SANDY BERGER: You Can Feel Confident With Windows 7
With Microsoft Windows 7 coming soon, I've encountered many people waiting for Oct. 22 so they can rush to the store to purchase a Windows 7 computer.
Others, however, are more reluctant. They are questioning whether they should give Microsoft a few months to work out the bugs before they buy a computer with the new operating system. While I usually tend to be a part of the second, more cautious group, this is not true with Windows 7.
Although this is a new operating system, it is based on Vista, so all the major kinks and incompatibilities that gave Vista a bad name have already been worked out. Microsoft has learned a lot from Vista, and it has incorporated that knowledge into Windows 7.
Windows 7 is smaller and less bloated than Windows Vista. My test version came in at about 6 gigabytes, while Vista can easily take up 12-16 gigabytes. So while Windows 7 is not necessarily more capable than Vista, it is obviously slimmer, cleaner and faster. This gives the user a much better experience.
I've been using Windows 7 for several months now, and I can tell you that it performs without glitches. While you may find an old printer or scanner that won't work with Windows 7, most devices are fully compatible. Just about all software that works with Vista will also work with Windows 7.
Besides the increase in speed, there are a few other things that I really like about Windows 7. The first is the improved task bar. The icons are bigger and more easily customizable.
Just drag any program icon to it and drag the icons into the order you would like. Instead of recently used files, Windows 7 has what they call Jump Lists. When you have a program pinned to the task bar, you can right-click it to see recently used documents of that type.
For instance, if you click on the Word icon, you can see your recently used Word documents. You can also place a document there so it is always available whether you have used it recently or not.
Some programs, like Windows Media Player let you actually control the program from the Jump List. So you can do things like play music without actually opening the program. This is very useful.
You have always been able to resize windows in previous versions of the operating system, but this entailed getting your cursor in exactly the right place and estimating the size of the window that you wanted. Windows 7 has a wonderful feature called Snaps. With Snaps, you can simply click your mouse on the title bar of a window and pull it to either side edge of the screen. It will fill that half of the screen.
When you snap windows to both sides, each takes up exactly half of the screen, and you can work in and/or compare both windows side by side. Have you ever wanted to clean off the desktop and have only the window that you are working on appear? It's easy with Windows 7. Position your cursor on the title bar of that window, hold it down and shake the window. All the other open windows will minimize to the taskbar. Shake the window again, and they'll all come back.
This all may sound a little gimmicky, but believe me, it is really useful stuff that makes the computer easier to use.
Another useful feature in Windows 7 is called libraries in which you can view like files. For instance, while you might have photos scattered around in different folders, you can view them all in the Picture Library.
There is also a Music, Video,and Documents Library and you can create your own libraries. Add this to the improved search feature in Vista and Windows 7, and you will find that it is much easier to locate the right file or document in your Windows 7 computer.
And there's more. A feature called HomeGroup makes is much easier to set up a home network and to share printers, scanners and files. Another feature called Device Stage lets you view all the devices attached to your computer in a graphic way. Manufacturers can customize Device Stage for each of their devices.
As more manufacturers take advantage of this, it will be valuable for the end user. Not only is it a way to see all the devices, but also you could, in the future, see how many pictures there are in your camera when it is attached to your computer as well as other valuable information.
New power management schemes will help extend the battery life of laptops and netbooks. Choosing a wireless network to connect to is easier. There is better support for dual processors and dual monitors. And much more.
So if you ask, I'll tell you that you can feel confident buying Windows 7 as soon as it becomes available. In fact, I have already ordered my copy. Although I won't be getting a new computer, I will be upgrading my main computer from Vista to Windows 7 as soon as I can.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu-kiss.com/happycomputing.
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