Thanks to my DreamSpark (MSDNAA) account, I have tested Windows 7 in preview. The version I have tested is the french and 32 bits corporate version. Thus, all screenshots are in french ! After some days of testing, I have decided to write this post to give you a preview of what you will find in this new version, what features I have appreciated…
With Windows 7, I was first a bit reluctant and was afraid to find just a kind of improved Vista, but I finally take the plunge ! Positive comments on the last RC (release candidate) were a good reason… And, it is better to form my own opinion.
Let’s begin with the installation wizard. In three words : simple, elegant and fast. Nothing more to say. That sounds subjective, but the installation wizard becomes easier and simpler with each new Windows release. I often wonder how they manage to keep (or even reduce) the installation time, when you know that Windows XP is provided on CD and that 7 in on DVD (2,3 GO to be precise).
Ok, installation is complete… Let’s go ahead with the firt lanching and first “contact”. No more pixelized and ugly logo at the start-up, there is new animated logo screen. Big enough, small enough, clean without being “too much”, I love it (euh no I am not a Microsoft employee, why ?). Anyway, that’s not very useful, I will not care about this logo after some time… Except if Windows needs 5 minutes to start. Glups ! Vista sticks in my memory.
Logon screen & Desktop
Actually, the animation startup takes 20 seconds approximately, and this is the time needed for Windows to start (Great ! It is far from the 5 minutes). Nice design for the logon screen, Windows is asking me for my password (the one I type in during the installation). I successfully logon (of course), a black fade is taking me to the traditional Windows desktop. Design is very similar to Windows Vista. In fact, that’s the same, with Aero and all its 3D effects. For those who never use Vista, “That’s a cool opening effect !!”. For the others, “Ok, that’s Vista, what else ? I hope it is fast enough !!”. My first impression on this desktop : oh my god, the taskbar is so big (Windows users are so old ?).
So, I’m gonna arrange that, I am not as blind as a bat ! From the preferences and in few clicks, the taskbar is back to normal. It’s like on Vista now.
Disk usage and performances
My first reaction : going to “My computer” place. Let’s see, humm, Windows 7 takes 6,5 GO on the disk, kind of elephant behaviour compared to Windows XP. I read that Windows 7 has been adapted to NetBooks, but that heavyness lets me think the contrary. Is Windows XP still has its best days ahead ? Or 7 is just waiting for Netbooks to get better performances ?
Despite this disk usage, the overall performance of the Operating System (OS) are pretty impressive. From my point of view, Windows 7 is faster than Windows XP. Moreover, all 3D effects are enabled and my configuration is rather modest (1GO RAM, monoprocessor). Of course, I didn’t install any piece of software yet, but I remember Vista was slow as a snail at this stage.
After some days, I have noticed a great deal of new features.
Start menu and Taskbar
The start menu is almost the same as the one from Vista. Actually, some little improvements, e.g. there are some submenus for notes and getting started with Windows 7. You will also have a direct access to all recent files sorted by application.
As we said briefly, the taskbar is radically different. Grouping is possible (XP does it too), thumbnails popup preview (Vista does it too) has been improved, drag and drop (a new one) is possible to arrange your workspace. Finally, making a right-click and that’s not only the possibility to close, maximize or restore the window, that’s the functionalities of the opened software…
It is possible to go back to the traditional taskbar (i.e. display the name of minimized windows, not only icons, as I have done before). But now, I can open dozens of windows without be worried of the taskbar space ! I love the default configuration of this new taskbar.
What about the “Show desktop” icon ?
The “Show Desktop” has disappeared !! The new shorcut is located on the bottom right of the taskbar (Corner Mac style ??). The shortcut is not an icon any more, instead it’s a little bar that is glowing next to the Time/Date. If you hover over the most right and you will see the “Show Desktop” by clicking it, it will bring you to the desktop (Same as the show desktop icon in quick launch). While you are hover over the Show desktop “bar”, you will see the new Aero Peek that can let you preview and see through all the running application straight to your desktop.
