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Wizard's review on Windows 7 [Part 1]
The best and biggest changes to Windows affect the part of Windows that is used the most, the taskbar. I've used this in Windows XP and Vista to switch between opening programs and launching new ones from the Start Menu and Quick Launch area.
With Windows 7 it has been redesigned to cut out the clutter, organize dozens or windows neatly and give you instant access to the programs you need.
The most obvious change can be found just to the right of the Start Button. At first glance you might think Quick Launch has grown to huge proportions, but it has in fact been removed. In it's place you will find large icons for Programs, Internet Explorer, Libraries and the Media Player, by default that have been pinned to the Taskbar.
Like a program in the Quick Launch, clicking one of these icons once will launch the program. In Windows 7, though, an open program will not create a new button. Instead the button appears around the icon itself. This saves space and also keeps your favourite programs in the same place for simple access when switching windows.
If you don't like the way this looks you can always revert back to the tiled version like before, tips on this can be found in Windows 7 Forum section of the board. Windows 7 also saves space by using only one button per program, no matter how many windows it has opened, unless you tell it otherwise. Best of all programs pinned to the Taskbar is yours and yours alone to control. Programs cannot install themselves here so, so you will not end up with the glut of icons that often plagued Quick Launch, only the few you choose to keep close at hand.
The new Taskbar also makes it easier to monitor running programs. Hover the mouse over a button and a small preview, called a Peek window, will appear showing what that program is doing and if it has several windows open a preview of each will pop up. Moving the mouse over these small previews shows the window and clicking one selects it for use.
Note that this feature is missing from the very cheap Starter Edition of Windows 7 that is sold on some low-price computers
The Start Menu will look familiar to Vista users, but it is I think leagues ahead of the one in XP. Programs are organised neatly with the most recent used ones to hand, while the search box will find programs, documents and emails in seconds, not the minutes or hours XP takes to find files.
On the far right of the Taskbar you will find another part of Windows that has been removed to make it tidier. The Notification Area was designed for tools and programs that needed to update the user with information, but became a favourite place for software developers to hide icons that merely just took up space.
Neither XP or Vista included an effective way to keep these pesky icons at bay, but Windows 7 starts out by assuming there is very little you want to see. Most icons are hidden as standard and a simple customization tool makes it easy to choose which should be seen always, which should be always hidden and which are allowed into view when they have something to tell you.
Back in the days of Windows 95 (if people can remember back then), managing documents was a relatively simple task. Most files were small documents and, with hard disks being expensive and having little storage, they would normally be stored in the same place. Since Windows XP was released, however, times have changed.
Hard disks are inexpensive and have lots of storage, and with external storage devices available we often store files in many places, on external disks, network storage devices or even other computers. Also, many users now keep many types of multimedia file on their PCs, including photos, videos, music and more. This means that, with an XP or Vista computer, finding the file you want can be a pain.
Windows 7 introduces a new way to keep track of files wherever they are stored. It's new Libraries are a way to show a collection of similar files in one window, even if they are stored in several folders or on several disks.
Libraries can be easily sorted too, so even if a photo collection is split across dozens of folders you can order the whole lot neatly by month. Libraries are set up for documents, music photos and videos as standard, and you can easily customise these or add more, you might want a library for work files for example.
The right-mouse button has long been used in Windows to open important menus full of handy options. With Windows 7, Microsoft has allowed software makers to use it in a new way. Right-click a program running in the Taskbar and, if it has been designed for Windows 7, a new Jump List will appear. This pop-up menu is designed to hold options that will be needed often, so right-clicking Internet Explorer, for example, gives you options for opening a new tab, starting a private browsing session or opening recent used websites. Its a handy tool that should become more and more useful as developers adapt their programs to make advantage of Windows 7.
When Windows XP appeared computer networks were, for the most part, found in offices. Since then, however, broadband internet connections have become very common and the falling price of computers means many people like myself are lucky enough to have more than one PC at home. These factors have transformed home networks from a toy for geeks to a handy tool.
Windows Vista introduced lots of new options for sharing files on home networks, but the result was a mess, In fact, simply getting two computers to share files could be a baffling process what with all the different security settings on offer nearly had me throwing the damn thing out the window on occasions .
Windows 7 comes ready with a clever solution, hurray I hear you shout , its called Homegroups. A Homegroup is, as the name suggests, a group of computers set up, in one house, to share information. The key to the system is its simplicity. Create a Homegroup on one computer and it will allow you a short password. All other computer users have to do to join the Homegroup is type in this password, no other settings are required, how cool is that !
Don't get too exited though there are a few hitches with this system This option is only useful if you have several Windows 7 computers. Also, netbooks running Windows 7 Starter Edition can join a Homegroup but NOT create one.
On we go to the UAC then, Windows Vista introduced a new tool called User Account Control (UAC) that was supposed to provide an extra level of security, preventing programs from changing important settings without your permission. Unfortunately, UAC also had a nasty habit of asking computer users to confirm decisions they had just made and for users who liked to regularly add software, this to me had me clawing my hair out and doing a lot of venting, so much so I disabled it.
UAC is still included in Windows 7, but this time it works the it was intended. There are now four levels of security on offer, from none at all to to the kind of monitoring used in Vista, and the default setting does not ask the user to confirm any choices they have made.
Touchscreen Technology is another new feature Windows 7 boasts but I'm not a great lover of these gadgets and some people think touchscreen technology will completely revolutionise the way we use PC's, replacing the traditional mouse and keyboard entirely. Microsoft has included touchscreen support in Windows 7 iteself. This means there is no need to add extra software just to get touchscreen computers working, and that basic touchscreen controls will work with every part of Windows. Microsoft has also released some free programs designed to make use of touchscreens that will be included on most suitable PCs.
Note that Windows 7 Starter Edition does not support touchscreens, but the cheapest computers it runs on are not likely to have the necessary hardware either.
>> Continue to Part 2 <<
The Wizard3, 26/11/09, 8:34