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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?