The Best and Worst of Windows 7
Microsoft’s open beta was released a few weeks ago and while we’ve already focused on gaming performance, we haven’t had a chance to just enjoy the view. While 7 is hardly a huge departure from Windows Vista , most of the underlying kernel remains the same, Microsoft has made some improvements to overall usability. Of course, in traditional Microsoft pattern, they’ve also kept some of the bigger annoyances of previous operating systems intact. Today we are going to through some of the things we love about 7, as well as those things that still bug the heck out us. First, let’s take a look at some of the improvements we’ve see in Windows 7 that really stand out against previous versions.
The Windows taskbar is practically a historic institution, at least in the computing world. Since Windows 95, the small sliver of real estate at the bottom of the screen has been the go to place to access all our open programs, from Internet Explorer to Windows Media Player. While hardly broken, the taskbar certainly paled in comparison to recent innovations in competing software, such as that small upstart firm Apple. Windows 7 introduces one of the bigger changes to the Windows interface, the dock.
The dock takes some getting used to initially, but once you do, you find yourself dependent upon it and even missing it should you switch to a different OS. Think of the dock as a combination of the taskbar and quick launch, where open programs are listed on the bar and common apps can be ‘pinned’ there, for easy and quick access. When a program is minimized, the icon gains a “shine” to it, a subtle indication that it’s still running. One of the best features of the dock is the mini-preview, where hovering your mouse over the icon will give you a small image of what’s running in the application. As our screenshots show, it can even show you individual tabs in IE8, allowing you to select which tab you want to swap to when the program maximizes. We love the dock here, it’s the perfect combination of style and function and a natural progression for the ubiquitous taskbar.
We might get flamed for putting the User Account Control, or UAC, under the good category instead of the criminally annoying category. But, before you grab your pitchforks and set some torches a fire, hear us out. The UAC is one of the features of Vista that got a lot of bad press when it was released two years ago. It wasn’t bad because it didn’t work, but rather, because it worked too well. The UAC constantly prompted the user for almost every little system change, regardless of severity. In principal, it was a good idea as its design was meant to cut down on the unintended execution of programs, such as malware or viruses. However, the level of interaction required to accomplish the most basic of tasks had most users rushing to disable the UAC, essentially negating the whole purpose of its development.
Microsoft has thankfully toned the UAC down a bit, removing the on or off function with a slider bar that determines how much the UAC prompts the user for approval. This small change can go a long way to make the UAC more user-friendly and prevent the alienation that some inexperienced users felt when dealing with Vista’s security system.