Whenever you open multiple instances of the same application in Windows 7 it will stack the taskbar icons one behind the other so they are (pretty much) hidden. In order to switch between them, you need to hover the mouse cursor over the icon to reveal the various thumbnail previews and then select the one you wish to change to work with.
Stacked Firefox icons (for two open instances):
Now with thumbnail previews displayed:
I can understand why Microsoft thought that might be a good idea as it helps prevent overcrowding the taskbar and filling it up too quickly/easily. But it is also an inconvenience, an annoyance?albeit a minor one.
I much prefer the Vista method of having a separate visible display, including a text identifier (label), for each one.
The taskbar In Windows 7 works that way because of a default setting which can easily be changed to modify that behavior.
Right click on the Start orb and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab and look for "Taskbar buttons". From that drop down menu, change the setting from "Always combine, hide labels" to "Combine when taskbar is full".
Now you have a Vista style taskbar which will revert back to stacking the icons whenever it gets too full?.the best of both worlds!!
Click HERE to view more Windows 7 Tips & Tricks.
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How To: Prevent taskbar icon stacking and display them individually Windows 7 Tips & Tricks
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