I’ve had a bit of reprieve from work here and I finally got some time to install Windows 7 on my laptop. Though my desktop has had the latest builds available to me, they have all been on a test drive. My laptop however had to wait until I was done with my academic work before it could move permanently to Windows 7 and afford any issues that might come its way.

So here are a few things I’ve found interesting in Windows 7 that should make your Windows 7 User eXperience a lot more enjoyable.

  1. Basic Application Overhaul: This one is something that us users have known would be part of Windows 7 for months prior to the first Public beta. Windows ships with a lot of basic applications that make life so much more awesome. These applications have been more or less the same for ever now. Well, its 2009 and its time for a facelift and some bottox ;) The most notable ones are Paint, Wordpad and Calculator
  2. Virtual WiFi: Bhavik Vora told me back in 2007 about Microsoft working on a certain technology to connect to multiple WiFi networks virtually by using continuous switching. I was excited back then to see this in action but the lack of an actual WiFi device other than my Windows Mobile made practical applications limited. You’ll be happy to hear that Windows 7 is shipping with this technology (limited a tad bit though) allowing you to do more with your Windows. Read the original post by Long Zheng on Windows 7 adding native Virtual WiFi technology from Microsoft Research. If you’re asking yourself why do you need Virtual WiFi, refer to my reply to AI’s comment which says..

    @AI: Why wouldn’t you? :P Ad hoc networks are totally awesome. With the ability to (virtually) connect to multiple networks, you can create mesh and relay wireless networks. Say user A is in range of an access point X but user B isn’t. But user B is in range with user A. User A could relay the connection from X to B providing B with an active connection to the network.
    Also, you can play multiplayer games without need for any ethernet cables on your laptops or any other infrastructure for that matter. No need for a router or any other hardware to create a local area network ;)

    If you can have all this, why wouldn’t you want virtual WiFi? ;)

  3. UI Standardization: Windows 7 products UI consistent with first looks at Office 2010 previews. A couple of days ago Long posted some blurry screencaps of Office 2010 which are consistent with the UI seen in Windows 7. Do you notice the similarity in the new Ribbon on the two products? Not that Vista and Office 2007 weren’t in sync, its just that a lot of the applications packaged with Windows Vista weren’t all in the same UI style. Some still seemed to style legacy looks. Windows 7 does seem a lot more complete though there are still some exceptions.
    Screencap of Office 2010 (off istartedsomething.com) Paint Screenshot
  4. Open in new process: Here is something new. Pressing shift+right clicking on a folder/app allows you to launch it in a separate process. If you do this to open a folder, you will see a second explorer.exe in your task list. This could open up whole new avenues for polygamy ;)
    Normal Right Click Menu Shift Plus Right Click Menu
  5. PowerShell is in!: And its about freaking time! I first came in contact with PowerShell a day after its v2 release (a coincidence). I needed to use it to do a couple of things and it did it really well. I loved the power it possessed but I never really needed it again. I was always wondering why they took so long to make it main stream. I’ve known about it for years now, blame Matt for it :P
  6. XP Mode: Do you have applications that don’t work on Vista? Usually using Vista’s compatibility wizard helps. Still, there are some which don’t work. Windows 7 has a much more elegant solution (at least in my opinion). Install XP in Virtual PC and start up XP mode ;) For more information, read the Life Hacker page on Setting Up and Using XP Mode in Windows 7
  7. In-built and custom create-able Troubleshooting wizards: Windows 7 became the first operating system that I know of, at least in the Windows line up that has in built support to fix issues. Jus click start and search for “Fix” and the first result you get should be “Fix problems with your computer”. If you have issues listed there, the tool will provide you with a chance to fix it ;) How does it work? Simple! Its a collection of uber-powerful Powershell scripts. Can you make your own? Sure you can! Just head on over to WithinWindows.com and Rafael will explain the rest ;)
  8. Popular keyboard shortcuts all retained: I don’t know about you but I certainly loved Windows Vista. I wasn’t a fan of its UAC, but I liked the OS. One of the things that made me love the OS so much were the nifty keyboard shortcuts which keyboard lovers like me can’t live without ;) Two of my favourite ones were the Win+<num> to access quick launch icons and Shift+right click to open command prompt in specified folder. Considering that the new Windows 7 Superbar has no such thing as a quick launch, the Win+<num> shortcuts now refer to the icons on the superbar ;) The shift+right click to open command prompt in specified folder sure does save a lot of time for users like me who are command prompt addicts. ;)
  9. Remembering System Tray Icon Status: This is one that almost everyone would know out there but its important enough for me to put up because it was really irritating for me in Windows’ past Operating Systems. Now, if you ask Windows to hide an icon in the System Tray and then the application crashes, you no longer need to reset the status (Hide always, Hide when not being used or Show always) when restarting the application. Sure, you still need to wave your mouse over the icon to make it disappear and until then, two copies are shown but that’s still better than having to reset the status.

