It’s been exactly a month since my nice little package came from Microsoft containing my free version of Windows 7 Ultimate. I know there are plenty of people who are questioning the upgrade from Vista or still have XP and are wondering if it is worth it. I feel it is only right that I share my Windows 7 experiences with you to perhaps answer questions you have. Below is my personal list of pros and cons after having heavily used Windows 7 for the past few weeks.
First I’ll start off with the cons, seeing as that’s how it normally goes with Microsoft products.
Upgrading from XP. My biggest gripe about Windows 7 isn’t even an issue once you get it installed. If you are an average XP user and want to hold on to all of your files and programs, you are in for an unpleasant ride. Microsoft decided that only those with Vista were going to be given the option to actually upgrade your machine. Those with XP either have to do a clean install, completely erasing all of your programs and files (it will thankfully make a backup of your old files), or buy Vista, upgrade to Vista, then upgrade to Windows 7. Granted, if you do a clean install, Windows will save all of your old files in a folder called “windows.old”, but this doesn’t make things much better. You still have to reinstall all your programs and put back all of your important files. Microsoft knew when it released Windows 7 that a lot (and I mean A LOT) of people were going to skip Vista. Is this punishment for not sticking to their plan and spending money on each and every OS they release? To rebel against this treachery, and for those who don’t have the funds to buy Vista AND Windows 7, one might even suggest downloading a “not-quite-legit” version of Vista, upgrading your XP machine, and then upgrading to a “legit” version of Windows 7. If Microsoft is going to make things hard for you, you might as well play just as dirty along the way.
Show Desktop Button. Many people, like myself, run lots of programs and have lots of windows open lots of the time. I don’t want to spend time clicking the little minimize button over and over (and over…) just to get to some folder or icon on my desktop. Early builds of Windows 7 didn’t have a “Show desktop” button. Hey now. It was a good feature in Windows 95, it is still a good feature for Windows 7. I know Windows 7 has added some fancy methods for minimizing windows (such as grabbing the top window and shaking it. All windows underneath minimize.), but that is more work than clicking a button. Luckily Windows 7 shipped with a “Show desktop” button. Sort of. It isn’t the same old button we are all used to. No. They decided to throw it all the way to the right of the taskbar, give it new features, and make it only about 15 pixels wide. Took a while before I even found out the button existed. Hovering over it will show you the desktop until you move your mouse off of it. That’s a decent feature, but Microsoft could have at least given users the option of where to put it or how it looks.
Quick Launch? Not much to say about this other than: “It’s gone”. Yes, it was sometimes nice to have often-used programs at the ready so you didn’t have to go to the desktop or start menu to launch them. With the new features of the taskbar and the ability to “pin” icons and programs to it, the Quick Launch toolbar isn’t really needed anymore, but we will keep this as a con since Microsoft didn’t allow users to decide if they wanted to display it or not.
Well, that’s about all for the cons. I know a few were rather lengthy, but I assumed that’s what most users (and windows haters) wanted to see. Now on to some pros, some of them rather impressive if I do say so.
Taskbar. This is the most obvious new feature of Windows 7, and I will say, it takes some time to get used to. Taking a lesson from OS X, Windows 7 transforms the old cluttered taskbar into something much more usable (yes, I will give props to Mac every once in a while). Most noticeably, bigger icons and the ability to “pin” them to the taskbar. If you have a select set of programs you run quite often (browser, IM), you can choose to let the icon stay there, even when the program is closed. Very handy and very “OS X-ish”. Running programs also get their place on the taskbar, but now users get the option to have all similar windows combine into one. Using a new feature, “Aero Peek”, users can hover over the combined icon and all the window previews are displayed right above the taskbar. Click one of the previews, and off you go, or hover over one of the previews to see the window on top until you move your mouse.
Another nice feature of the taskbar is jumplists. Jumplists allow you to right click on one of the icons in the taskbar and view a list of the most recently opened files or the most recently viewed website. These items are then clickable to directly open them. Easily eliminates the step of having to open a program and choosing the file or website when you know what you want right away.
Windows Explorer gets it’s own button now next to the Start button by default. This is useful as it includes it’s own jumplist to access recent folders and files, and when you click it, it opens up your “libraries”, which include Documents, Pictures, Music, etc.
Moving to the right side of the taskbar, not much looks different until you run some programs. Windows Vista and XP had the arrow which you could click to access hidden tray icons. Windows 7 now has an up arrow which opens a balloon of sorts to view the hidden icons. This feature not only prevents icons from cramming into the rest of your taskbar, but also allows finer control over when and where tray icons and notifications appear.
Window Dragging. Drag a window by it’s title bar to the top of the screen to maximize it. Drag it to the right or left and it snaps to fill half the screen. Shake the window and all windows behind it minimize. Helps significantly when managing multiple windows.
Startup Time. Much improved over Vista and even XP. Can’t do much better than that.
Takes up Less Space and Memory. Compared to Vista, Windows 7 just feels a lot faster and responsive. Memory usage has been improved over Vista as well as graphic performance. In my own experience, I have noticed fewer slow downs and have noticed that programs do things when they are supposed to as opposed to having to wait a while with Vista. Taking up less disk space than Vista is a plus as well. Windows 7 still uses more memory than XP, but I guess you could say that is expected and unavoidable.
User Account Control (UAC) Improvements. Finally. I can now tell Windows to stop telling me that it is going to do what I just told it to do. One of the worst “new features” of Vista was those dialog boxes warning you that something was about to happen and to make sure it was what you wanted to do. Some people need that, some don’t. I like to have a choice and Vista didn’t want to let users have a choice without digging for the off switch. Windows 7 has a setting which allows various levels of UAC. I can finally compute in peace.
Application Improvements. It’s about time Paint got new features. Wordpad and Calculator too.
All in all, it looks like the pros greatly outweigh the cons this time around. And those are just the features that the average user will care about. There are many other things under the hood that make Windows 7 a welcome change. Maybe, just maybe, this makes up for the blunder that is Windows Vista. Maybe.
I see you Mac users sitting there smugly with your Snow Leopard. Touting your usual “no virus” grins. However, security is still a threat to OS X as seen with improvements in version 10.6, and Windows 7 is leveling the playing field just that much more. It’s true, Windows 7 can still get viruses and can still occasionally lock up and crash, but Microsoft may have actually taken a step in the right direction this time.
, Snow Leopard
, Windows 7