Windows 7 is going to be extremely important to Microsoft, therefore, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts on the product. I felt this was necessary as I’ve been away from Windows for almost two years as a primary operating system. I still keep up with the latest changes and what’s coming down the pipe. My windows system is only used for editing RSBANDBUpdate! and the occasional Steam game. Windows 7 acts as a bridge from the conventional Windows operating system to the future of Windows and computing from Microsoft. Windows 7 is a product of the past 15 years of Windows and is an evolutionary product. With this said I will be taking a look at how 7 relates to Mac OS from the UI standpoint and how both operating systems are advancing under the hood. You can find a more comprehensive rundown of features in Paul’s Windows 7 article, which I recommend reading before reading this as I will be talking about various features without describing them.
The most significant changes in Windows 7 are apparent once you boot up for the first time. The main goal of the UI changes made in 7 was to make using Windows easier while retaining functionality. It takes a great amount of work to create a simple but effective interface. The most significant UI change is the new taskbar, significant because users are forced to use the new version. It is rare for Microsoft to cut users off from a legacy feature in this case the taskbar we have known since Windows 95. Along with the taskbar there have been small changes to the start menu and windows explorer. The start menu in 7 (and Vista) is much like Spotlight in OS X. They both function in the same way as they can be used to find files and launch applications. As Paul discussed in his article each application stores its own history in a “jump box” in the start menu, this is great if the application supports it, many power users will find this feature useful. In regards to search you are now able to save a search and return to it later, this is much like Smart Folders in OS X. Windows Explorer has also been made smarter, if I dare use that word. It now includes context sensitive options that change depending on what’s in the folder near just under the location bar. This is something that I feel adds much to the case of purchasing Windows 7 as an upgrade. The question is whether or not these small changes will be utilized by users who have a set workflow in Windows Vista or an earlier version such as XP. There’s one area that has not been touched and is still very complicated to use, that is the Control Panel. The Control Panel still features the same sections as in Vista and is very hard to find what you’re looking for if you’re fresh off the upgrade boat or are a new user. The only way to mitigate this I find is to use the search feature, but then a common user might not realize this. If you are coming from Windows XP you will find comfort in showing all control panel options. This is one area I feel could have genuinely been improved. Oh and one more thing, UAC has been improved making it easier to control the level of intrusiveness. For a final word about the UI it’s safe to say that Microsoft is on the right track and borrowing anymore ideas from OS X would have been blatantly obvious.
Changes made under the hood are a different story. These changes still continue with the theme of the UI changes being evolutionary, not revolutionary. The reason nothing revolutionary happens to Windows between two different versions is the legacy factor, this factor is responsible for the cautious approach that Microsoft takes. There is no major change to the way Windows works as there was going from XP to Vista. This allowed Microsoft to focus on performance which is the real reason everyone should consider upgrading to 7. 7 is able to run inside a virtual machine that has 1GB memory assigned to it and still be functional. Reports have also shown that people with older machines are able to run 7 much better than they were able to run Vista. This is atypical Microsoft behaviour for anyone who has watched the company release operating systems before. This is the polar opposite of Apple and Mac OS. Apple has always never hesitated to change the way their operating system works even if it meant leaving a few people out in the cold. This isn’t exactly an article on Snow Leopard but Snow Leopard is pretty much what 7 is on the OS X side of things. Snow Leopard will primarily be changes under the hood to tidy up the existing operating system and provide performance boosts. This leads onto the final point public perception.
The general feeling online is that 7 will be a success. This is excellent for Microsoft, excellent in terms of free advertising and changing the image of Microsoft after Vista. 7 is essentially Mojave as it is receiving the same results as this experiment. The enthusiasm could also be seen as the servers to hand out product keys were floored just before the beta went online last week. Only time will tell if 7 will have a successful launch compared to Vista. For those feeling adventurous you can find the free beta on Microsoft TechNet, I do not recommend installing it if you have never installed an operating system before. The only thing left to do is wait and see what happens on launch day.