I have moved my blog to Wordpress at theunixgeek.wordpress.com. I will still be checking back periodically on this one as well, though. 19 April 2009

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Windows 7 Beta Review


So, I went onto MSDN, downloaded my copy of Windows 7 Beta (build 7000), and here are a few notes of what I think of the new version of Windows, specifically my overall impression of it, the new Aero and system-wide features, the interface redesigns, and the overall usability of the new operating system.
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Setup is surprisingly beautiful for Microsoft's previous standards, especially the boot screen, which says "Starting Windows" and after a while little balls come flying out and turn into a flashing Windows logo, and the "Setup is checking your computer" part. 

I originally thought the taskbar would look too big, but it looks really nice and the look was well thought-out. When you hover over an inactive application's icon, a little blue light appears under it, with two lines on the side. I decided to launch IE. On hovering, a white light follows the mouse cursor and the background adapts to the app. It's nice to be able to close an app via thumbnails. It really reminds me of the dock in Mac OS X, or (as some Microsoft reps like to call it), a copy of the Windows 1 and Windows 2 desktop. Right...

As far as moving taskbar icons is concerned, GNOME has already had that for a while now.

The notification bar seems too empty. The icons are too small. Perhaps 2 rows like in KDE? on hover, a blue triangle appears under the icons.

Aero Peek isn't very obvious. You have to hover over the "Show Desktop" button. It can also be enabled when you hover over a thumbnail so you can see where the window is on the desktop.

Aero Snaps was already available in previous versions of Windows, but fairly hidden and called "Arrange windows horizontally/vertically" and "Cascade windows" instead of "Snaps."

Windows is still obviously document-focused instead of app-focused like OS X. If you have two windows of Word open and one of Paint, and you use "Aero Shake" (when you shake a window to minimize all the other ones), all other windows go down and all you have is a lone window. Very useful, though

Jump lists are nice. Not much to say about them, though, except there isn't an exact standard to what their content should be.

Control Panel has been revamped; the view is simpler, and finally, Wallpaper Slideshows are available (like in KDE and Mac OS X). Interestingly enough, wallpapers are now called backgrounds. Yet another feature copied from GNOME.

The new redesigned Paint is really interesting. The tools are clearer and there are new shapes. Unlike the Office apps, which have a big round button with the app icon that is the "File" menu, the file menu is a separate drop-down menu in the ribbon. There are now 4 different brush styles. Upon being created, a new shape is treated like an object, so it can be moved around and manipulated without messing with the rest of the image. What would be nice is to be able to go back and separately select that shape again. Now, it's more obvious that you can personalize the color palette. The bottom of the window has become more useful, easing magnification and with quicker access to selection size and overall window size.

There is still no spell checking in Wordpad.

Gadgets are now seen as separate Windows, which may go in front of others, closed, etc. I'm glad there's no sidebar anymore, and the new free gadgets remind me of KDE 4.

XPS viewer isn't IE and is obviously written in WPF.

Now, let's take a look at what the new Explorers have to offer:

IE8
  • Interface is too flat
  • there's a special toolbar just for web slices and bookmarks. a bookmark bar is what I've been waiting for for a long time.
  • on first open, you have an option to turn on Suggested Sites, a web slice that recommends sites based on your browsing history.
  • Nicely enough, the default search provider is Google (finally!)

Explorer (file browser)
  • brighter look
  • cleaner than the Vista explorer
  • you can now resize the space between the address bar and the search bar
Libraries are a bit strange. It seems like a plan to replace file folders, which still exist. It's a nice concept, but very strangely implemented. The Start Menu shortcuts link directly to the libraries. Even when clicking the user's name link, you get a list of your libraries. The only user folders MS expects to be accessed with frequency now are Desktop and Downloads. In fact, after going back to the user folder, what had been renamed in Vista do "Documents," "Pictures," "Videos," and "Music" have now been suffixed with "My" ("My Documents," "My Pictures," etc), like the older versions of Windows. However, Microsoft thinks users will rarely access their "user folder" anymore (even save dialogs offer you to save your files in libraries instead of actual directory folders).

I find it a nice touch that, unless you're hovering over the drop-down lists on the sidebar, the little arrows for the lists are hidden.
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So,  there are a lot of new features, new looks, new designs, and Windows 7 is really stable (although it boots up rather slowly). It's still the same old Windows, though. It still has the same basic functionality since the one established in 1995, but the revamp is a nice one.

2 comments:

Zoltan said...

Thx, nice review, but - for me - Windows is still on Vista's level with more bloated graphics, and increased hardware requierments. There are new apps indeed (after praying of decades - eg. paint), but the whole user experience for me is an slooooow heavy steamroller, with some pinned flowers on the roof.... I say, I will keep my XP "Virtualboxed" on my shiny fast Linux...

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