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Summary:

The sound of cheers swell across the nation: Today, Vista users can finally dump the clunky and sluggish operating system for Windows 7. Praise for the new version has already started coming in from early adopters and reviewers. When I bought my laptop recently, I couldn’t […]

win7

The sound of cheers swell across the nation: Today, Vista users can finally dump the clunky and sluggish operating system for Windows 7. Praise for the new version has already started coming in from early adopters and reviewers.

When I bought my laptop recently, I couldn’t downgrade Vista for Windows XP, as I would have liked. But it had everything else I needed. Knowing Windows 7 would arrive within months, I made the sacrifice — and it turned out to be a worthy one. Here are some of the reasons why I’m happy I’ve made the upgrade to Windows 7.

Install

Before installing, I ran the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to make sure my laptop was ready for the upgrade. It caught a few things related to the laptop itself; all easily fixed. After addressing the issues, I did a final run of the Upgrade Advisor to ensure everything cleared.

Next came the tough part: actually upgrading. I gulped as I kicked off the upgrade festivities. Upgrading took over an hour along with several required restarts before I finally met Windows 7 face-to-screen. The laptop and I survived. Everything that was on my machine before the upgarade remained intact, except it had fewer pinned programs and Quick Launch applications. Windows 7 scores with its smooth and uneventful install.

Exploring the Redesigned Taskbar

The first thing to notice, apart from the snazzy Aero interface, is that the Quick Launch toolbar and system tray have both received a serious makeover. They both remain in their usual spots, with Quick Launch to the right of the “Start” button and the system tray in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. But the Quick Launch toolbar no longer has a little popup. Instead, all of your Quick Launch icons appear in full view. If a Quick Launch application is open, its Quick Launch icon turns into a taskbar right where its icon lives. That took some adjustment for me to get used to.

Windows XP Quick Launch

Windows XP Quick Launch

Windows 7 Quick Launch

Windows 7 Quick Launch

Ready to peek, shake ‘n snap? One feature I loved on previous versions of Windows: show desktop. It used to be an icon in the Quick Launch popup. In Windows 7, it’s known as “Aero Peek” and it works even better. It’s the tall rectangle button by the system tray next to the clock. Click, and — whoosh — all the windows shrink so I can see the desktop. Or move your mouse over the button to have all the windows fade away until the pointer moves away. That’s two nice options for revealing the desktop.

If you have a bunch of windows open and want to minimize all of them except one, you can do the Aero Shake. No, it’s not a new dance craze. Rather, you select the window you want to keep open and shake it. Everything else will disappear to the taskbar. If you work with two monitors or box multiple windows side-by-side, this new feature will save you loads of time.

To Snap, drag the window to any edge of the screen to instantly resize the window. It’ll expand vertically or horizontally depending on the edge of the screen you snap it to. You don’t have to mess with resizing and it gives you another option to open up the window without maximizing.

The system tray works like the old Quick Launch toolbar. Rather than a handful of icons appearing and then pressing the < button to see the rest, you can turn off (hide) system icons as well as control the notification area icons. For example, Network is a notification area icon. You can show its icon, hide it or only show notifications. While you could control this in past versions, this set up makes it easier and adds the extra option of “only show notifications” not present before.

Windows XP System Tray

Windows XP System Tray

Windows 7 System Tray

Windows 7 System Tray

The flexibility and new options in system tray and Quick Launch is great if you who like an organized desktop. The Aero Peek, Shake and Snap features also add a drop of fun into the operating system.

Built-in Photo Editing

It looks like Microsoft — with Windows Live Photo Gallery — wants to step on the toes of photo management and editing apps like Google’s Picasa. The gallery not only lets you organize and manage all your photos, but also edit and post them online using your Windows Live Account right from within the application. Its editing features include auto adjust, resize, red-eye correction and all the usual staples found in any other photo application. If you work with photos all the time, you’ll probably prefer to use your existing tools, but if you only work with photos occasionally having these features on tap is very useful.

Windows 7 Live Gallery

Windows 7 Live Gallery

Backup and Restore

Backup and Restore looks like a great feature for those who have a DVD, external or network drive for saving backups. However, I haven’t tested this feature because Windows 7 won’t connect to the external hard drive, even though it sees it. Windows likes to save personal data in different places — not just in “My Documents” and “My Media” — and the built-in backup functionality knows just what to save. This feature will make it easier for the non-techie user to protect their data.

Windows 7 Backup

Windows 7 Backup

Search

Windows 7 takes searching to a new level. Hit the Start button and enter words into the search box. It’ll search files, documents, emails and more, or take you to Windows Explorer for more search options and filters. Of all the new features in Windows 7, the lightweight easy-to-use Search surprises me the most — in a good way.

Windows 7 Search

Windows 7 Search

Performance

Performance is noticeably faster in Windows 7 than in Vista — that includes things like working with devices like USB thumb drives, too. Improved performance for both memory and USB devices alone puts Windows 7 miles ahead of Vista. Despite the heaviness of the default Aero interface — part of it the fault of not having a higher-scoring graphics card in my laptop — and a couple of other quibbles, Windows 7’s improved performance and new features make it worth dumping Vista for good.

However, will I upgrade my Windows XP computer to Windows 7? Not anytime soon. XP still works fine for me, and I’ll wait until Microsoft addresses any kinks in Windows 7 before upgrading.

