Expectations, gossips and speculation have been running hot around the new OS, Windows 7, and based on experience with a retail version of the new OS, the reality seems to exceed the hype.
Microsoft could've put some racing stripes to Vista and gave the result Windows 7, but instead it shows wisely to develop a fresh version of Windows, bringing a bunch of new features to the spotlight.
Compared to Vista, Windows 7 also seems to be operating on the smell of an old rag. Microsoft includes the basic requirements for Windows 7 as a 32 or 64 bit 1 GHz processor, 1- 2GB of RAM, 16-20GB of disk space, and a DirectX 9 compatible graphics card.
To see that these specs to be more theoretical than practical, it was pleasant surprise at how well Windows 7 operate on a low-spec HP NetBook. Heavy duty gaming, multimedia and multi-tasking, allow for at least 4Gb RAM, a half decent graphics card, more hard disk space and a zippier CPU.
However when it com es to looks, Windows 7 is superficially similar to Vista, because of its Aero glass look. Windows 7 takes things one step further with theme packages to change its look and feel. Microsoft packs several theme packages, many of which will cycle through several desktop wallpapers.
On-screen gadgets are now no longer limited to a sidebar and can be placed anywhere on the desktop, making customizing Windows far more flexible.
Perhaps the biggest noticeable interface feature of Windows 7 is its fresh taskbar. Where app designers filled Vista with relentless intrusive pop up alerts, those have been relegated to the action centre so one can check them out at your leisure.
Releasing or simply seeing what apps are running is also easy due to large taskbar icons. Move your mouse pointer over an application icon and all its windows are previewed. Place your mouse over a preview window and a full-sized preview of the program will come into view with all other open desktop windows becoming transparent.
Jump lists are another jazzy feature. Right-click on any program icon attached to the taskbar and you'll see a pop up list of files recently used with that program. In Internet Explorer, it reveals recently visited websites, but it doesn' t yet work in Firefox, so here's hoping Mozilla can get it resolved.
Microsoft also built in shortcuts that enable one to get the most of on limited screen real-estate. Pull a window to the top of the screen and it'll go full screen. For file copying, move one window to the far left edge on the desktop and the other to the far right - the both of them will automatically resize to exactly half the desktop.
Drag them away from the edge and it will return it to their original size. Minimizing screen clutter is as simple as taking hold of the title bar of the window you're working on with the pointer, shaking it and viewing all other open windows minimize. These may sound gimmicky, but in practice they do make a difference to day to day computing.
A user who has moved away from Vista with a bunch of ageing XP applications which won't run under Windows 7will be contended with some good news and bad news.
For the latter, they probably will not run di rectly under Windows 7, but for the good news Windows 7 has an XP Mode. This makes a virtual Windows XP session that will make it possible to run older and incompatible apps.
Using XP mode is as simple as installing the older application using the virtual XP option from the start menu and then operating it just like any other Windows 7 app.
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