Windows 7…

I’ve been using Windows 7 Professional for a short time now, but I’m already very much impressed.

Not only is Windows 7 faster and more responsive than Windows Vista, it’s also a lot better looking!

Windows Vista had a sorry excuse of an update for the Taskbar, but in Windows 7 the Taskbar has been dramatically improved. The ability to re-arrange programs and icons in the Taskbar freely as well as pinning frequently used icons to the Taskbar is a major enhancement that I now won’t be able to work without!

While many past reviews from others have related and/or compared the new Taskbar to the pre-existing Mac Dock, I beg to differ. While skin deep the Taskbar and Dock appear to have a great number of similarities, they are far from the same.

One of my favorite features of the new Taskbar is the way the application icon appears to be stacked when multiple windows are opened. The thumbnail view of applications and windows is also a very nifty feature, especially when you have several multiple windows open that you can choose from.

windows-7-professional-01

Windows 7 has an awesome new focus feature that basically makes every application that isn’t in question become transparent. In the image below, I’ve hovered over the Taskbar thumbnail for Opera. The effect is that only this window will appear and others will fade away, as seen by the translucent appearance of the Windows Media Player window.

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If you want to view the desktop, there’s still a button to do that. However, the button is no longer just a quick links shortcut and is now a built-in part of the (end of the) Taskbar. Clicking this button will minimize all open windows. Clicking it again will restore those windows to their original state.

The cool new feature, however, is that if you hover this button for a few seconds, the open windows will fade out so you can see through to the desktop and not actually move any windows.

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For some reason with Windows Vista I never found the Desktop Gadgets to be useful. Somehow they always managed to be, or seemed to be, in my way. With Windows 7 the Desktop Gadgets can be very useful and have thus far seemed to be completely out of my way.

There are a great number of other enhancements to Windows 7, but the updated Taskbar is by far the most useful for me. After using Ubuntu for so long and developing a pride in Linux, it’s amazing how quickly Windows 7 has won my support!

The visual effects found in Windows 7 can be implemented fairly completely in Linux using the KDE environment. I’m personally not a big fan of KDE, preferring Gnome much more instead. To me, KDE is a great environment in concept, but the icons and graphics in general seem to be off very poor taste and KDE feels overly complicated for such a shiny interface. This is where Windows 7 has done a great job with a clean and simple interface as well as a nice set of icons and graphics.

One very useful program that I highly recommend is UltraMon. Another alternative application for this is DisplayFusion, though I’ve never tested it. I’ve been using UltraMon for a few years now as a way to extend the Windows Taskbar across multiple monitors for XP, Vista and now Windows 7 (with the latest beta).

I’m still unsure as to why Microsoft refuses to implement the ability to stretch the Taskbar across multiple windows by default. This is very easily accomplished on most other platforms.

I’m sure others have found Windows 7 to be a major improvement. I’d really like to hear some opinions on Windows XP vs Windows 7 since there is still such a large group of Windows XP supporters. I’d especially like to hear some views of XP being better than 7. 😀

3 thoughts on “Windows 7…”

    1. using Opera 10 Opera 10 on Windows 7 Windows 7
      Opera/9.80 (Windows NT 6.1; U; en) Presto/2.2.15 Version/10.10

      Haha, I’m not trying to sell anyone from XP to 7, really just Vista to 7.

      The speed improvements and interaction time improvements between applications in Windows 7 is very noticeable.

      I’m happily running XP Home Edition on my laptop (along side Ubuntu 9.10).

      If you’re running XP then you may not want to upgrade anyway. As a general rule, if your computer was built to run XP then it probably won’t handle newer Operating Systems as smoothly.

      Either way, you should give the RC a try. 😉

  1. using Opera 10 Opera 10 on GNU/Linux GNU/Linux
    Opera/9.80 (X11; Linux x86_64; U; en) Presto/2.2.15 Version/10.10

    Alright, I’ll mention a few things that I like about Windows 7 to start with.

