Toolbar” that you have seen in many Microsoft Products to EVERY window, it’s really quite terrible… er, I mean wonderful. Try 8.1 for yourself and you can then be on the side laughing at the others for NOT using it.

          • menace97 says:

            That’s it, follow the one in front of you, lemming… windows 8 (8.1 especially) just sucks! *rolls eyes*

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