First Look at Windows 7

Posted May 20th, 2009 by kyle

I recently downloaded and installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Installation was quick and painless. It didn’t detect my sound card (SoundBlaster X-Fi), but I was able to find an updated driver, and everything else seemed to work out of the box.

Overall it looks similar to Vista (tellingly, the internal version number is 6.1, not 7.0). Unfortunately, the focused window issue remains unchanged, although Win7 does hide other windows after a short delay while switching between apps (via Alt+Tab, the taskbar, etc.), which does help somewhat.

Startup times are similar to Windows XP SP3. Boot time (boot menu to login prompt) is about 31 seconds vs. 41 seconds for XP on my box. Logon time (time from entering password to desktop display) is 10 seconds vs 8. Shutdown time is about 12 seconds vs. 11 for XP. Although this may not be a completely fair comparison, since the Win7 install is clean while the XP partition has lots of startup apps and other cruft.

The new taskbar is a welcome improvement. You can now pin common applications to the Taskbar, and clicking one will launch it if it’s not already running, activate a single running instance (hold down Shift to force a new instance), or preview multiple instances. There are some other nice taskbar enhancements like full screen previews on mouse over, jump lists, and easier rearranging of windows.

There are new keyboard shortcuts for window manipulation and the taskbar, but usage is clearly optimized for mousers. Personally, I don’t think they went quite far enough in unifying launching vs. switching between applications, especially for keyboarders. It really should be extended to the Start menu, but it is a good first step.

Windows 7 feels like Vista SP3 to me. It will be a no-brainer to upgrade from Vista, but I never made the switch from XP. It’s nice and all, but so far, I’ve come up empty trying to find compelling reasons to upgrade. And I still use Outlook Express (aka Windows Mail), which is no longer included in Win7, so that’s one strike against upgrading.

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