If, like me, you remember all those adverts Microsoft ran for Windows Vista – that’s right the “Wow!” adverts it’s likely that “Wow!” wasn’t exactly what you were saying with a few hours of using Vista. In its current incarnation Vista isn’t bad, it’s just not good either. Luckily Microsoft took a beating with Vista and knew that had to deliver a much better experience with Windows 7 and they’ve largely done just that.
It’s true, Microsoft have pretty much got the basic elements of Windows 7 right, it’s easy to use, for the most part it just works and it’s noticeably faster than Vista. Windows 7 will happily run speedily on a dual-core processor with 1GB of memory – Vista was terrible with this amount of memory and ran very slowly – though I’d still recommend 2GB+ of memory to get the best out of Windows 7. This improvement in performance also means that it will sleep and wake up much faster!
The user interface initially looks similar to Vista, however, there are some welcome differences. Gone is the side bar which was loaded by default in Vista, another sign Microsoft listened to its customers this time, you can now add your gadgets anywhere you like. There’s a new taskbar which allows you to ‘pin’ applications to the taskbar (replaces QuickLaunch) and when you hover the mouse over an icon in the task bar you get an interactive mini-preview. Hovering over a mini-preview will give you a full size preview on the desktop and right-clicking on the mini-preview will produce a “jump list” showing some further options.
Then there’s Shake, Peek and Snaps! A little gimmicky perhaps but they’re clearly aimed at providing similar functionality to that enjoyed by Mac OS X users since 2004. Shake allows you to grab a window and shake it clearing all other windows from the desktop, Peek makes your currently open windows transparent so you can see what’s on the desktop and Snaps places two windows side-by-side for easy comparison or copy-and-paste.
Moving one from the interface, Windows 7 is very good a sharing… with other Windows 7 machines that is. The Share option in the right-click menu allows you to easily share files with other Windows 7 computers in your HomeGroup (formerly MSHome in Vista or Workgroup in all previous versions of Windows!).
Another useful addition to its capabilities is “location awareness”, this allows Windows 7 to work out where you are and select the appropriate home, work or public network and the correct printer for example. Also, “adaptive brightness” allows computers with light sensors to automatically adjust your screen brightness to match the ambient light level. These features were long overdue, Mac OS X has had excellent location awareness capability for 7 or 8 years, improving as each version of the OS was released and MacBook Pros and their predecessors have had light sensors for a good number of years.
Overall, I’d say Windows 7 is a good operating system that Windows users should seriously consider especially if you’re still using Windows XP – Windows 7 is much more secure. Sure, there are still a few things that are annoying and make you wonder why Microsoft thought it was a good idea but the Windows 7 experience is much more pleasant than Windows Vista or even Windows XP! Will I be moving back from Mac to PC? No, I’ll still be sticking to Mac OS X, I still think it’s better overall, though if I had to I’d be happy to use a Windows 7 machine – which is something I couldn’t say when Windows Vista was Microsoft’s best effort!
So, if you’re going to insist on using Windows then do yourself a favour and make that Windows version 7.