Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, I’m sure you’ve heard that Microsoft has released its new client operating system Windows 7. Not only have they released Windows 7 but they have done so with great fanfare. I haven’t heard and read this much good news about a Microsoft operating system in…well to be honest never. Sure Microsoft has had success in the past but they really seem to have hit the mark with this one. In this article I’d like to discuss some of the new features from Windows XP & Vista.
Being a member of the Windows 7 TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and Beta I’ve been using Windows 7 at home and work for over 9 months now. Although there have been some issues (most of my experience has been with beta and release candidate software) my overall impression has been very positive. Right off the bat Windows 7 feels like a modern operating system. You can tell that Microsoft spent a lot of time making things easier for users. In fact if you have experience using Windows Vista you won’t find Windows 7’s navigation that much different. I’m not saying Windows 7 is like Windows Vista, for one it is much more responsive than its predecessor. Microsoft has fine-tuned the kernel of Windows 7 to deal with memory much better than Vista and has limited the number of background services to help reduce the resource footprint needed to run the operating system.
With every new operating system come new advancements within the capability set delivered, and Windows 7 delivers. I’m going to be spending most of my time comparing Windows 7 to Windows XP. The biggest change you will see is what you see. Windows 7’s interface is different than Windows XP but not so much that you will be lost. First you will no longer find the comforting Start Button in the bottom left hand corner as it has been replaced by a Windows logo that performs the same function. Once clicked on you will see a much improved menu over the Windows XP start menu. Directly over the Windows logo is a search box that can be used to type in not only names of applications but also locally stored files. The menu will start to auto-populate with your results and is a great shortcut to open applications that you would normally have to search all over for. This search field also can be used as a replacement for the Run Dialog but although it is not a replacement and the Run option can be added back using the advanced settings. Directly above the search box is where you will find the All Programs option. Once clicked on it will display your installed applications much like previous versions of Windows did. Windows 7 is all about shortcuts to common tasks and you will find the most commonly used applications will also be listed on this menu screen. You will find shortcuts to common areas like My Computer or Control Panel on the right of this menu. I really like the feel of the new Menu as it allows me to access the apps and data I need much quicker and easier.
Speaking of making things easier, there are four features I’d like to share with you that are really cool and designed to make your life easier.
1. Windows Taskbar – The Windows Taskbar has been improved to allow for easy navigation between open windows and quick easy access to commonly used applications. First you have the ability to right click an application and “Pin to Taskbar”. This will give you quick access to that application or Explorer Windows (perhaps My Videos). Once you do that you can hover your mouse over the item and if the windows or application is open it will show you a preview of the open window. It even shows the video while it is playing!
I can tell you this is a life saver when you have multiple emails or Word documents open. Instead of Alt-Tab’ing through them I can now just hover over the icon on the task bar and view all the open windows.
2. Jump Lists – Jump lists are quick easy ways to open a recent document, picture, song or website. All you have to do is right click on the icon that is either opened on the task bar (picture below) or some apps will expand this out via the Start Menu.
3. Snap – Snap is a nifty little way to resize open windows by dragging them to the edges of your screen. All you do is drag an open window to the left of your screen and it will Snap to that side and take up half the screen. You can take another open window and Snap it to the right to be able to view both those windows side-by-side. Here is a look at the before and after when using Snap.
Another option I like in snap is to drag a window to the top of the screen and it will open in full screen.
4. Windows Search – Windows 7 has several ways to make finding what you’re looking for much easier. On any folder that you open up you have the ability to perform a search by typing in the name of the item you are looking for. It actually starts displaying results as you type in information. You even have the ability to filter by other attributes such as size, author, date etc…
Windows 7 is going to be a big change for people adopting from XP. The interface is drastically different than some people are used to using. However Microsoft has done an excellent job in its design to make it more user friendly. Microsoft has also included a ton of new features that are intended to make common tasks very simply