Living with Windows 7

I’ve been living with the release candidate of Windows 7 now for a couple of weeks now at home. To be honest, I’m so impressed that it’s got to the stage that going to work and having to use Windows Vista again has become a chore. If you missed my article last week on obtaining and downloading this free pre-release (test) version of the new version of Windows from Microsoft then check out or for a copy.

Unlike the change from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95 or from Windows ME to Windows XP there are no revolutionary changes. Windows XP users will notice the most difference in terms of the look and feel of the software as visually it looks very similar to Vista, perhaps just a little more intuitive.

Using this software you get the impression that finally Windows may have ‘come of age’ with this release. When pitched against this new release, Windows XP looks clunky, badly aged and flawed by comparison and although visually Vista holds its own a little better, in terms of performance it still looks as though the wheels are about to fall off. I wasn’t against Vista as much as some others however I will admit that due to the fact it was hungry for resources you always got the impression it was about to ‘fall over’ as soon as you started doing anything slightly demanding.

I’m running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 on a relatively new laptop and the comparisons against Vista are startling; faster start up times, less hard drive access, greater stability and even improved battery life. Although I’m unsure whether it would be faster than XP or not, it is worth bearing in mind that this eight year OS never really gained momentum for 64-bit support and as such it could possibly do with being retired even if just to wave in a new, faster era of 64-bit applications.

Ignoring the arguably most important developments in terms of speed, security and stability, it is the little changes and additions that I appreciate most. I like the ability to ‘peek’ back at the desktop by hovering down the bottom right hand side of the start menu, the auto preview when you flick between applications using & and the rotation setting that can be used to change your wallpaper automatically every couple of minutes.

Visually it looks gorgeous; the semi translucent taskbar and menu headers along with various other visual effects make the OS look a lot less flat than XP. Although it’s not a million miles away from Vista, it is certainly more ‘polished’ and due to the noticeable speed increases it doesn’t give you the nagging impression your machine is crawling to a halt as a result of a few visual effects.

I also love the way you can ‘pin’ applications to the taskbar. For example, if you pin Firefox to your taskbar area then the icon will always be visible next to the start menu in what would have been traditionally been the ‘quick launch’ area. The similarities end there however as when you click this icon it the application launches but doesn’t create a new group within your taskbar; the quick launch icon essentially becomes the menu group if you wish to click back to your Firefox session or launch another instance of the browser. Windows 7 handles multiple instances of one application by ‘stacking’ the icons within the taskbar rather than relying on the incredibly inefficient grouped application menus used in XP and Vista.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.