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In Windows 7, I use the "Auto-hide the task bar" feature. Usually, it works fine: As soon as the pointer touches the screen bottom, the task bar pops up.

However sometimes, it refuses to rise. Pressing the "Windows" key (or Ctrl-ESC) makes the start menu appear, forcing the task bar from hinding as well. Once I've done this, the task-bar auto-rises again. This is annoying, it interrupts flow. Has anyone else noticed this? How do I avoid this?

Searching for "Windows 7 task bar auto-raise" shows that at least one other person experienced this problem: How can I fix the taskbar's auto-hide?(Microsoft Community Post)

To answer the question posed by the "helpful" support engineer on the above page, of course I am running some apps when this happens, usually Windows Task Manager (minimized to notification area), Windows Explorer, Firefox, Eclipse, Cygwin/X, Xterm, Cygwin Emacs, gitk, git gui, Notes, a chat client, a VPN client, a Firewall.

If my memory serves correctly, I have seen this behavior on earlier versions of Windows as well, XP at least, but not nearly as often as currently on Windows 7.

So far, it appears to happen out of the blue, sometimes multiple times a day.

I am unable to directly reproduce this behavior so far. To reproduce this behavior, I tried switching between apps, and bringing apps to open other windows.

See my comments below for some more info.

Looks like a bug to me. The task bar should raise no matter what.

Edit:

I normally use the "Classic" Windows style, with all animations disabled. I switched to "candy" (Aero) style to see if that helps, but the issue still occurred.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this behavior when I was not using Eclipse, but Eclipse is definitely the program that most often triggers this behavior.

As reported by Malachi, there is a record on Eclipse Bugs that also tracks this issue. It has been opened in 2002-09. Wow, more than ten years ago. However, users on another page found by Malachi have reported that other programs, for example Firefox can cause this behavior, too, so this is not an issue exclusively caused by Eclipse.

The issue could be caused by Eclipse, or Windows, or the JRE. If the issue is a Windows or JRE limitation, I still say Eclipse should stay clear of it. Other programs manage to do that as well.

My current theory is this: Normally, there is exactly one pixel of the task bar visible, and in front of all other apps, even when an app is maximized. Since the task bar is in front (at the top of the Z order), it "sees" the pointer when the pointer hovers over it. When the issue occurs, the task bar is no longer in front of every other app, so it does not receive "hover" events. Only where no other window occludes it does it still receive hover events.

If the task bar needs to be on top with at least one row of pixels visible, it is Windows' responsibility to ensure that this is the case. The OS is the master and must not let applications dominate the GUI interaction. There are exceptions, such as movie players, where you do not want a light line of pixels being visible (just color it black!), or where the task bar should not rise at all, such as in full-screen games. In my view, Eclipse or a browser do not require an exception.

Here's a description of a typical incident:

Eclipse was in front. I moved the pointer to screen bottom, the task bar would not rise. When Eclipse was not maximized, leaving a little space on the right, I was able to make the task bar rise behind the eclipse window, by "touching" the bottom right corner. Moving away, the task bar hid again. This worked repeatedly. When I touched the center bottom, the task bar did not rise, not even behind Eclipse. Next I maximized the Eclipse window. The task bar could not be raised. Restored the Eclipse window -> Same as before the maximize-restore cycle (rose only when bottom right was touched). Then I alt-tabbed to Firefox, which was maximized at the time. Still no task bar. In the non-maximized state with Firefox it was as with Eclipse. Same for other apps, for example Notes. As long as Next I alt-tabbed to Emacs, its Ediff control window, to be precise. And suddenly the task bar worked again. The Ediff control window was not maximized, and did not touch screen bottom (it is usually never maximized). The Ediff window can not be the culprit, as the issue mostly occurs when I have no Ediff window open, and it was sitting there all day and the task bar was working.

So when this happens, it "applies" to more than one app. At least Eclipse and Firefox are "stronger" than the task bar. In one instance, Eclipse was on top, gitk at the bottom, and the task bar in between.

Maybe there is a program that allows inspection of the Z order, or logs changes in the Z order?

