As you probably know by now, a pre-beta version of Microsoft's future operating system, Windows
7, has been leaked to the “masses.” Of course, we couldn't let such an
opportunity pass us by, and we decided to take a quick tour of this
release, so we could come up with an answer to the most relevant
question of all: is it worth it? Is Windows 7 worth installing?
Therefore, we decided to have a look at the most common Windows
locations, functions and utilities that the average user might access
or use, see to what extent this operating system was any different from
its predecessor and, thus, answer the above question. All this, within
an hour, of course.
a starting note, we should state that Windows 7 was installed on a
Vista-compatible laptop, and, therefore, performance was not an issue.
As for the installation process, it lasted approximately 30 minutes and
was almost identical to the one found in Windows Vista.
You must have noticed that I said “almost.” The addition of homegroups
is a difference between the two operating systems that you will surely
notice even during the installation process – at the end of it, you
will receive a password that will later allow you to access this
the setup process was finished, I headed to the Getting started window
to see the new functionalities in Windows that I should be
concentrating on. Since we're talking about a pre-beta version, this
didn't turn out to be a very wise decision: the What's New headlines
were missing. Instead, Item 1, Item 2 and Item 3 were displayed. Still,
included in this window is a See more new features button that leads to
the section in Windows Help with all the new features I was looking
for: Specialized for laptops, Optimized for entertainment, Designed for
for laptops, unfortunately, does not mean in any way that, by
installing Windows 7 on a laptop, you'll be able to use it a lot longer
by running just on your battery. The power consumption is, at best, the
same as in Windows Vista. However, Windows 7 does include more advanced
power options and power plans that might help you squeeze just a little
bit more juice out of your battery.
this version of Microsoft Windows, Media Player finally has its own
sets of codecs, which will allow you to view videos, movies and clips
without having to search the Internet for codec packs. Furthermore, Windows Media Center
has been “pimped” to ensure that Windows 7 really is optimized for
entertainment. The downside in this case is that, during our testing of
Windows Media Player, the application froze repeatedly and, to cap it
all off, so did the entire system with it (thus forcing the user to
reboot in order to get back control).
think it's safe to say that designing Windows 7 for services most
probably brought the coolest new concepts in looks and maneuverability
of windows. Therefore, in order to make this operating system from a
touch screen extremely easy to use, several new, interesting and very
useful features have been implemented. Aside from the Superbar you've
probably heard of – that, in a way, uses the concept of mac docks –
another addition, which, although potentially useful to the average
user, I doubt was designed especially for them, is the “shake”
functionality that allows them to minimize all windows behind a window
that is shaken a bit using its title bar.
Last but not least,
you'll be able to maximize a window by just dragging it to the top of
the screen, or to resize its width to the width of the screen by either
dragging its title bar to the right/left edge of the screen, or the
resize arrows to the top/bottom of the screen. As a side note, similar
actions have been assigned through the usage of the Windows and
directional keys: Windows Key + Up = Maximize, Windows Key + Down =
Minimize, Windows Key + Left = The window will occupy the entire left
side of the screen, Windows Key + Right = The window will occupy the
entire right side of the screen.
As you might have heard already, the Superbar isn't the only
major change brought to the Windows 7 taskbar. You can now finally
change the order of your windows in the taskbar. Furthermore, the
thumbnails have been considerably tweaked, and they no longer function
as a small, singular preview of an application.
Windows 7 will now display a thumbnail
for each window of a group, and from each thumbnail, users can close
the corresponding window or, in some cases, access its common controls,
like Play, Previous, or Next in the case of Windows Media Player. Another example of how the thumbnails have been improved is the possibility to view the tabs
of an application as if they were separate windows just by hovering
over its taskbar icon with your mouse. Naturally, the thumbnail will
also function as a preview to a specific window, so you won't
necessarily need to switch
windows in order to just take a quick peek at another program – for
instance, hovering over the thumbnail will do the trick instead.
Another addition to the Windows 7 taskbar is the jumplist.
