January 8, 2009

An Early Review of Windows 7: Will Be a Game-Changer For Microsoft?

Although Windows 7 is going to be released on January 9 to the public, I have had the good fortune to be able to use it for over a month. I thought I would give everyone a brief taste of what is in store for Microsoft's next operating system.

First, I would like to point everyone to my favorite source for everything Windows, Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows. Paul has great knowledge about Windows and has an exhaustive list of screenshots and information about Windows 7 which can be found here .

Here are some of my own personal impressions about Windows:

1. The New Taskbar

The taskbar is one of the first and most obvious things that has changed in Windows 7. By default the taskbar is strictly "iconized" as I like to call it, meaning that all you see is icons.

As one can see even when applications are in the start menu, there is no text beside the icon. This can be changed through the settings to revert back to the "normal" windows behavior (which is what I did).

One might notice the icons that remain on the taskbar, despite not being opened in windows. These icons are now "pinned" to the taskbar. This pinning of icons replaces the previous Quick Launch feature in XP and Vista.

Another feature of the new taskbar is the small, closeable, live window previews that are accompanied by the icons. For example, if multiple Firefox windows are opened, it will look like this in the taskbar when you hover over the icon.

2. The addition of Libraries as opposed to strict folders.

One of my favorite features of Windows 7 is the addition of Libraries (a bit ironic I know). Libraries are separated in a similar format to the My Documents, My Videos, My Pictures, and My Music folders of XP, except they are not just limited to a single folder. Instead, the Libraries allow you to add as many folders as you like to them and keep your documents, music, photos, and videos in one place, even if they are physically located in separate folders. This is especially intuitive with regards to networking, as networked folders can be added to these Libraries.

3. The New Start Menu

Those who have used Vista will recognize the improved start menu in Windows 7. The search function is still built right into the menu box and only one major change is noticeable, which is the new hover options available to users.
When hovering over a program that works with this feature (Office products, IE, Sticky Notes, etc...), a mini-list of options will appear to the user. See above screenshot.

4. One-click Wireless Networking

Another favorite feature of mine on Windows 7 is the one-click wireless networking. By simply clicking on the wireless network icon in the system tray, you can instantly connect to any network that your wireless connection sees. This is a small but helpful feature.

5. No more Windows Movie Maker, Outlook Express, Windows Messenger.

One of the most interesting things that Microsoft has done with Windows 7 is removing some of the formerly key applications. Instead, Microsoft is going to require that you download the Windows Live Essentials Pack. In the Windows Live Essentials Pack, you will be asked if you would like to install programs like:

Windows Live Movie Maker (Replacing Movie Maker),
Windows Live Writer (a blogging program),
Windows Live Mail (Replacing the clunky and unintuitive Outlook Express,
Windows Live Photo Gallery (Replacing Windows Photo Gallery in Vista)
Windows Live Messenger (Replacing Windows Messenger)

These programs are immensely better then the previous offerings by Microsoft, and the the best part is that they are free and available now to XP, Vista, and Windows 7 users.

Some other changes to notable Windows programs include the revamped user interface of Microsoft Paint and Microsoft Wordpad, which now include the Ribbon interface made popular by Office 2007.

6. Overall Feel

The overall feel of the operating system is much snappier then both Vista and XP, assuming you have the hardware to run it. I'm currently using a laptop with 4 gb of RAM and a dual-core processor, so I'm running it without any problems. I've read that people trying to run it on slower machines are still running into difficulties.

Overall though, the system boots up faster, shuts down faster, and is generally very quick to respond.

Some Notes: I have merely touched on the new features of Windows 7. I encourage you to check out Paul Thurrott's site for more details. Also, while Windows 7 has been a great experience for me personally, it is still in beta. Beta means that Microsoft still has some bugs to squash and some errors to correct. I have only run into some minor errors every once in awhile, but I still do not recommend that users completely switch to Windows 7 without previously doing a backup of all of their files.

I'll end this post with a full screenshot of my Windows 7 desktop with the default wallpaper. Be sure to click on it for a full-size picture.

If you have any specific questions about the operating system feel free to comment, and I will try to answer as best I can.


cathy said...

the fish picture is great! The rest, I find a little intimidating. It seems so different and I just got used to office 2007.

Chris said...

Well, the good news is that the Ribbon interface that you see in Office 2007 is more prominent throughout all of Windows 7. In Microsoft Paint as well as WordPad, the ribbon interface can be found.

Also, don't be intimidated! Once you start using Windows 7,you'll get used to some of the new features quickly. Like Office 2007, Microsoft designed this OS with usability in mind, and are hoping that it will be a easy transition for XP and Vista users.

Lauren Henderson said...

Nice post Chris - very thorough. Love the beta fish for the beta OS :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I don't need to learn Vista now! The new OS should be easy to transition to with a quick tip sheet.
I read on Paul Thurrott's site that there are new sounds schemes and new sample pictures. Thanks for the info and great post.

Donna Babcock

Anonymous said...

To me it seems that Windows 7 is but another timely release from Microsoft--in this case in the midst of recessionary worries and general economic uncertainty.
What I have seen in your review, and others like it, has more to do with the new interface and facade of the program. This is well and good for a person buying a first computer, but what about someone who already enjoys either XP or Vista (or an Apple OS)?

When I see the Beta fish logo, I feel like I am only seeing a fishing lure. Am I wrong to feel this way?