Re: Microsoft middle(nuisance)ware.
That's easy to do in 7. Just drag them into place at the top of the list. I think once you move your first one you have a line appear, above which is the stuff you want there
Yep, and I did use that, but it was a bit limited space wise.
Yeah that's a part of why I don't bother with Windows much any more. With Linux I can have more than one bar, even more than one at the bottom. So that gives me room for a normal Win7-like bar down the bottom (rather MS copied others but I say W7 like to make it easier to visualise :) ), and along the top I have a number of most-used stuff and some status stuff (CPU/RAM/Net monitor etc). If I am doing some work that's needing a few other things I'll put in left and/or right bars and add more to them.
I can also have different bars on different physical screens (at least in Mate, haven't yet tried it with Cinnamon or KDE). That means I can have one set of tools in my main screen and other sets in my side screen(s) as desired.
I'd say it's much more productive but my first day on a new machine is spent playing with combinations of icons :)