Impressions of Windows7
November 28, 2009 by Ryan Livingston
I don’t know much about the inner workings of operating systems. Benchmarks? Kernals? Threads? Hamsters? They all sound like crap you’d find at a crime scene.
What I do know is doodads… and along with the enhanced stability, W7 promised great things. SO, did it deliver? I’m only going over a few things (my key neats and not so’s) since the list seems to grow every time I click something.
Let’s begin at Start! I’ve always been a fan of the classic 95/98 look – a drab gray start-bar and simple file tree/programs list. When I got XP, the first thing I did was to style it like 98. The same with Vista. W7 on the other hand, not so much.
While you can go classic with W7, it doesn’t turn out too well. The start bar gets clunky, with the Start! and taskbar buttons looking out of place. Classic mode also prevents you from utilizing some of the new features like Snap and Shake. More on those in minute.
The quick-launch bar is gone by default, though you can “pin” programs to the taskbar. But rather than being folded nicely into a fly-out, they all sit out there in the open – looking at you sadly waiting to be used. There is, however, a work around to get the classic quick-launch bar up and running. I’ve not found a way to enable the classic Start! bar though.
Related to all that, the Show Desktop button up and moved across the screen. For fourteen years now we’ve been building a reflex reaction to mouse down to the left, be you teen or cubicle-worker. This could become awkward. In addition to moving, it’s evolved slightly. If you hover over the Show Desktop button, it makes all open windows transparent, aka “Peek.” Semi-useful to those goldbricking. But really, unless you suddenly need to check the ambient temperature of Antarctica from some desktop widget, then meh!
One of the more useful new features, its a boon to multitasking, providing you can get into the habit of using it. What this does is allow you to, well, snap an open window to either side of the screen. So now you can have side by side open windows automatically without trying to jockey window frames and sliders. This even works with windows within programs, like open Photoshop documents!
Though when it comes to doing this with multiple monitors (where this Snap thing could really get handy) its not so obvious. Merely moving a window to the side will drag it to the next monitor as usual. Just hit the WIN button and the arrow keys and that will move things around just nicely.
If you shake an open window with your mouse, all others will minimize. Do it again, they all pop up.
Open your Start! button and search for this, then pin it somewhere. This is Print Screen on steroids! You can take a regular screen capture; you can capture an open window; you can draw a box around something and just capture that – all with the ability of annotating it and saving it without pasting into paintbucket or the like! Think clipping articles out of newspapers but digital. Very cool.
Yes, I am touting the humble calculator. Aside from the scientific boost it got in XP, it now was with 7 a full complement of unit conversions, mortgage calculators, Statistics and Programmers calculators.
Live Taskbar Preview:
If you mouse over a minimized taskbar button a thumbnail of it pops up showing you what it looks like in real time. Very handy if you’ve forgotten which window is work and which… “isn’t.” Media players seem to get basic controls in their previews.
“Watch TV shows for free when and where you want with Internet TV on Windows Media Center. “
This was both the biggest draw for me and the biggest letdown. Here I was thinking it would be a list of major networks, minor cable stations and some international ones thrown in available on my computer – hopefully free, but if not, I’d pay a subscription for international stations. But no. Not even close. It bits and pieces of CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS, some podcasters and a selection Netflix movies.
The television side of it is like the afterbirth of Hulu – it’s got some of the same genetic material but not near enough to make a clone. I mean why do we need this? I need to be connected to broadband to access the Windows Media Center, so why use this at all when I’ve got websites that do the same thing with more content! At least I can Snap my web browser and do stuff while I watch old Perry Masons, rather than having the Media Center take up the whole danged screen!
And the Netflix portion – I have to be a Netflix member to access that. If I’m already a Netflix member, I’m gonna watch what I want, not the eight or so titles WMC highlights a month! What a waste of ones and zeroes people! I liked my misled idea better, of watching streams from around the world on my PC… but then there are already sites for that too.
All in all, I like the whole W7 thing. Once I fixed the BSOD issue with my particular hardware conflict, I’ve had no troubles with it. And there are a few handy new things bundled with it.
Windows 7, its the new XP SP2! On the New World Otter Arbitrary Scale of things, I give it 7 Flying Toasters out of 10.