Multitouch- Hands down (or hands on) the Windows 7 feature I'm most excited about is multitouch. There are several multitouch-capable laptops and desktops available now, the HP TouchSmart line with 22" and 25" all-in-one freestanding desktop, and the TouchSmart TX2 notebook/TabletPC/multitouch slate. Install Windows 7 and the touch drivers and you're ready to go. The TouchSmart line is very affordable, recently the notebook was on sale for <$700 USD and Woot.com occasionally has the 22" all-in-one refurbed for $650. For the cost of a well equipped netbook you can have a dual core multitouch platform. Not too bad. There is also the Dell Latitude XT and XT2 convertible notebook. I've been using a HP Touchsmart notebook. I don't consider touch a replacement for any previous interface, it's more an addition to the way you interface with your computer. As I write this, I can just reach up and stretch or pinch to zoom text. I can scroll with a flick. How many times have you been working on a laptop and thought 'I wish I could just poke that button'. Now you can poke. Or wanted to flick your web browser to read a page. Now you can flick. Sometimes it's the most efficient way to do something, sometimes you'll want to use a mouse, sometimes you'll want to use a stylus. But there are some experiences that you'll never want to do with a keyboard/mouse again. More on that soon.
Touch is a completely different mechanism than stylus input, so as Tablet PC software matures you'll find the two input methods, your pen in one hand and your hand in the other, have different functions. In a drawing application one hand might select tools and colors while the stylus in the other hand would be the only thing that drops paint on the canvas. You could pan a large sheet of paper with one hand while writing with the other. At Mix 2009 Microsoft announced that Silverlight will support multitouch on the web. Interesting things are afoot in Redmond. I'll be keeping track of all the multitouch enhanced hardware and applications, follow me on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/larryla
- Homegroup - Homegroup is home networking and file sharing the way it was always meant to be. Once you install Windows 7 on one machine, it gives you a Homegroup key. From then on you can use that key on any other Windows 7 machine on your network to share files. You can also share all your printers. It's dead simple, and I don't know how I lived without it now that I have it.
- Libraries- This is a new feature to Windows 7 that is a paradigm shift. Let's say you keep a directory of photos recently pulled from your cameras in one directory. After backing them up you archive them to some other drive. You also have a directory of stock art that is on another drive or across your network. Libraries lets you define all of those different areas as a single photo, video, music, or document library. So now in Windows Explorer, you can just click on Libraries | Pictures and see all of your pictures, defined by your choice, in one place.
Play To / Remote Streaming - Let's say you have your Homegroup setup at home. Go to the rest of the Windows 7 machines in your house, open Windows Media Player, click the Stream button and select "Allow remote control of my Player". Now you can sit at your Homegroup PC , right click on a song or a playlist and "Play To" those other machines, sending music all over the house, even controling volume. This also works with any DLNA compliant devices, so you can send photos to DLNA photo frames, or music or movies to a DLNA device like Pioneer's DLP-HD1 Blu-ray player.
By associating a LiveID, you can turn on Remote Media Streaming. This allows you to stream media - photos, music, vidoes - from your PC to any other PC on the internet. You need to associate the same Live ID with the computer sharing and the computer receiving the media.
Keyboard Shortcuts! - Power users don't reach for the mouse when it can be done faster with a key combo. WIN+E - BAM! Explorer. Over time claw-memory develops to the point a seasoned IT pro will hammer their keyboards like Harry Connick Jr. At Microsoft, we endorse this behavior. As Dr. Sneath points out, Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts are better than ever.
- Dock your windows left and right with WindowsKey+left/right arrows.
- Win+up/down to minimize / restore / maximize.
- Win+Shift+up/down arrows to maximize and restore vertical size.
- Win+Shift+left/right arrows to jump windows to other monitors.
- Win+P to change through display modes.
- Win+1, Win+2, etc.. For launching new instance of any of the first five icons on your taskbar.
- Win+Space to peek at your desktop.
- Win+T will put focus on the taskbar so you can use the arrow keys to select which window or group, then hit enter.
- Want to flick through a bunch of open Outlook windows? Control + Click on the Outlook icon in the task bar. That works for any program with multiple windows like Internet Explorer.
- Shift+Click on a application in your taskbar to launch a new instance of it, like a web browser.
- Shift+Right Click on a file in Windows Explorer to get an expanded Send To menu.
Burning an ISO- Just right click on an .iso file and choose "Burn disc image". Or you can double click on your .iso file and get the Burn Image app.
Desktop Photo Slideshow- Right click on the desktop, choose personalize, and Desktop Backgrounds. Here you can select a group of images to play through as your desktop background and set the time to change. The new Windows 7 RC1 wallpaper is a great first start.
- Windows XP Mode with USB support
- Sensors - Sensor input is a first class flyer in Windows 7. If you were lucky enough to make it to PDC, you might have picked up a small sensor circuit board along with some new API's for the Sensors Platform. Once plugged in you can test some games and apps using the accelerometer, ambient light sensor, and 8 capacitive touch sensors. This is the framework for the hardware that we'll be using in the future, already supported by Windows 7.