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Tech – A sneak preview of new Windows 7

Nimish Dubey, TNN

It is hard not to feel a little bad for Microsoft at times. The company’s Windows OS runs on most of the computers in the world, and yet it gets criticised more often than praised.

Of course, there is reason for this flogging — when so many people use a single OS, any flaws that show up tend to get magnified. And show up they did in strength when Microsoft launched Windows Vista in 2006.

The OS did look good, but in terms of performance, it was a bit of a nightmare. To start off, it demanded a significant hardware upgrade for Windows XP users who had been lulled into inactivity for almost five years — graphics cards were recommended for the first in Windows history and RAM requirements shot into gigabyte territory

However, Microsoft has been known to stumble before getting things right — the popular Windows XP, after all, came after the erratic Windows Me.

So it was only a matter of time before, for all its public declarations of support for Vista, Microsoft would come out with an OS to set matters right.

And about three years after Vista’s launch, the company will officially take the covers off Windows 7, the latest version of the Windows OS.

We got a chance to play around with the OS prior to its official release on October 22 and came away largely impressed.
If Vista demanded hardware upgrade to get the most out of it, 7 will pretty much run on most computers that have been released in the past couple of years.

In simple terms, if your PC runs Vista, there is a fair chance that 7 will run just dandy on it.

An OS that does not demand a significant hardware upgrade is good, but 7 actually runs much faster than Vista ever did.

In fact, we even installed it on our Asus 1000h netbook and it ran without any stutters whatsoever — a similar experiment with Vista had reduced it to a slow-motion player.

Although it is possible to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, those running Windows XP will have to go in for a clean (read “wipe out everything on your PC” ) install.

That said, Windows 7 does install smoothly — we had the OS up and running in less than an hour.

On the flip side, while it picked up the drivers for our printers and graphics card effortlessly , it struggled to find those for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth drivers, which meant that we had to spend some time digging around for them.

Incidentally , fiddling around for the drivers also brought us face to face with the devices and printers feature which makes installing and getting drivers for hardware devices a lot simpler and even throws in icons of the hardware you are installing .

In appearance, Windows 7 looks very much like Vista, which is not really a bad thing. However, Vista users will notice that the icons have been given a polish and made bigger .

And then there is the little matter of the new taskbar at the bottom of the screen, which is pretty much the most outstanding feature of the OS.

Although Mac fans will titter that it is actually a replication of the dock concept of the Mac OS, we are not complaining. Basically, the task bar will show all applications that are currently open and will also allow you to “pin” applications that you wish to use frequently on to it.

Right-clicking on an icon in the taskbar will open the Jump List feature, which shows the actions most associated with that application — so if you right click on Internet Explorer, you will be shown the URLs of recently visited sites and the option to open a new tab, while in MS Word, you will see recently used files as well as the option to open a new one.
There are also some deft touches — if you have many windows open in any application , just run your mouse over the application’s icon in the taskbar and you will see the windows stacked as icons.

To go to the one you want, just keep your mouse over it. In fact, these little slick touches abound in 7.

If you have a number of applications open at the same time and wish to focus on one, just grab the title bar of the app you wish to focus on and give it a good shake using your mouse — all the other applications will minimise automatically .
You can preview images and videos more easily, by simple running your mouse over the Windows Media Player icon and choosing play — to view images on full screen, just hover the mouse over them.

You can scatter widgets (or Gadgets, in Microsoftspeak) all over the desktop instead of being restricted to a particular area as in Vista.

You can use the Aero Peek feature to look at your desktop, with open applications turning into transparent tabs.

And there is plenty of substance to go with the looks too — you have the usual array of applications such as Internet Explorer, Word Pad, Windows Explorer and Windows Media Player, all with significant tweaks

This is not to say that Windows 7 is perfect. We found its much vaunted XP mode (in which it runs Windows XP within Windows 7 to enable to run XP applications ) to be a system resource guzzler.

The device manager , although neat, needs some work as it struggles with older devices. Rounding off matters is the rather shocking fact that 7 has dumped three of Vista’s handiest applications — Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker and Windows Mail (yes, the OS does not ship with an e-mail client).

Yes, they can all be downloaded free of cost from Windows Live, but it would have been much more handy to have them pre-installed , especially Movie Maker , whose Windows 7 version rocks.

There is also the little matter of security — there have been no attacks yet, but it is only a matter of time before they start and Win 7 is a bit of an unknown quantity in that regard.

All said and done, Windows 7 does most of the things that you expect from an OS — it is fast, stable and stylish.


October 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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