A jumplist is a personalized menu that may offer access to the
program’s functions or recently/frequently used files. Since we are
talking about personalized menus, their content is, of course, decided
by each application’s developer and will consequently vary. For
example, while the Windows Explorer jumplist displays a list of
frequently and recently accessed locations, the Internet Explorer
jumplist will display your browser's history.
As for new stylish
elements in this operating system, I should mention that most progress
bars will now be viewable from the taskbar, so you won’t need to focus
on a window just to find out how much progress has been made. You will
notice another eye-catching feature when hovering over the taskbar icon
of an opened application – the lightning effect that highlights the
the taskbar and Start Menu properties haven't been left unchanged
either. Improvements have been made especially to the Start Menu
options, which now allow you to customize it in a manner that, had it
been available in previous Windows operating systems, it could have
been achieved only through registry tweaks.
What's in and what's out
of Windows Movie Maker will probably be surprised to find out that this
component, along with Windows Mail and Windows Photo Gallery, is no
longer bundled in Windows 7. Don't worry, you can always download them
from Softpedia or Windows Live.
Of course, Microsoft couldn't
have removed applications without adding a few new ones as well. A
pretty useful software is Windows DVD Maker that allows you to create
your very own multimedia DVD. Although the program is easy to use and
offers a straightforward procedure for burning your video, music and
graphic files to a DVD, it also enables you to customize various DVD
settings, such as its menu, video format or DVD aspect ratio.
are also a few other, smaller, additions like the Sticky Notes,
Snipping Tool, and even a long awaited Disc Image Burning Tool.
Unfortunately, none of these utilities is advanced, but if you're
looking for some basic operations, they are surely the handiest
Changes in Windows programs
basic changes that you can easily discover by just browsing for a few
minutes are as follows. Wordpad and Paint have been enhanced a bit, in
that they now employ the ribbon interface. You'll be using the beta
version of Internet Explorer 8 and a not-yet-released
for download version 12 of Windows Media Player. Windows Calculator now
features Programmer and Statistics modes, and includes date calculation
and unit conversion functionality as well.
functions on a much more improved engine, as compared to the one
available at this moment in/for Vista. A less important optimization,
but still worth mentioning, is the ability to resize the length of the
search bar in Windows Explorer.
Last but not least in our list
of changes that would probably interest any average user are the
Control Panel additions. You'll notice a few new items: ClearType Text
Tuner, Credential Manager, Display Color Calibration Wizard, Gadgets,
Location and Other Sensors, Recovery, System Icons, Troubleshooting,
Workspaces Center, Biometric Devices, Windows Solution Center.
Solution Center is the replacement of the Windows Security Center
currently available in Windows Vista and XP. It will now provide access
to the system's security components (virus, network access and spyware
protection, firewall, UAC, automatic updates, etc.), but also to maintenance tasks such as Windows Backup, System Restore or Troubleshooting.
Libraries and Homegroups
other Windows operating system until now paid too much attention to the
concept of grouping files for private or network use. When opening
Windows Explorer, you will surely notice what appear to be two new
elements in Windows 7: Libraries and Homegroups.
inherit the concept initially found in Windows XP to display links to
Windows special folders (My Music, My Documents, etc.). In Windows 7,
this feature has finally been made user-oriented. So, now, you can
create your own Libraries, which can reunite files and folders from
anywhere on your drives in a single location.
Homegroups are a very useful addition to network file sharing functionality in Microsoft Windows.
With the use of homegroups, one care share specific files, folders and
even printers only with members of the same homegroup. Hand in hand
with this new feature, a new item has been added to the folder context
menu to help users take advantage of this new feature: the Share with
option. This item will allow Windows 7 users to rapidly add a folder to
Libraries and homegroups are very well tied
together to offer you the ultimate experience in managing and sharing
your files and folders. If you wish to see how these two components
relate to one another, just browse to one of the default libraries in
Windows 7, and you'll notice the separation in the two different
categories: Public and Personal (Videos, Downloads, Music etc). These
two libraries go hand in hand, as I was saying, with the homegroups, to
ensure that your files receive the right kind of permissions (read
& write, or just read).
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