Proof you can still use the Quick Launch as it existed in previous versions of Windows. This trick works just as well in Windows 7.

Now I wasn't about to unpin all my apps, but that's for sure the quick launch bar.

How did I do this?

♪ Right click Taskbar > Uncheck "Lock the Taskbar"
♪ Right click Taskbar again > Toolbars > New Toolbar
♪ Navigate to c:\users\username\appdata\roaming\microsoft\internet explorer\quick launch and Select folder
♪ Drag Quick Launch label until it's on the left side where your start orb would have been
♪ Right click Quick Launch label and uncheck both "show text" and "show title"
♪ Adjust length of quick launch panel as deemed fit
♪ Unpin all pinned taskbar apps (except for third party start menu if you're using one).
♪ (Optional) Right click taskbar > Properties and set taskbar buttons to "never combine". Also can check "small icons" for an XP-sized taskbar.

Only thing you can't get back is XP's lousy way of having a separate, detached button for each window you have of the SAME program (like multiple firefox windows). Windows 7/8 instead attach alike program windows to a strip of sorts, even in 'never combine' mode. Honestly, I would prefer it this way anyways, XP always drove me nuts having my taskbar buttons mixed up all over.