Windows 7 - Part 1 Review

By Kshitij Sobti | Updated Oct 27 2009
Windows 7 - Part 1  Review

Windows 7 - Part 1 detailed review

Windows 7
While Windows 7 has only now launched, it barely feels like that. This time Microsoft has involved testers in such an extensive way, that for many people Windows 7 is already a familiar experience, after all, it has been around for nearly a year.

Windows 7 has changed little since its first beta release back in January 2009, which is all the more remarkable as it means that the operating system was nearly done by then. They have abandoned the search for a clever name, and gone for a clever operating system instead!

The biggest advantage of the extended public beta testing period of Windows 7 has been to the people who "tested" it, and essentially got a free licensed version of Windows for a year. However a lot of the feedback and bugs discovered during the beta period of Windows 7 was actually accommodated into Release Candidate which came afterwards.
While Windows 7 is essentially a minor update to Windows Vista, it has some significant and positive changes which have turned the utter failure of Vista to the critical acclaim it has received. Nearly every version of Windows has been considered to be too bloated for its time, and for the very first time, we have a version of windows which can run on a lower configuration than its predecessor!
Let us now take a look at some of the defining features of this new version of Windows, the good and the bad:


The Taskbar: Renovated after a decade

The taskbar is perhaps the most talked about aspect of Windows 7 -- this long stagnant icon since the Windows 95 days has finally seen a significant upgrade. Windows 7 makes the taskbar more than just a way to switch between windows, it has now become a way to interact with and control the windows themselves. In my opinion, its functionality is under-hyped!

The changes in the taskbar are more than just cosmetic upgrade to square icons instead of wide tabs: the preview functionality is useful for once, and makes managing lots of open windows easier. If the preview isn't enough, hovering over the window lets you see the active application in its own, with the other windows made "transparent." A button on the right-most corner of the taskbar lets you take a peek at the desktop through all your windows. Finally, we have the rather simple facility of actually moving around window icons on the taskbar, and the system tray. 

Windows 7 JumplistsThese features just let you manage windows better, just like grouping of tasks made working with multiple windows simpler, but as stated before, the Windows 7 taskbar is more that just that. Windows 7 lets application publish common actions that can be performed on them in a list which now appears on a right-click instead of the normal menu. While common examples show application publishing their frequently or recently opened files, and common tasks here, it can pretty much be used for anything. Seen from the popular context of a browser, it can show your recent history, bookmarks, and show tasks allowing you to open new tabs or windows.

Applications can use the Windows 7 taskbar API to provide a wide variety of information and control via the taskbar itself such as:

  • Displaying status icons (such as a available / idle / invisible etc. for an IM app, or playing / paused / stopped for a media player) on their icon on the taskbar, 
     Winamp taskbar icon with triangle icon overlay to depict play state  Winamp taskbar icon with square icon overlay to depict stopped state

  • Displaying progress using a green highlight. The highlight can display the progress information published by the application, and show determinate or indeterminate progress on the icon itself. A yellow highlight can depict a paused process, and a red one can indicate an error.
  • Winamp taskbar icon showing playback progress as green highlight  Winamp taskbar icon showing playback paused as yellow highlight  Windows Explorer displaying file copy error status using red highlight

  • Application controlled preview. The preview image shown by an application can be controlled by the application itself, which can result in much more meaningful previews of relevant content, instead of ones of the entire window.

  • Tabs can now show their previews straight on the taskbar, and you can use the taskbar to directly switch between, and close individual tabs from the taskbar instead of opening the window.
  • Windows 7 taskbar previews
    Windows 7 taskbar showing previews of tabs opened in Internet Explorer 8

  • Thumbnail toolbars are used by applications such as Windows Media Player to display information about the currently playing song in the preview of the window, and provide buttons to control playback. 
  • Winamp displaying album art, track playback information, and a toolbar of available actions in preview window

The new taskbar now also superseded the functionality of the older QuickLaunch toolbar by allowing any application to be "pinned" to the taskbar itself. A pinned application appears on the taskbar even when it isn't running, and gets highlighted while running as an indicator. This makes working with your favourite applications even more easily, as they are now easily available to be launched in a convenient location, and furthermore it will appear in the same location where it is pinned, making working with frequently accessed windows easier.
For those using Windows for a long time this may come as a break in tradition, and they will be required to adjust to the new mechanism, however the new interface is well worth adjusting to. So although an option exists to switch back to the older more familiar taskbar style, it is not something we expect much people to opt for, and certainly not something we'd recommend.

As you can see the taskbar has grown to accommodate some of the features that were earlier provided by toolbars, and to an extent the system tray. In the current scenario where multi-tasking is becoming increasingly important, the Windows 7 taskbar comes well prepared.
Continued in Part 2

Windows 7 - Part 1 Key Specs, Price and Launch Date

Release Date: 27 Oct 2009
Market Status: Discontinued
Kshitij Sobti
Kshitij Sobti

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Windows 7 - Part 1

Windows 7 - Part 1

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