A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and installed the public beta of Windows 7 onto my personal computer at home. At the same time I made the leap into the 64-bit world. I’ve had a 64-bit processor for a while now just haven’t installed a 64-bit operating system on it before. The result so far has been mostly pleasurable.
One of the most interesting changes in Windows 7 is the new taskbar. No longer are stuck with bars to represent the windows you have open. Instead, you have icons to represent the applications and only a single icon for each group of applications open. What does this mean exactly? It means that if you open three Internet Explorer windows, you will only see a single Internet Explorer icon on your taskbar. “But how do I get to a specific window” you ask? Quite simply. You only need to hover your mouse over the icon for it to bring up an icon-ed list of the different windows you have open for that application. I find this new taskbar to be functional and elegant.
Microsoft has stated that they have put a lot of time into shortening the boot up time for Windows, hoping to get you into the operating system so you can do things much faster than you could previously. I’m happy to report that on Windows 7, there is a noticeable decrease in the time it takes to boot to a login screen. Yes, they actually meant it this time.
Look & Feel
The look and feel is quite similar to Vista with no major differences. There is a performance increase and some things have been added. There is a lot of eye candy here so if that is your thing, you’ll get a lot of it. The sidebar gadgets that were in Vista can now be placed anywhere on the desktop making it a more widget-like feature. Though you still can’t hide them like you can in OSX (at least I haven’t found a way to make the function in a Dashboard-like way).
One addition that some people are going to love is the built in wallpaper rotation option. This will automatically change your desktop’s wallpaper at predefined intervals so you will (hopefully) never get board with your desktop.
Some companies really spend time ensuring that you can’t install their applications onto operating systems they do not support. Logitech is especially bad about this, I had to jump through some serious hoops to get the drivers and software for my QuickCam 9000 installed. Even after I jumped through those hoops, I still have very limited functionality inside the QuickCam software (can’t use any of the advanced features, but can record simple video). Oddly enough, the Logitech Harmony Remote software installed without a hitch.
Driver and application incompatibilities are probably the largest hang ups currently. Though remember that I am running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, so that chould be contributing to my issue.
So far I have enjoyed the experience with Windows 7. I might actually upgrade to Win7 from XP when it’s finally released. The operating system has been extremely stable for me so far which is good. I have a hard time remembering that this is a beta version of the operating system. It flows well and most of the stuff works like you expect it to without too many hoops to jump through.
While there is a noticeable influence from Apple’s OSX in this rendition of Windows, it is a good thing that Microsoft is starting to pay attention. Some of the stuff in Windows 7, while not overly innovative, does bring some refinements to the Vista look and feel.
I think that overall that Windows 7 is the path to upgrade from XP. Vista while a nice upgrade wasn’t quite ready and you will find refinements of the Vista approach in Windows 7. If you haven’t upgraded to Vista yet, my advice would be to wait for Windows 7 before moving from XP.