Also there are a few things that need to be fixed.

  1. Maximum usage = 101%? :D Just have a look at this screenshot and it should be clear what I mean :-D This one is included for the lulz :)
    Resource Monitor

    Have a look at the Maximum Frequency and you'll see what I mean

  2. New User Account Control: Well, I’ve already made it clear that I find UAC on Vista extremely irritating bugging simply because I needed to (at least in Vista RTM) acknowledge an action multiple times. Microsoft did make a few changes to UAC since then to make it single prompt but it still remains off on my desktop. On my laptop, considering I don’t often do work that would set off UAC (unlike work on the desktop), I let UAC stay. When it comes to Windows 7, Microsoft has made a few changes to the implementation to make them “less irritating” by allowing auto-elevation of processes. A few concerns were raised by certain tech users made popular by Long Zheng and Rafael Rivera in posts such as Malware can turn off UAC in Windows 7; “By design” says Microsoft. Clearly, Microsoft needs to move back to Secure Desktop for changes to UAC. We don’t mind UAC prompts as long as we don’t have to go through multiple windows like Vista RTM where you’d have to sometimes go through a normal prompt and a secure desktop to perform a restricted action (For example: addition/modification/deletion of Start Menu entries).
  3. High Quality Icons: As I’ve already mentioned in my previous post, with the arrival of Superbar, the icons being shown need to be of a much higher resolution to avoid tearing. Yet some icons are still not up to the mark. This is like Windows Vista’s non-standardized UI all over again just not as bad. Microsoft has put in a lot of effort into revamping the UI on most applications but I guess it has missed out on a few. Nothing that can’t be fixed in a giffy ;)

There are more features in Windows 7 just waiting to be discovered. Windows 7 RC does look quite promising. These are just some of the things that make this such a great OS. Quite a few of them are minor, probably don’t feel like much when being mentioned while others are fixes to old problems that have plagued users for many a year but all of it contribute to make this a worthy successor to Windows Vista :)

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7 thoughts on “Windows 7: A second look

  • May 17, 2009 at 11:09 pm
    Permalink

    Hi there again,

    a few points I would like to make here:
    1. Facelift for the sake of… is pretty pointless. The ribbons is useful for complex programs where the objective is to be task/result oriented, and not be application oriented. Paint and wordpad are very simple programs, so the cosmetic change wouldn’t matter much
    2. The open in new process shortcut command is pretty neat, but you got to remember the actual function was present afaik right from windows 200 if not 98SE.
    3. Nothing much to comment about powershell, its great for UNIX guys as well.
    4. XP Mode as far as I can see it, does not really appeal to me. There is no application (atleast I haven’t encountered one yet, touchwood :P )that wouldn’t have run if you’d set the compatibility mode to “Windows XP”. It seems that the so-called “XP-Mode” is just a kind of a fancy front end for the powerful Compatibility mode. I could be wrong though, because all my programs (read: Comanche 4 and host of other stuff) ran rock solid with the Compatibility mode setting.
    5. I’m surprised that you actually say “Remembering/Retaining keyboard shortcuts” as a feature. It’s our damn right. Using computers for over 12 years now, I pretty much want my Ctrl+S to save and Ctrl+F4 to close child MDI. You don’t need to thank the car manufacturer for bundling 4 wheels and the steering wheel you know. Those things are a given, and expected.
    6. Oh and what ever you say about the UAC, I actually like it. Many people might find it annoying but that’s the price you pay for security. And I’d much rather prefer extra prompts as compared to auto-elevation of processes. In short, even when Windows 7 comes out, I will set the UAC to maximum. But yes, multiple UAC for one action seems ridiculous. You can’t blame them, they HAVE fixed the problem with Vista SP1.