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1  
Do any of your apps have an option to set "Always on Top"? –  kmote Oct 4 '12 at 18:33
    
The only app that has this set is Windows Task Manager ("WTM"), but that is usually minimized to the notification area. Even when WTM is visible (and forcedly on top of any other windows), the task bar normally rises properly. I experimented briefly: When WTM is maximized, it appears as if the task bar fails to rise. However, when I resize WTM so that it stretches to the bottom, but not to the sides, I see that the task bar does indeed rise, but behind WTM. So... maybe some app temporarily sets itself to "Always on top", like a modal dialog, maybe because it wants to notify me of something. –  Rainer Blome Oct 5 '12 at 8:02
2  
Since it's not repeatable it may be tough to find it, but I would advise that the next time it happens you systematically shut down applications to see if you can detect a culprit. You might also consider stretching your taskbar across both screens for a while, to see if it appears on the 2nd while being blocked on the first –  kmote Oct 5 '12 at 15:13
    
Yeah, I need to try to narrow it down, see above. Stretching the task bar - How? My impression is that this is not supported with vanilla Windows 7. –  Rainer Blome Oct 5 '12 at 17:16
1  
Ahh, you're right -- my mistake. I slipped into the old WinXP mindset there for a minute. Sorry. –  kmote Oct 5 '12 at 18:03

3 Answers 3

Using the WindowsT key combination, you can bring up the taskbar even if it's stuck hidden. Not the most-ideal solution, but one that consistently works.

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I wonder if this works in this situation? –  Malachi Nov 8 '13 at 22:40
    
Like the Windows key on its own, or Ctrl-ESC, which I both mentioned in the question, Windows-T is a workaround. The difference is that Windows-T shows just the task bar, while the Windows key on its own shows the start menu in addition to the task bar. –  Rainer Blome Feb 21 at 11:50
    
I see what you're saying. That works really well in Windows 7. In Windows 8 and 8.1, it will bring up the start screen so you got nothin' in terms of a taskbar. I agree these are all workarounds to a larger bug that is z-indexing the taskbar and would love to see a native solution :). –  Saturn2888 Feb 21 at 17:12

it looks like this is already a reported bug, I only post this for you because it looks similar to the issue you are having.

this is from the Eclipse bug site Bug 24052

looks like there is a post on a windows 7 forum as well

Taskbar auto-hide

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1  
"Similar" is an understatement, the reports in that Eclipse Bug record sound exactly like the issue I'm having. Thanks for reporting this! –  Rainer Blome Oct 16 '12 at 19:20
    
this was already reported. I didn't report it. but you are welcome. –  Malachi Oct 16 '12 at 19:41
    
Well, I meant "thanks for reporting the existence of the Eclipse Bug record". :-) –  Rainer Blome Oct 18 '12 at 17:46
    
I am trying to find a more recent bug report. that forum entry just sounds like a bunch of people complaining and not really any solutions, or bug report status updates. –  Malachi Oct 18 '12 at 18:00

the Task Bar is an application with a process, when you are not using it (when it's hidden) windows marks it as inactive and allows the CPU to use that processing power for all the other applications you are using, so you might see a lag when you try to activate the Task Bar again because Windows needs to re-allocate processing power to the Task Bar, and depending on how many applications or Processes are running will figure into the Task Bar not responding and for how long.

Edit

I know that FireFox and Eclipse eat up a lot of CPU especially Eclipse (at least the last time that I used Eclipse it did)

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Note FireFox is one of the Heavier Browsers. everytime I use it on Linux or Windows it takes longer to load than Chrome and Even IE, I believe it hogs Processing also, a lot more than Chrome or IE –  Malachi Oct 4 '12 at 16:13
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@kmote if there was something that was set to Always on Top it would always be on top and OP would not be able to see anyother windows either, OP would notice what program was causing the issue. –  Malachi Oct 4 '12 at 18:51
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are you using Dual Screens? where is the Task Bar Anchored? –  Malachi Oct 4 '12 at 18:57
    
When the problem hits, the task bar appears to not raise at all, no matter how long I wait. Yes, some of the apps can hog resources, but my system is otherwise responsive enough (sub-second). –  Rainer Blome Oct 5 '12 at 8:08
    
I do sometimes use dual screen, but the issue also occurs when I have only one connected. Regarding "@kmote", when the program that is already on top (especially maximized), I might not notice if it is temporarily set to "on top". –  Rainer Blome Oct 5 '12 at 8:19

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