Monday, January 19, 2009

Windows 7.

I'm writing this post using the lastest version of Windows - Windows 7

Microsoft recently released a public beta of 7. I signed up and have installed it. Can't comment about the internals, but going by the appearance, it seems to me - a souped up version of Vista. There are some major and minor UI changes into 7.

Let me say it upfront, this post is not intended to be a review of Windows 7. It is just a summary of changes that, in my opinion are worth mentioning.

One thing I noticed on the first reboot itself was the speed. My system becomes usable within 22 seconds of selecting Windows 7 from the boot menu, and, it shuts down in around 6 seconds. These timings come very close to Leopard - the fastest booting OS I've ever seen (graphically rich OS I mean :) )

Windows 7 consumed a whopping 12GB of disk space! That is quite a lot for just a bare minimum operating system.
Here is what my destop currently looks like -

The side bar has been removed and the gadgets have be put on the desktop directly as I've done to the right.

One of the major changes I saw is that, they have introduced the Ribbon UI (first introduced into Office 2007) in all the programs in 7. Here is a snapshot of WordPad with Ribbon instead of classic toolbars -

Another major they've made is the way the taskbar looks. Instead of the rectangular elongated buttons, only a icon is displayed in 7's taskbar. Also, you can 'pin' the program to the taskbar i.e irrespective of whether the program is open, the icon will be present on the taskbar. Both these ideas have been 'inspired' from Mac OS X :) IIRC, Mac people call the pinning 'dock'ing. The rationale behind pinning is - for frequently used apps(explorer for eg) the user need not do a separate action of opening the app. Clicking on the icon in the taskbar should bring it up whether or not it had been launched. On hovering over the taskbar icons, app specific buttons show up. For example, hovering over the media player icon shows media player's preview as well as play/stop buttons. Right clicking on it shows the history of files/urls.

The taskbar by default groups multiple windows of the same app into a single icon, and hovering over the icon shows all the windows, then one can click the right one after looking at the preview. I'm sure the the folks at MS must have observed and analysed hundreds of hours of user footage before introducing such a major change, but I find this rather cumbersome. Choosing the right window now takes at least 2 clicks, earlier it used to be done in a single one.
This IMO creates a serious problem for Internet Explorer. On clicking/hovering on IE's icon, one gets to view all the tabs and then, one has to select the tab to go to. Thus, everytime one has to select which tab to go to, there is no option to 'just maximize the windows and let me look at the tab I was looking at last'. That can only be done by alt+tab.

   A welcome feature that has been put into IE 8 is 'InPrivate browsing'.
No history or cache or cookies will be stored for the websites visited using the InPrivate browsing feature. This a nice to have feature, but I noted a surprising thing while trying it out. When you hover over the IE icon in the taskbar, even your InPrivate tabs and their screenshots are displayed! IMO, somebody who is using this feature will certainly not want his private tabs to be visible when ever one clicks/hovers on the IE icon ;)
The very useful 'Show desktop' button has been moved to the right hand bottom corner. Actually, since it does not have any icon, it is hardly noticeable. Hovering over the button shows a preview of the desktop with windows shown as empty rectangles.
Switching on/off the internet connection has been made easier by having a menu pop up when you click on the networking icon in the system tray.
Other mentionable things include the new improved calculator with 'Programmer' and 'Statistics' mode. Unit conversion and date calculation panes have been introduced to the right. The user can keep a history of his calculations in all modes except programmer.
PowerShell comes bundled with Windows 7; as does 'Chess Titans' (reminds me of the Chess on Mac :) ).
Here is a screen shot -
Overall, I was impressed a bit by the speed and the UI (and also by the fact that Windows Media player could play a lot many formats out of the box) . But, i did not see any strong reason for any user to migrate to 7 from Windows XP. For those troubled by Vista, 7 might be good option ;)
Even with all that eye-candy and other improvements, 7 does not even make me think of moving to Windows, from Linux :)

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1 comment:

Nikhil Joshi said...

Fedora 10 is out with awesome UI. Can u please compare Win 7 and FC10 & give comment if possible.