I frequently have 10 or more windows of the same application (e.g. Outlook, Word, IE, etc.) open at one time. Windows 7's new taskbar grouping thumbnail feature shows a preview of open windows (aka thumbnails) when you single-click on the taskbar group for that application.

But when I have over 10 windows open (more thumbnails than will fit horizontally on my screen), Windows reverts to a vertical menu. This is disconcerting since I need to train myself to deal with two separate behaviors and can never anticipate what I'm going to see when I click on a taskbar group.

Furthermore, I find the thumbnails more difficult to visually scan through (vs. the vertical menu) because only 1-2 words of each window's title are shown. Typically that's not enough text to disambiguate and help me find the right window.

I'd like to force Windows 7's taskbar grouping to always show a vertical menu (like in XP) instead of sometimes showing thumbnail previews and sometimes showing a vertical menu.

Anyone know how (whether?) this can be done?

UPDATE: BTW, I'm running the RTM version (build 7600) of Windows 7. There are apparently other solutions out there which work on earlier builds, but which don't work on the RTM build.

  • 1
    Easy solution...stop opening so many windows – davr Dec 9 '09 at 20:33
  • 5
    @davr: actually, just leave him alone. if he wants that many windows open, then he can do it... – studiohack Apr 22 '10 at 1:52
  • Some people who search for things like "disable Windows Taskbar thumbnail preview" may actually be searching for the answer to this question instead of disabling the thing entirely. I was one such seeker. – palswim Aug 17 '16 at 22:35

There's a registry key you can edit to get this behaviour even in modern versions of Windows 7:


Create a DWORD called NumThumbnails, and set it to 0 to achieve list mode for all taskbar groups.

Alternatively, you can set it to a number such as 3 or 4. Then apps with that many or fewer windows will use the thumbnails interface, but apps with more than that many windows will use the list mode.

This is my preferred setup, so that things like Outlook and Word still use thumbnails when I have 2-3 windows open, but Chrome and Windows Explorer (for which I typically have 10-15 windows open each) use the more informative list mode ("vertical menus").

Source: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/75804-taskbar-list-thumbnail-previews-mode-change.html

  • NumThumbnails = 2 seems perfect to both take advantage of thumbnails when there are only 1 or 2 windows (you could switch by clicking the left or the right one), and get rid of them when there are 3 or more (where the vertical list is better than the thumbnail list). Thanks :D – ADTC Apr 24 '13 at 9:21
  • PS: It's annoying how the vertical list and thumbnail lists do not animate into each other. As a workaround, I disabled Animations in the taskbar and Start Menu so that the animation behavior is consistent between the two (no animation at all). – ADTC Apr 24 '13 at 9:31
  • 5
    But the change wont appear as soon as you update the registry , you have to restart explorer for that. Go to the processes tab and look for explorer.exe. End the process, and select File > New Task (Run...). Enter explorer.exe – Vins Jun 5 '14 at 6:27
  • Interesting caveat, at least on Windows 10. It seems like even if I set NumThumbnails to 0, it will still show the Thumbnail preview for a single window, but with any more than 1, it will show the text menu. – palswim Aug 18 '16 at 17:52
  • 32 or 64bit DWORD? – Moab Oct 14 '20 at 14:03

I came across this post while looking for an answer for this same issue.. One thing I've found -- if you go into Control Panel > System > Advanced System Settings > Performance 'Settings' and uncheck 'Enable Desktop Composition' it will remove most Aero features, but it does give you a consistent vertically listed taskbar menu.

I like the regular Aero desktop visuals, so I'm kind of torn -- a pretty interface or a functional one.

Unfortunately at this time Microsoft won't let me do both!!!

Overall, the new task bar, 'pinning' of icons, Gigantic icon preview windows, and 'frequently used' lists are totally STUPID and USELESS.



You can also use a Basic and High Contrast Theme within Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Personalization. You would lose the Aero features though.


In Windows 10 (and maybe 7) WinAero enables reducing the number of thumbnails in the Taskbar so that Windows will stack them after that. See under Taskbar thumbnails: https://winaero.com/download.php?view.1796

Much better than horizontal.

Grace and peace thru Jesus the Lord.

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