Windows 7 is what Vista should have been when it was released three years ago. So while Microsoft’s latest OS is stable, functional, and user-friend, it feels more like a massive service pack than brand new software.
So what’s new with Windows 7?
Let’s begin with the biggest change – the background can be set to rotate automatically at specific intervals! Right now mine’s set to 30 minutes, so I’ve seen some really great scenes of the United States and Nature recently, including Lighthouse, Sunset, and Rock Formation. I also downloaded the Japan and Germany theme packs, so later this week I can see some foreign nature. The sounds also change depending on the selected theme, so get ready for some folk guitar error alarms!
The taskbar is also fatter now, and you can make it a bunch of different colors. I call it, FatBar. Plus, Microsoft pulled an Apple, ditched the quick-launch toolbar, and now lets you place your favorite programs on the taskbar itself, where they sit whether running or not.
Multiple windows of the same application are grouped together on the FatBar by default, which is useful and annoying. For example, if three windows of Firefox are funning and I mouse-over the Firefox icon, a small preview of those windows pops up. When the mouse pointer is moved onto one of those preview windows, the actual window appears front and center. Intuitively, you’d think the window is now active and ready to use, but it’s not – the preview must be clicked first. This took some getting used to.
At first, I didn’t care much for this design change and immediately Googled ways to get back my quick-launch bar. But after a few weeks of use, I now enjoy having my most-used programs readily accessible.
Not all is well with FatBar, however. Admittedly a small annoyance, but if you’re used to right clicking a running program’s icon on the taskbar to close it, the close command is now about half an inch higher than it was in Vista, and pretty much every previous version of Windows. It might take some time to retrain your brain to move the mouse slightly higher.
Cosmetically, Windows 7 is Windows Vista, save for pretty much the new taskbar and some new transparency effects when toggling through open windows and programs. There are some new keyboard shortcuts, like Windows Key+Left/Right arrows, which docks windows to the sides of the screen for easy comparing.
All that Aero Glass bubbly shine is still around, making the status bars of windows look like delicious glazed donuts. You can sort of see through them, but not well enough to have a functional view of what’s behind. In actuality, they just make me hungry for donuts.
On the security side, there’s a nifty new flag icon in the System Tray. It lets you know when your PC has “issues.” Right now, mine’s going through some rough times and dealing with two really important problems. But I think ‘ol HP will make it. He’s got good friends to help him through.
Though not part of the original installation, Microsoft has also released Security Essentials, which is, essentially, an anti-virus/spyware suite. It does what you’d expect from such a program, which is bother you to run scheduled scans.Double clicking this flag opens ACTION CENTER! Though its name gives the appearance of excitement and jumping out of burning buildings while shooting bad guys, this is basically Windows Update and the Security Center rolled into one. You can change settings for downloading updates and disable the dreaded User Account Control here, unless you like a warning prompt every time you click a button.
Running Windows 7 on my HP DV7 series with a Core 2 Duo at 2.13GHz, 4GB RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with 512GB RAM went without a hitch – never any noticeable slowdown or lag. My Windows Experience Index in Vista was a 5.0 out of 5.0. But with Windows 7, it’s a 4.8 out of 7.9. Why 7.9? WTF??
Annnnd… Explorer just crashed while writing this review.
Microsoft ditched some Vista applications for 7’s release. Movie Maker, Live Mail, and Photo Gallery are now download-only as part of the Windows Live Essentials, meaning you need to waste 10 minutes finding and downloading them.
Microsoft also updated Movie Maker, and somehow made it even less usable. Though fine for adding sparkly titles and star wipes to home movies, you may not want to edit anything with more than two scenes with it.
If you’re one of the many disgruntled Vista users, Windows 7 is a great, speedier improvement. But if your Vista or XP installation is working decently, you might not need to run out and upgrade to Windows 7 right away.
Also, the calculator now has scientific functions.
Windows 7 will be released on Oct. 22 in Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate varieties. Prices range from $119.99 to $219.99 for upgrade software, and $199.99 to $319.99 for full version software. Students with valid .edu email address can obtain Home Premium for $30 from Win 741.