Ah, Microsoft. We’ve had some good times. We’ve had some bad times. It’s really hard for the average person to understand how you can go from a solid, stable operating system like Windows XP to a bloated, irritating thing like Vista. You and I both know that it’s not the first time, but let’s not talk about Windows ME. Let’s focus on the future. The launch is tomorrow, so let’s talk about Windows 7.
I’ve been using Windows 7 for quite a few months now on my HP tablet and overall I have been very impressed. I ran Vista on the tablet previously and there were definitely times when it seemed sluggish. (It’s not like a slow machine, it has 8 GB of RAM and an SSD hard drive.) As soon as I installed 7, I saw an IMMEDIATE increase in performance. I also liked the new taskbar and the little gimmicky window tricks, I love that you can configure the Nag Quotient of UAC, and I think the tablet-specific features are absolutely outstanding.
Initial Setup – At the risk of gushing, I think the install of Windows 7 is hands-down the cleanest and simplest process of any version of Windows. Ever. It’s pretty fast, it asks minimal questions along the way, and it’s quite intelligent at figuring out drivers and such.
Drivers – Drivers were the great stumbling block of Vista’s launch. I remember months after the launch of Vista tearing my hair out by the roots in frustration because I couldn’t find HP scanner drivers for our CEO’s PC. We’re talking HP here, not some small time vendor that operates out of their garage. Contrasted with that experience, I had the fingerprint software for my tablet install automatically through Windows update and just start working without me even noticing. That’s like the holy grail of driver support.
Interface/User Experience – I think the interface is much the same as Vista, although the small improvements are quite useful. The taskbar allows you to pin icons there and if the app supports it, will give you common task lists specific to that program. For example here is my context menu for Google Chrome:
You can see that the most visited sites are listed along with other things I might want to do with that application. It took me a little bit to get in the habit of using this, but I find that it really speeds things up for me. I use multiple monitors on my desktop, so the key combination of Windows Key + right or left arrow, which moves the active window to the next monitor is one of my favorites.
Best Little Known Feature – This one is for the user support side of my personality. Windows 7 has built in a little application called Problem Steps Recorder. If you go to Start > Run and type psr, then hit enter you will see a simple window that looks like:
This is geared towards an end-user that might be having problems with something. The user clicks on “Start Record” and then does whatever they are having issues with. They then click “Stop Record” and then they will be asked where to save a ZIP file which contains Screen Shots, program and system information recounting what they did along with any comments that the user might have entered. All wrapped up in a neat package and ready for your user to email to you for help. It’s the next best thing to remote control!
Conclusion – This is a worthy successor to Windows XP. I’m recommending to our clients who are thinking about making a change that they give this serious consideration. Trust me, switching will feel like trading in your 10 year old Ford Explorer for that brand-new 370Z convertible you’ve been eyeballing. Well done, Windows 7 team!