Are you upgrading to Windows 7?

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  1. No question at all, it’s a vast improvement. HUGE.

    But honestly, the thought of upgrading just to get what Vista should have been all along, with the requisite expense in terms of both money and time is . . . not compelling.

    But it’s not like people pay me for technology and business advice, right?

    Oh wait . . . they do.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

  2. Looks like I’ll actually have to buy/get Windows 7! I skipped over Vista and am still clinging to my Windows XP because I love it to death. Now, I’ll have to search for a good price an plunk down my money on Windows 7 . . .

    1. Why do you ‘have to buy/get Windows 7″?

      1. I am a computer instructor and teaching is my bread & butter. I still might have to get Vista, but I’ve stalling that until Win7 came out.

        Now, I can put Office 2007 on something and start working out full time. I’ve been learning 2007 in bits & pieces but now it’s time to pedal to the metal . . . ROTFLOL!!!

  3. Actually, no big rush for me. Over the past two years I’ve been working diligently to become machine independent, putting all my faith in the cloud… ok, MOST of my faith in the cloud.

    I use Google Docs and Zoho. Gmail and webmail for domains that don’t go to Gmail. Dropbox to file storage and sharing. And of course Google calendar. Pics are spread across Picasa, Flickr and of course Facebook. Oh, and Skype + Google Voice for phone.

    All of these solutions integrate just fine with my iPhone giving me virtually unlimited, ubiquitous access to everything I use / need.

    Now that I’m almost completely untethered to Windows (iTunes and one hobby app are the final apps) I’ve made the move to Ubuntu for my day to day use. A VirtualBox instance give me access to my two Windows hold-outs.

    I said all that to say this. Yes, it certainly looks like Windows7 is a big improvement with lots of new gadgets and gizmos. In the end however, the desktop OS is being deprecated in lieu of the browser. Google’s “run Chrome in IE” is an example of this. Its a specific example of how the browser has become the OS and most of us just haven’t picked up on that nuance yet.

    With the coming release of the Chrome OS, it seems pretty clear that we’ll see this in full fruition with the browser taking center stage on a Linux foundation. At least that’s where I see it going.

    @jtrigsby

  4. No, not planning on paying for an upgrade. Vista treats me just fine, and it sounds like the only difference is the cool Aero tricks (which I would have fun using) and the speed. However, I don’t have a noticeable speed issue right now on my laptop or desktop.

    The search function is great, but its already a part of Vista. I use it all the time.

    All this being said, I will be excited to use 7 if/when I buy a new computer. Unless Google Chrome OS becomes a viable replacement.

  5. i prefer not to use the windows default search, its too buggy for me.

    i use
    – Google Desktop for search within contents
    – Everything for find files using their filenames(the indexing of NTFS filesystems is extremely fast
    – launchy for launching programs, folders and files which i use very often

  6. Let’s all remember the excitement and positive reviews that accompanied Windows Vista’s launch.

    Harry McCracken over at the Technologizer did a roundup of Windows Vista reviews and it was quite enlightening to read the reviews with 20/20 hindsight.

    For most people, there is very little benefit (gain vs cost) to upgrading.

    1. Good point, and OSes are always risky upgrades if you do it at launch — Snow Leopard had its problems too.

      But at least this time around MSFT let way more people use the RC for a lot longer than they did with Vista so more bugs could be ironed out. I would be surprised if there was the huge backlash that there was with Vista.

      1. That’s why I am in no hurry to upgrade WinXP. I just wanted out of Vista and it was worth the risk. Like Simon said, MSFT learned from Vista and tested Win7 much longer. But you know them hackers will be looking for holes to exploit.

  7. I’ve been running Windows 7 on my desktop since the early beta and I love it. I’d been running the 64-bit version of Vista, which had been one headache after another. Windows 7 64-bit is what Vista should have been. Heck, it’s what XP 64 should have been in terms of device and software support.

    If you have a dual core processor there’s no reason not to go to 64-bit Windows. As more and more vendors release 64-bit versions of software (Adobe is there with Photoshop CS4) you’ll want it for the performance.

    Gads, I sound like a Microsoft fangirl. I’m not. But those of you who have used the 64-bit version of XP know what I’m talking about. ;-)

  8. Overnight Membership Site Thursday, October 22, 2009

    HUGE improvement I hated vista ever since it came out it was just a load of garbage of an OS. On top of that it was poorly updated I kept my windows xp and never went vista like some of my friends. Good to see windows 7 ;) No idea what the 7 is for if someone can clue me in on that one lol

  9. I can’t understand why so many people are still addicted to Windows. Linux is such a competitive alternative. I’ve switched to Ubuntu two years ago. There is always a period of transition, for sure, but what you get is gorgeous and it’s getting better and better every 6 months! How cool is that.

    Microsoft strategy trying to create an artificial buzz about their next version and the huge price cuts are more than a signal, that they know with whom they are competing: free and smart Linux software as well as services delivered by cloud computing onto the browsers…and these browsers are independent of the OS.

    So if you’re smart, give linux a try and choose Ubuntu!

    Cheers!

  10. Windows 7 Is Here: What You Need to Know Now Thursday, October 22, 2009

    [...] Why I’m Dumping Vista for Windows 7 [...]

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