Having been one of the many who were left severely disappointed after upgrading from XP to Vista a number of years back, was sceptical of Windows 7 after the first announcement of its impending release. Therefore, when the opportunity to install the first beta tests came around I jumped at the opportunity. I have to say, what I took from those early releases really whet my appetite for the real thing and I could hardly wait for the final release in October. So here we are, in December and I have been using Windows 7, officially, for a couple of months now and I am still somewhat staggered by the vast improvement over Windows Vista. Here’s why.
Setting up the operating system uses the same user interface as Windows Vista. However, it’s only when you begin to install, that you realise that it is indeed a much faster process this time around when choosing to do a full install rather than an upgrade (which many users with larger hard drives claimed it took 24 hours to do!). Microsoft have taken some flak for their upgrade procedures with there being so many different versions of the software, making it extremely difficult for some users to know where to begin. However, with a fresh install, nothing could be simpler and I was up and running in roughly 15-25 minutes.
After the install you are left with the traditional windows problem of having no third party software such as anti-virus, video/audio players etc. However, a useful site called Ninite helped me with that by creating a batch installer for all of your favourite free applications such as AVG, iTunes and Firefox. So as it was, I was using Windows 7 hassle free within a few minutes.
In terms of features, Windows 7 has its fair few. The majority of them are not only good aesthetically, but they most definitely increase your means to be productive and efficient. The first of these is the new ‘superbar’ as they have so aptly named it. This is of course, the replacement for the old taskbar. In truth, it is not all that different; however they have added the capability to add shortcuts to the superbar. This not only makes it easy to locate and use all of your commonly used programs quickly and easily with just 1 click, it also keeps your desktop from being excessively cluttered with icons. A truly great addition to the operating system.
Next up, are the new features in Aero, Windows’ graphically demanding theme which was present, but very limited in Vista. Firstly, Aero Peek allows you to hover over a running application on the superbar and interact with preview windows that appear above. You can shift between tabs on a web browser or conversations on your instant messenger. Secondly, Aero Snap, this allows you to drag your open windows to the outside of the screen in order to easily position them neatly. Dragging your windows to the left or right edges causes them to snap and fill the respective half of the screen. This can be used on multiple monitors as well. Lastly, is Aero Shake. This is an interesting feature which basically allows you to minimize any unwanted windows by shaking the one that you want to keep open. Basically, it’s just a simple clean up feature. There is also a small button placed at the extreme bottom right of the screen which allows users to view their desktop by hovering, or minimizing everything by clicking.
Windows 7 also has great touch screen capability and this was one of the main selling points behind the operating system. Tablet PC’s benefit hugely from running windows 7 as it allows you to use multi-touch technology to view/edit photos, browse the web and even type on a simple onscreen keyboard.
Microsoft have also revamped Paint for the first time in I don’t know how long. It now has extra features such as textured brushes: chalk, paint, pencil etc. and a new layout. I would say it now feels very much like part of Microsoft Office, rather than a simple drawing tool that not many ever use for anything productive. Moreover, the addition of simple applications such as the snipping tool make Windows 7 easier. This basically allows any user to simply cut a portion of a screenshot and save it as an image in any format extremely quickly. Very impressive.
Yet another addition is the ability for slideshows replacing your standard desktop wallpaper. This negates the need for a screen saver if you wish to have a rapidly rotating desktop. It is a simple process to set up and is built into the themes section of Windows 7 which incidentally, is another nice touch. When you first run Windows 7 for the first time, you are given multiple themes based on individual countries’ landmarks. Usually this will include USA, UK, Canada and a few others depending on where you are from in the world. More can be downloaded free of charge from the download section of Microsoft’s website.
A more technical feature that is available in Windows 7 is the ability to boot from multiple cores of your processor. Basically this means that if you have a dual or even quad core CPU in your PC which the majority of modern ones will, you can decrease the time it takes to boot by selecting however many cores you wish to boot from.
Overall, Windows 7 is a great upgrade from Vista or XP. In my opinion it is everything Vista should have been. An all round great OS that will not only speed up your PC if upgrading from Vista, it will run seamlessly on less capable PC’s most notable netbooks. I am extremely impressed with Windows 7, it is enjoyable to use as well as functional. I cannot recommend it strongly enough to anyone who is still using the laggy Vista release from a few years ago. Personally, I have grown tired with XP over the years, but there are still those who like the compatibility. Not to worry, the professional edition of Windows 7 comes with built in ‘XP mode’ which is capable of running any of your applications natively. That’s why Windows 7 is for everyone.