Having purchased the Windows 7 Professional through the student upgrade program, and with a Windows 7 Launch Party tomorrow, I was anxious to get it installed last night. Even though I ran into a couple of snags with the 64-bit download unpacking to a 32-bit XP system (see “Unloading the Box” error), and will make a post for how to get around that issue later this evening or tomorrow afternoon, I am overall happy with my $30 purchase. I wanted to go over a couple of things that I really enjoy having in a Windows Operating System. Having come from Windows XP (with very little experience in Vista) some of these things are bigger value-adds for me.
64-bit Operating System, DirectX 10/11
Yeah, it was available in Windows XP – and it SUCKED. Yeah, it was also available in Vista – but it was the first of its kind and carried the burden of being Vista. There is a very smooth implementation of 64-bit in Windows 7, my programs seem to be a bit more responsive from the get-go and I’m able to switch tasks a lot quicker even when my taskbar is LOADED with running programs. Also the move to an operating system that now supports the DirectX 10 cards I’ve had for a couple years (and DirectX 11 cards I can upgrade to) is an instant value-add.
Live Taskbar Previews
They kinda had this working in the Vista Business version I have running on one of my computers at the house, but it seemed like it was more of a freeze-frame shot of what was happening in the window. With Windows 7, so far, everything is LIVE. I like being able to mouse-over the windows explorer taskbar item and see how my data copy/restore is coming along while using StumbleUpon in Firefox, and listening to Pandora Radio in an IE8 window.
“Snap” Windows, and Aero Shake (or the Magic Eraser)
A feature that I’ve used A LOT while restoring backups from various locations to other various locations. Drag a windows explorer window to the side of the screen and it “snaps” to take up half of the desktop. Open a second window and “snap” it to the other side of the desktop. Then I just drag folders across to the other. I don’t have to open both windows and right click one of them and “arrange vertically” anymore. Nor do I have to hope that I didn’t have another window hiding behind one of them. You can also “snap” a window to maximize it, but I don’t find it anymore useful than clicking the maximize button. There’s also a feature that you can use a window to “steal the show” as I’ll call it. If you shake the window (while it isn’t maximized) like a magic eraser, it will minimize all windows behind it leaving it alone on top of the desktop. To return everything the way it was before the magic eraser, just repeat the motion.
This is going to get a lot of use out of me. I noticed this feature when I started copying “My Pictures” to the documents folder. Windows 7 knew what that folder was traditionally used for and it decided to drop it into one of the default Picture library folders. Had I not wanted Windows 7 to do this, I could have copied the folder to my big partition and added the directory to the Pictures Library. This feature works exactly like the iTunes “watch folders” for you iTunes users. Another way to look at this for any System Admins out there is that this is like adding more aliases to a virtual directory. For me, it allows my file structure disorganization to be in a central location. By default Windows has a Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos Library set up. I haven’t gotten to the point of seeing if I can create my own Libraries yet, but I’m loving the possibilities this leaves for me.
I know you’ve seen these in Vista too.. but they were on that annoying, dreadful Sidebar. They’ve removed the idea of the sidebar as a dock for gadgets, and instead let them float free on the desktop. I only wish they copied MacOSX’s “widgets” a little closer, I don’t like that the gadgets are always on or always off – I like the “on demand” way Apple puts them in their OS. Currently, I’m running a Calendar, Weather, Oil Price, and various system stats widgets.
Call it a Spotlight ripoff, or a Quicksilver knock-off, but it’s something we have in Windows too now. This is something Vista has (and is notably my favorite feature of Vista), and it would have been stupid for Microsoft to not bring it to Windows 7. They’ve improved it in Windows 7 to include the ability to search libraries, external hard drives, and even Networked PCs. I use it as my “Run…” box more often than anything.
I mentioned Live Preview earlier, but Pin and Jump Lists take the taskbar a bit further. The “Pin” feature makes the traditional Windows Taskbar operate a lot more like the MacOSX “Dock”, something people have been faking with external applications for awhile now (search for ObjectDock by Stardock for an example of one such program). You can pin a running item by right clicking it on the Taskbar and selecting the “Pin To” option, or if it isn’t running by right-clicking the link in the Start Menu and doing the same. On top of the “Pin” feature, the pinned item also has “Jump Lists” or a menu that works very similar to the Recent Documents of Windows XP with a mix of the old Alt+Tab functionality. Jump Lists are also available via the Start Menu in any programs that show up there.
Other Things I’m Looking Forward To
- I’m looking forward to playing with a network priority feature I came across yesterday (and it was apparently available in Vista). Simply put, I have set my Wireless card to allow my wired connection priority. It’s probably a lot more useful for a Laptop or Netbook user.
- I’m really looking forward to trying out the new concept of a “HomeGroup”. It seems to take on the idea that network sharing should be simple – as it should be for the typical user. Microsoft seems to be getting back in touch with the average user.
- There is another feature that I might take advantage of on newer computer hardware (more and faster RAM, Faster Processor, better GPUs) and that’s the built-in Windows XP virtualization. I think that it makes the move almost a no-brainer for those tied to some programs that won’t run in Vista/Win7.
I’m sure I’ll have more to speak on what I’ve loved about Windows 7 in my article explaining the workarounds for the upgrade bug, but to those of you out there already on Windows 7 with me what are your thoughts so far?