Microsoft Windows 7 Details Functionality Operating System
Microsoft saw better days before the release of Vista -- which many consider a disaster -- but Microsoft is quickly trying to make amends with the development of Windows 7, commonly referred to as the operating system that Vista should have been. The Professional Developer's Conference brought plenty of details about Microsoft's latest operating system and we have explored the most important ones. New taskbar, new explorer functionality, new UAC controls, new home networking... it all sounds quite overwhelming considering a previous major release (Vista) hit store shelves only less than two years ago. Granted, things were less than spectacular with Vista. Think of this as Microsoft's second chance to make things right. They have to deliver the goods. Windows 7 is all about exposing the improvements that have made their way into Vista, but have not yet been taken advantage of for whatever reasons.

Microsoft Windows 7

Microsoft Windows 7 was created to pick up the broken hopes surrounding Windows Vista. Regardless of whether or not Windows Vista deserved the bad rap, its reputation has been harmed so bad that even Microsoft readily acknowledges the public's dismal expectations with the operating system. The only thing that can be done is to start over -- a new interface, new feature set, a new name and a new attitude. That is the approach Microsoft is taking.

User Interface Improvements

The new taskbar is one of the major features that Microsoft touted at PDC2008. The changes are very drastic and might even confuse some users at first. However, the changes seem to have been met with optimism overall. In previous editions of Microsoft Windows, the taskbar served as a method of seeing which windows/applications were running at a glance. Generally, each window was given its own unique piece on the taskbar. That is great if the user is only running a handful of applications at any one time, but things could quickly get out of control if running dozens of applications is the norm for that user. In Windows 7, the new taskbar will be similar to the dock within OS X. But there is also functionality that is not available within OS X. Users will be able to place preferred applications on the taskbar -- again, similar to OS X -- and this will allow easy one-click access to commonly used applications. This new interface element will also allow quick and easy access to windows and applications, similar to the taskbar previously functioned.
Microsoft Windows 7 Details Functionality Operating System Professional Developer's Conference 2008

The new Windows 7 taskbar

It functions like a program launcher, window switcher and more. Additionally, applications activated that are not placed in the taskbar will appear after being run, just like OS X. Jump lists is new feature heavily integrated with the taskbar that provides customized menus for individual applications, allowing quick access to common and useful functionality for each application. It is accessed by simply clicking on the program icon in the taskbar. The list will provide useful functions and information with a single click. It is the file menu that is actually useful. The sidebar has been removed in order to allow widgets to roam freely on the desktop. Previously, the sidebar served as an area to hold widgets that were programmed by Microsoft and third-parties, but now these widgets are simply placed on the desktop. This places much more emphasis on desktops being live and interactive. The only problem is that the widgets that exist currently are generally poor quality. Hopefully Microsoft can help change that. Aero has also received a few improvements, but the interface largely remains the same. It is basically more polish added to an already shiny interface. Users who like that kind of stuff will be right at home with Windows 7.

New & Improved Features

The performance of Windows 7 has been heavily improved by removing unnecessary code and optimizing existing code from Vista. Microsoft claims that Windows 7 will be capable of running on lower end netbooks, which are cheaper, smaller mobile computers designed for simple tasks like e-mail and Web browsing. A few journalists have already reported running beta builds of Windows 7 on netbooks with 1 GB of RAM without issues. User Account Control (UAC), the most annoying feature in Windows Vista, is noticeably less annoying thanks to a slider control that lets you dial in its tendencies to nag and pester. As an administrator, UAC will rarely come into play. As a regular user, UAC will pop up much less than before. Also interesting to note is that UAC does not obstruct the screen like it did in Vista. Instead, it will pop up as a notification in the corner of the screen.
Microsoft Windows 7 Details Functionality Operating System Professional Developer's Conference 2008

The Windows 7 interface

Windows Explorer has also been given a nice revamp. The new Windows Explorer has new file management features: the most prevalent is the addition of libraries. Libraries pull content from multiple locations and let users treat those contents as if they were in a single location. This basically makes file management easier by providing an additional layer of control that simplifies things. Home networking has made way for simplification. Setting up complex networks within Vista was anything but painful, but Windows 7 aims to make things as simple as possible. Things are organized in a manner that makes more sense. In addition, Windows 7 devices can be easily assigned to an existing network that is managed through the HomeGroup functionality. This also provides easy access to files on various devices throughout the network. The HomeGroup feature is also location aware -- no more accidentally printing from a home printer while at work. There are also other features like the ability to stream music and video from a single computer to other devices on the network. Not really an essential feature, but it is mighty convenient for those users who utilize media servers and wireless consumer electronics devices that support this functionality. Of course, other additions will make their way into Windows 7. Features like an improved touch functionality, enhanced power management functionality, revamped control panel interface and streamlined management interface all add up to a solid package that makes Vista seem much less desirable.

How About MOSS Support?

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), for whatever reason, doesn't work well with Microsoft Vista and we must question if Microsoft intends on making Windows 7 and MOSS interoperable. Perhaps this is all by design? From what we have heard from attendees, developers and administrators are supposed to have a much easier time with Windows 7. Although there is also a lot of emphasis on developers using with Windows Server 2008. Perhaps it makes sense for Microsoft to force users into purchasing Windows Server 2008 to run Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, but it certainly sucks from the standpoint of a customer. Well, we can't expect Microsoft to get everything right, but hopefully Windows 7 provides a much better experience out of the gate than what Windows Vista did. Beta versions of Windows 7 will be publicly available in early 2009, but there are beta builds already floating around torrent Web sites. Windows 7 will likely be released for sale in mid to late 2009 or early 2010, but nothing is ever certain with Microsoft. Be sure to check out our coverage about Microsoft Office Web, Microsoft Azure, PDC2008 and all other news related to Microsoft.