The wait is up! Today at PDC, we finally got to see a demo of the next OS from Microsoft: Windows 7. One of the biggest improvements in Windows 7 is the new taskbar, but there have also been other improvements like better networking features and a less noisy UAC. If you're just looking for Windows 7 screenshots, then click here. For more details on the features themselves, keep reading.
The Windows 7 UI:
- The new taskbar: the quick launch area is gone. Now there’s just the taskbar. Application icons can be “docked” in this taskbar. You can drag-and-drop application icons to this area for one-click access but running apps will appear here as well.
- “Jump Lists” is a new feature that groups related tasks surrounding an application. In the taskbar, a right-click (or finger swipe if using touch) to display this list. Here, you’ll find common tasks, recently opened files, favorites, or whatever else may be relevant to that particular app.
- Jump lists are found in the Start Menu, too.
- “Snap to docking”: You know how you have to manually resize windows when you want to compare two windows side-by-side? No more. This new feature will automatically resize the windows for you as you drag them to the sides of your screen.
- You can maximize a window by dragging the title bar to the top of the screen, too.
- Your Windows Sidebar Gadgets can now be placed anywhere, not just on the sidebar – you can do this now, but the sidebar takes up real estate when it’s running. Now there are just Desktop Gadgets…no more sidebar
- “Peeking” at windows is a new feature that lets you quickly glance at a different window that the one you’re in but not actually interact with it. When you “peek” at a window you can turn the other windows to glass to make it easier to see the window you’re viewing.
- You can peek at the desktop, too.
- Wi-Fi Networking Improvements: When wi-fi is available, the wireless icon lights up in the system tray. Click it to display a pop-up list of wireless networks then click the one you want to connect to. If you have to enter a passphrase, you’ll be prompted to do so, otherwise, you’re connected immediately.
- When connected to a network, you’ll have access to the “Homegroup” directory interface. From here, you have access to all devices in your home including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, digital photo frames, printers, etc. Sharing features for the home network have also been simplified.
- When you bring a work laptop home, it automatically connects to your home network even though it’s configured to connect to a domain. It also protects your work files even though you’re on your home network.
- Windows 7 switches your default printer depending on where you are – work or home, etc.
- “Libraries” are a new feature that group similar items across the various drives of your PC (HDD, external HDD, USB flash drives) as well as across your network. It integrates the Windows Search functionality to make finding files across your network easier, too.
Media & Themes:
- The new lightweight version of Windows MediaPlayer lets you play media from any device in your “Homegroup”. You can play audio, pictures, or videos across the network.
- Media Center gets some interface tweaks including a new visual style for the newly customizable main menu.
- Themes, themes: You can customize your desktop background and see a live preview when doing so before making the change.
- UAC is less annoying! UAC was created with the “best of intentions” they said during the demo, but it was a little too intrusive. Now there’s a new slider control that lets you adjust how much the UAC pop-up is allowed to bug you. You can also adjust warning levels specifically to disable warnings for things like changing Windows settings while still getting warned with 3rd party programs try to make unauthorized changes. Adjusting the UAC settings no longer requires a reboot, either.
- The new “Action Center” lets you control the messages delivered through things like Windows Firewall, Windows Updates, etc.
- Touch support: On touch-enabled devices, you can interact with the OS via touch, gestures, flicks, etc. Windows 7 supports multi-touch. There’s also around 25% more space between items in the context menus to allow easier control when touching.
- System Tray: In Windows 7, you have complete control over your system tray. You can remove, change, and even move around the different applications that reside there.
- DirectX is extended to 2D, animation and “fine-looking” text.
- Windows 7 has a reduced memory footprint and they’ve reduced the disk I/O reads “substantially.” In the demo, a 1 Ghz/1 GB RAM netbook had 500 MB RAM available after boot.
- Better power management in Windows 7 means longer battery life for notebooks and netbooks.
- Overall, the system is faster. The taskbar responds almost instantaneously. The boot time is also faster.
- You can use BitLocker to encrypt a USB memory stick.
- Remote Desktop supports multiple monitors. Easier access to VPNs
- You can both create and boot natively from a Windows 7 VHD.