I find it much faster to identify a window in the taskbar (window list) by its icon,

taskbar with icon only

rather than by its text:

taskbar with icon and text

The problem with most graphical interfaces I've switched among is that they don't group windows, and if you have more terminals or file managers, they'll just clutter the taskbar and you won't know which is which. Windows 7 offers a relatively elegant solution to this by grouping similar window icons together.

Question: What Linux desktop environments have this functionality? If addons exist that provide it, that's alright.

For reference, a Cinnamon applet that sort of does this is Window List With App Grouping.

  • 1
    If one of the answers solves your original problem, please Accept the answer.
    – landroni
    Jan 10 '14 at 20:07
  • @landroni: what if more than one answer solves the problem? Jan 21 '14 at 9:42
  • 2
    Well, you cannot accept two answers, it seems. So you could: (1) accept the answer that is most pertinent and upvote a 2nd answer, and (2) make a bold-formatted 'UPDATE' to your OP to indicate what solutions solved your problem.
    – landroni
    Jan 21 '14 at 9:55
  • Alternatively, group all relevant answers that optimally fix your original issue into your own answer, and accept that. (But in that case you don't offer reputation points to those who answered your question.)
    – landroni
    Jan 23 '14 at 7:06

Unity's launcher groups windows belonging to one application in the same icon.

Four icons from Unity's launcher

For example, in this screenshot, I have two Firefox windows open, and one Thunderbird window open. The Firefox icon in the launcher has two corresponding arrows on the left to indicate this, and the Thunderbird icon has one arrow. If I click the Firefox icon, I can choose between its two windows, which are immediately rearranged and laid out on the screen.

  • LXDE's LX Panel has this capability. Right-click the taskbar and select "Task Bar (Window List)" Settings. Check "Combine multiple application windows into a single button". If "icons only" is also selected, there's no visual indication that an icon may represent more than one window.
  • There's also XFCE4-panel in which a task list item could be added [1].

In Xfce, you can easily configure the Window Buttons plug-in on the panel to emulate a Windows 7-like look & feel. See screenshot: enter image description here

To do so, right-click on the plug-in's handle, access Properties, then uncheck the Show button labels option. You may also consider modifying the Sorting order option to something that you prefer (personally I always go for None, allow DnD).

Another possibility in Xfce is the less well-known xfce4-tasklist-plugin, which specifically "mimicks the Windows 7 taskbar (pinning applications, etc)".

See this related discussion on xfce-dev ML: tweaking Window Buttons defaults.

  • In the recent version (xfce 4.12) grouping is also supported.
    – mook765
    Sep 15 '19 at 19:38

Dockbarx does exactly what you want. It can be combined with AWN and others easily.


If you want to see this in action, download the free version of Zorin OS, which has done this.


I personally just stick with Gnome Shell for this feature though with the Dash extension. You can install gnome shell extensions at https://extensions.gnome.org/

If you have say multiple Google Chrome windows open you just right click on the icon and select which window you want.

Not exactly the same as windows 7, but you use a right click instead of a left to view the window. If you left click it takes you to the window you viewed last. I prefer this functionality.

You can also look at docky, cario dock, awn. I prefer docky. AWN has a lot of features though for just a seperate more customizable "dock", "dash", "launcher", or thing.

I also use alt+tab alot. In gnome shell you also have access to the super key. It makes viewing all your applications pretty easy.

Hope this helps.


KDE Plasma Desktop can have the taskbar like Windows 7.

In KDE Plasma 5, there are three steps to follow:

  1. Right-click on the bottom panel, somewhere next to the K-menu icon
  2. Click Alternatives... to see list of Alternative Widgets
  3. Select Icon-only Task Manager and then click Switch

That is all, launch few similar applications to see the result. With Icon-only Task Manager, application icons will always be combined and grouped together.

KDE Plasma 5 with icon-only task manager

Discrepancy: By default, a click on the application icons will activate a certain desktop effect. To disable this behaviour, Go to Settings > Desktop Behavior > Desktop Effects and then, locate and clear the checkbox for "Present Windows". The desktop effect will be replaced by a small pop-up window as shown in the screenshot above.

Following above steps, the taskbar option "Always combine, hide labels" in Windows 7 can be reproduced similarly in KDE Plasma Desktop. This has been possible beginning from KDE Plasma 4, but the newer generation KDE Plasma 5 has simplified the setup.

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