    Lol at the 101% efficiency. New thermodynamics laws are in the order pretty soon.

  • May 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm
    Permalink

    1) Microsoft has been putting a lot of effort into UX since Longhorn development first started. Win7 is much more than a face lift.
    2) I’ve never seen open in a new process before. Seriously. :P
    3) If you ever need to make batch scripts, go powershell! :)
    4) There are some (quite rare) apps that don’t work in Compatibility mode. To me, it is a secondary option for Compatibility. If an application refuses to work in Vista, go for the default compatibility mode. If it still refuses to work, you can go for XPM. But there is more to this feature.. You might WANT to run applications at times on XP. There might be applications that run differently on XP and Vista/7. Compatibility mode tries to run the application in an emulated XP shell (so to say). XPM on the other hand actually runs the application on WinXP (I’m guessing).
    There isn’t a need yet for actual use but I’d like to play around with it a bit more. I’d like to know how it works and what it does. Lets see if I can get my hands on some documentation or some other means to do this.
    5) I was mainly referring to Win+ for quick launch making its transition to Superbar icons rather than being scrapped. Most people don’t know about it. Very few (of the entire Vista population) actively use it. I am a Win+ addict on Vista so I’m glad it was retained in Win7 despite Quicklaunch being shelved. Its not really meant to be a “feature” btw :P
    6) Read what I said carefully. I don’t dislike UAC. I dislike UAC from Vista RTM because of multiple prompts. I am all for security. Why do you think I have it switched on on my laptop? Certainly ain’t laziness.

  • May 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm
    Permalink

    Windows 7′s XP Mode seems to be nothing more than a seamless integration of Windows with Virtual PC much like VMWareFusion for the Mac. :-)
    It is meant for times when Compatibility Mode (which does provide an emulated WinXP Environment when asked to do so) doesn’t seem to work for your intended application.

    Compatibility mode, at times seems iffy. XP Mode on the other hand is a guaranteed solution ;) (at the cost of slight performance albeit).

    I’d like to run a few benchmarks for Performance on XPM. I now know what my next post is going to be about ;)

  • May 18, 2009 at 2:27 am
    Permalink

    i liked the review :)
    few points here –
    About Virtual Wi-Fi: it doesnt support the relaying of packets, thats done by Mesh Connectivity Layer (as we did in BE proj ;))
    2ndly: @ A is in range of an access point X but user B isn’t. But user B is in range with user A. User A could relay the connection from X to B providing B with an active connection to the network.
    Well, what if this is unneeded by A. B’s using A’s network resources to connect to X thus depriving it of full potential. Also A is a security breach (can turn into mole, listening to all B’s conversations)
    I am not saying V-WiFi is not needed, just your reasons are unreasonable. ;)
    lastly: you dont need V-WiFi for Ad-hoc networks. you can still setup ad-hoc to create LAN and play :D

    Ps. About Win7 – Did you talk about the memory usage, the taskbar pinups, the all new StickyNotes app, compatible applications who weren’t compatible on vista.

    Replying to Sriram/You – Windows 7 XP mode may not mean anything to us, but its really important for Enterprises who have legacy applications bound by XP. In that case, MS offers them an easy way to migrate to the latest OS while still keeping the older versions running on the VPC.

    cheers :!

  • May 18, 2009 at 3:54 am
    Permalink

    The reduction in memory, taskbar pinups/superbar awesomeness and sticky notes were all things that everyone already knew about imo.
    A lot of less technical people want to move from XP to 7 (skipping Vista) because they heard 7 has lower requirements. While I personally don’t support the jump, I have heard people even in Microsoft say that this was one of the things they aimed at. Such a set of people was targeted for this OS. So I really didn’t feel like blowing the same trumpet again.

    Good point about XPM for enterprises with legacy apps. No idea why I didn’t think of it earlier.
    And thanks for the info about V-WiFi. Never tried general AdHoc.
    A good use of V-WiFi would be in enterprises/colleges which have wireless internet and intranet. Say the internet is for the public generally passing through campus (something like a college network) and the intranet is more work oriented (administrative office work for universities). Rather than having to jump all the time, you could simply stay connected to both.
    Sure, most organizations would have wired networks for intranet instead of wireless but lets not poke holes, shall we.. its just an illustrative idea of the simultaneous existence of internet and intranet :P

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