A better user interface (UI)
Aero Peek, ok. There are also Aero Shake and Aero Snap… What is it about ? Strange names !
Aero Shake : Click on the title bar of a window and shake it once ; all other windows will minimize. Shake it once again and everything comes up back. I think I will never use it, but I know that this stuff exists…
Another usability feature in Windows 7 is the Aero Snap. This one is useful. Pick up a window from the title bar and drag it to the top edge. The window will maximize. Taking the window to the left or right edges of the desktop will maximize only its height. That way, you can compare two windows very easily.
With widows 7, overall design is well-integrated. I mean, you will not find 98-old-fashioned icons whereas you are using XP OS (in other words, XPize is not your rescuer anymore). Huum, actually, with few rare exceptions… like the Regedit icon which is still ugly…
Furthermore, Microsoft has refreshed Paint and WordPad. The familiar ribbon from Office 2007 is now present on both applications. The overall functionality of both applications has been enhanced, too.
Microsoft has added a lot of new features to the Calculator in Windows 7. New modes have been added so it can function as a scientific, programming, and statistics calculator.
There are some new gadgets in Windows 7. I don’t talk about the desktop Widgets but about the Math Input Panel : this software gadget recognizes handwritten math expressions. Handwrite (with the mouse) the expressions first into the panel and insert the recognized version into a word-processing. On the screenshot, I have succeed in writing an integral equation… Nevertheless, Windows does not resolve the equation for you (boo hoo).
What a great new ! Themes are back in Windows 7. So it is possible to go back to the old Windows 2000 design (argh). With this theme, you can say goodbye to nice-looking 3D effects coming from Aero theme. I just regret the Windows XP theme which is not available. Maybe later… for nostalgics.
What a good geek feature ! A wallpaper changer. You select several wallpapers and define your time interval.
Even better, you can switch to the next wallpaper by a right-click on the desktop. Microsoft comes closer to some functionalities already available in Linux for years. Icing on the cake, when switching, you’ve a crossfade transition between wallpaper. Windows 7 is very far from Vista.
Notification Area Icons
In Windows 7, you can select and configure which icons and notifications appear on the taskbar. For that, you have to click Customize button of Taskbar tab. Now you have options to decide to show icon and notifications or allowing showing notifications only or hiding both notification and icon one by one.
Hardware & devices management
Let’s talk about something else than UI. What about devices detection ? It seems to be perfect, I only need to install manually 3 drivers : my webcam, my scanner and my DSL modem. These models are quite old, thus drivers package are not integrated in Windows. Everything else have been installed and configured perfectly (sound, graphic card…). For the undetected hardware, I have used the Vista drivers (so not Windows 7 certified) and it has totally worked.
Ok, everything is configured and I have installed some software. I want to know more about Windows update, this is the same system than the one in Vista. For XP users, Microsoft Update or Windows Update have been replaced by a dedicated software. As a precaution, I activate the “install updates automatically”. I start an update detection, just for “fun”. Argh, 11 updates are available. Microsoft is kidding me ? Windows 7 in not officialy released yet and they have found so much bugs. Oh no, my mistake… All updates are for Office. With Microsoft, I expect the worst. When is Windows 7 SP1 released ?? At the end of the year ??
Stop being nasty, I have to confess Microsoft developpers have done such a great work. By reading my article, I realize I have not said anything bad about 7 (except for Vista, but it is another
matter software). I still think Windows Vista was a really big mistake, it was better to wait two years more and release Windows 7 (euh 6 in fact without Vista…). But what’s done is done…
In conclusion, I will say only one thing : Wow !!! That’s the Vista slogan, which was not justify at all like Windows 7 does now. We have found the rightful successor of Windows XP.
Windows 7 will be officialy available on october, 22th.
P.-S. : I just realize that the “Wow” effect shortcut has disappeared from the desktop. You know ! The one which enables users to flip through a cascading stack of their open windows. Microsoft does not point up the concept anymore. They understand it was not so great and that the old “ALT+TAB” shortcut is much efficient.