Does Windows Phone 7 need a task switcher?


16, 2010

Author Surur // in News

Does Windows Phone 7 need a task switcher? Nick, a developer with a Windows Phone 7 device, is campaigning for a task switcher for windows phone 7, activated by a double click the back button.

Not that he does not like the back button. He writes:

Having spent quite a bit of time working with Windows Phone 7 on both a real device and the emulator I’ve come to the conclusion that the Back button is awesome! Now when I pick up a lesser device, that for example only has a home key, I get frustrated that I can’t go back to the application I was just in, or cancel an action that I didn’t mean.

From the many videos we have seen of Windows Phone 7 we can certainly agree the back button works very smoothly, with great performance.

However, because the back button is the only programmable button in Windows Phone 7, its behaviour is not completely predictable in applications.

He writes:

The most frustrating of these is Internet Explorer. The Back button handles two different types of Back-stacks: Firstly there is the application back-stack. This is the stack of applications that have been opened. For example if you open App1, followed by App2, App3 and App4, you’ll have a back-stack that consists of Start | App1 | App2 | App3 | Start | App4 (note that the Start appears twice in the list, once immediately before the last application on the stack, and then again at the beginning of the stack). As you press the Back button you will navigate back through the stack, progressively closing the applications, so starting at App4 you would see the Start, App3, App2, App1 and then Start again.

The second type of Back-stack is within the individual applications, and by default is made up of the pages that have been navigated to in that instance of the application… For example, within Internet Explorer, rather than opening/closing pages, the Back-stack consists of the websites that have been navigated to. As you can guess, pressing the Back button within Internet Explorer is like pressing the Back button on any desktop browser, it takes you back through the browsing history.

… the longer I spend browsing in IE, the larger the Back-stack is going to be, which is a royal pain if you want to empty the Back-stack, or you want to go back to App1 or App2.

So by now you might be thinking “quit your whinging, you can just press the Start button and then click on App1 or App2.” But here is the issue with that – because we have a “Consistent Start” experience, whenever we click on an application from the Start it will always relaunch the application as if it wasn’t already running. This means that if the application was previously in the background (or Tombstoned) it will be terminated and restarted.

Nick is not advocating for multi-tasking, but he thinks an action which allows easy switching between suspended “tombstoned” applications should be part of the next version of Windows Phone 7.

Read Nick’s full argument here.

Do our readers think Windows Phone 7 would benefit from a task switcher? Let us know below.

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