    – better audio framework: not nearly as decent as the (hard to discover) pavucontrol in Ubuntu, but a lot better than in XP. Not something I really notice in my day to day usage, though.
    – composited window manager: well, there’s only one improvement as far as I can tell compared to XP here and that’s that I can drag movies around while playing without them flickering. It comes with a few related things like moving thumbnails, but except for the “oooh, purty” factor that’s irrelevant to me.
    – faster in some ways due to being 64-bit
    – spyware/viruses (allegedly) have a harder time. Not that this really matters to me as I use Opera & don’t open files like “vacation pictures.exe” A far better approach to increase security is to enable the display of file extensions, XP or otherwise. It’s also rather annoying to keep having to allow Fx to update every day and Opera every week. I guess it comes with the way I roll, but in Ubuntu I add a GPG key and am done with it.
    – I’m told that there are a lot of improvements under the hood. I’m sure that it’s true given that quite a few years have passed, but except for some potentially higher stability/one application not dragging others down with it that shouldn’t really matter and I haven’t really had any issues in XP anymore since SP1.

    Now that we’ve had the good, let’s go for the bad. Now these are all very in-your-face GUI issues.
    – The start menu is pure bile. It’s not sortable by your own means. I don’t exactly appreciate the way this is done in Gnome as compared to Windows, but at least it’s possible. Since any way of using the start menu sensibly akin to XP & earlier is out, you’re stuck with the search. This might sort of work, if it weren’t that the search was so incredibly slow. Launchy finds while I type and the program is started after about 3 characters on average. In the built-in search I can just type the whole program name, press enter and wait like 10 seconds for it to pop up. So while in XP I mostly use Launchy and the start menu with my customized categories if I don’t remember the name of something I don’t use too frequently (like, say, WinMerge), in Windows 7 using Launchy is the only option. Plus they also removed the classic start menu—I could’ve lived with that one instead of the one in XP.
    – Most of the programs I use to increase usability won’t work, most notably SmartTab.org and ASD Clock. Even worse, the whole thumbnail-based alt-tab with window highlighting is very confusing, disorienting and slow. It features all the same stuff that’s wrong with Compiz. If you ask me the reason that Exposé & the like are so popular it’s because the normal alt+tab is so unusable. SmartTab.org and Opera’s ctrl+tab demonstrate how it should be done. If they please they can do some stuff with live thumbnail previews on the side, but I’d rather they wouldn’t.
    – On this note, Remote Desktop is still broken compared to Windows Server and VNC doesn’t work properly anymore. Yay. Cygwin also has some trouble, so goodbye GNU tools that made life so much easier.
    – For some inexplicable reason if you right click on the task bar, the right click menu pops up completely detached. If they were looking for ways to improve this they should’ve looked at Gnome, as it is it’s simply faster to use keyboard shortcuts. OK, it’s always been faster to use those, but it’s just horrid.
    – It’s harder to get the theme to behave. Admittedly you could use Windows Classic, but that’s just too damn boring. The window title bars and window borders are freaking huge and wasting precious screen estate. In XP I use Codename Opus, in Windows 7 with smaller borders & smaller title bar it isn’t too bad, but it’s still got all kinds of annoying features. For example if I try to close a window by clicking in the top right I might accidentally close the window below it. It’s not as bad as in the default skin of XP, though, where Windows Classic is an absolute necessity if you can’t find a better XP skin.
    – Windows Explorer has greatly degraded in usability. If you use detail view, it’s as bad as Nautilus now. I understand that they think that just having the filename clickable is too unpredictable, but there’s an easy solution. Make the entire filename column clickable and leave the size & date ones alone so you can properly select files. Perhaps this is less of an issue if you use the standard double click paradigma, but I prefer single-click. I especially like the XP-style (&earlier) single-click as compared to how it’s implemented in, for example, KDE/Dolphin, where files aren’t selected if you stay over them for a second. Without that, you massively lose usability. Windows 7 still implements this, but because ANYWHERE inside the window selects files, it doesn’t work the way you want it while you keep ctrl pressed.

    I could go on like this for quite a while, but I’m already approaching something that’s much too long. 😛

    Gnome and KDE share a few of the same flaws, but not all of them, plus using Ubuntu offers a whole lot more improvements. Just keeping the right mouse button pressed, moving to the preferred option and releasing it is an important one in the GUI-type, but I’m more talking about the apt system, Gnome applets, multiple workspaces, etc. etc. Long story short, on my laptop I’ve upgraded from XP to Ubuntu because it’s a much better upgrade than Windows 7. On my desktop, I’m staying with XP. At least for now. I may be forced to upgrade to Windows 7, assuming that my 5.1 Dolby Digital actually works properly in it. I suppose it might also be better to play Starcraft 2 that way.

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