Friday, September 18, 2009

Windows 7 sounds good but what's new

Pin It WASHINGTON - Now less than two months from world-wide release, Microsoft’s Windows 7 is bound to make the legions of existing Windows users wonder whether they should upgrade.

And it will make those who have put off hardware purchases in anticipation of the new operating system wonder whether the time is right to hand over their hard-earned cash.

Windows 7 has already won over the majority of those who have been beta testing the product for over a year now. So there’s really just one question that remains: will it impress you? To give you a head start on deciding, here’s an overview of what are likely to be the most talked-about new features of Windows 7.

--- Speed and stability
Promises of greater speed and stability are likely to interest the majority of Windows users. But it’s helpful to remember that every major release of Windows in memory has arrived with similar assurances. And each time, the reality of the operating system, once unleashed onto the millions of computers around the world, has fallen short of expectations.
Will Windows 7 actually be different? In terms of performance, most benchmarks put the release-to-manufacturing version of Windows 7 roughly on a par with both Windows XP and the first service pack release of Windows Vista. But Windows 7 is noticeably speedier in areas that matter a lot to most users: startup is faster, as is Windows shutdown, and most disk-intensive tasks are at least on a par with the speed of Windows XP.
In terms of stability, only time will tell. Anecdotal reports of Windows 7 running nonstop for a month or more without requiring a reboot are rampant around the Web, which is good. But there are also plenty of reported incidences of Explorer crashes and other glitches occurring in the new operating system, just as with Windows Vista. Do not, in short, expect miracles out of Windows 7 in either speed or stability. The good news is that in neither of these areas does the new operating system appear to be worse than the ones it will replace.

--- Installation
Installation is much improved in Windows 7 over any previous version of Windows. If you purchase an upgrade or a full retail version of the new operating system, you’ll likely be delighted at how seldom the operating system interrupts the installation process for input from you. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many components of your PC Windows 7 recognises automatically, finding and installing the correct device drivers in the process.

--- Compatibility
Microsoft took backward compatibility seriously with Windows 7, and the result is an operating system that will be compatible with the majority of existing Windows applications, regardless of which version of Windows they were originally designed to run under.
One of the secrets to Windows 7’s impressive compatibility is the new Windows XP compatibility mode. With this feature, you can run any application that works under Windows XP within Windows 7 by using what amounts to a virtual Windows XP machine within the confines of Windows 7 itself.

--- Simplicity
Windows 7 has done away with much of the most annoying clutter and intrusiveness of the Vista interface. Gone are the gadgets bar, the Welcome screen, and many of the most objectionable aspects of the User Account Control (UAC), which in Vista impeded users at almost every turn. It’s also very easy to turn off UAC altogether in Windows 7.

The taskbar has been impressively improved in Windows 7. Right away you’ll see that Windows 7 groups multiple windows of the same application by default on the taskbar, so your taskbar won’t be cluttered by, say, eight instances of Internet Explorer. Also nice about the automatic grouping feature is that allowing your mouse cursor to hover over a taskbar icon will result in pop-up thumbnails of the contents of the open applications, so you can move to the window you want without any guessing.

Some taskbar icons are also graced with a built-in status indicator in those cases where minimised applications are performing some time-consuming functions. For instance, the taskbar icon for a minimised Windows Explorer that is busy copying files will get progressively greener as the file copying proceeds.

The new operating system is by no means as uncluttered and workmanlike as the Windows XP interface. But Windows 7 does a decent job of merging Windows XP’s utilitarian bent with the conveniences that emerged along with the interface changes unveiled first in Windows Vista.

--- Libraries
One completely new feature you’ll be confronted with in Windows 7 is Libraries. In essence, libraries are folders that can point to files or resources in a number of separate physical locations. You can create a library called ‘my documents,’ for instance, that aggregates files from your local C drive as well as from external or network drives. You tell the library container where to look, and it does the job of assembling the files. You can access libraries directly from Windows Explorer. Merely double-clicking a library name accesses the underlying files.

--- Improved Search
Searching for existing data is every bit as important on the desktop as it is on the Internet. And Windows 7 improves on the strides made by Windows Vista in the search arena, thanks to a feature dubbed Federated Search. In essence, with Federated Search, the near real-time search capability unveiled in Windows Vista now extends to network drives and other remote storage repositories in Windows 7. Search in Windows 7 is also quite customisable. With so-called search connectors, for example, you can even perform searches on Web sites such as Twitter right from your Windows 7 desktop.

There are plenty of other pleasant surprises hidden within Windows 7, but these headline features are likely to be what tempts you to give Microsoft’s new operating system a try. Just remember that a good deal of hype always precedes the release of a new Microsoft operating system. While Windows 7 makes some significant strides in important areas, there’s no law against sticking with Windows Vista or even XP if those operating systems are serving you well.


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