About three years ago, I was in the midst of testing the final Release Candidates for Windows Vista. At the time, I truly appreciated the enhancements made to the Windows platform and was looking forward to finally ridding myself of Windows XP altogether. Unfortunately, Vista wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Mainly though, it was a resource-hog. The minimum requirements for Windows Vista specified 1GB of RAM but you really needed at least 2GB of RAM for it to perform adequately. In addition to that, there were many elements of the OS that just weren't ready for primetime. The mere act of copying and pasting files being one of those elements. Service Pack 1 for Vista eventually fixed many faults but not all of them. Overall, the operating system was just "clunky" and not much else. (Believe it or not, though, I still prefer it to XP whenever possible.)
I'd also like to add that I tested the first beta, second beta, first release candidate and second release candidate of Windows Vista and it wasn't until RC2 that the OS became remotely usable. I'm 100% serious about that. Beta 1 wasn't even worthy of being called a beta, in my opinion. Turns out this was just foreshadowing of a shaky Windows release by Microsoft. Windows 7, on the other hand, runs very well on 1GB of RAM and is speedier and more crash-proof than I thought it would be... more crash-proof than, gasp, any Mac I've ever worked on. In fact, I've been running the Windows 7 *release candidate* as my primary operating system at work for several months now. Besides for a compatibility issue with VMWare VSphere Client (check out the 9th post on that page for a fix), I've yet to experience a single problem.
Just perusing the official site for Win7, there are several new features and enhancements including, but not limited to:
- "HomeGroup" enhanced file and printer sharing
- "Play To" in Windows Media Player 12 to send music or videos to another Win7 PC in your network for immediate playback
- "Action Center" to address any and all lingering issues with your PC (e.g., out-of-date anti-virus or Windows Update)
- "Aero Peek" to get a quick glimpse of items on your desktop without minimizing anything
- "Aero Shake" to give exclusive focus to the window in which you're working
- a brilliant new Taskbar with always-awesome "Jump Lists"
- excellent Accessibility improvements including better speech recognition and a vastly-improved magnifier
Windows 7 Libraries
Among my favorite new features, however, are "Libraries" and "Windows XP Mode." For the former, Libraries enable you to store shortcuts to several different folders under one umbrella. For instance, I store photos in more than a few different locations on my PC. So, when saving a photo from the web, for instance, I can select the pictures library and quickly find the right destination folder. You can also customize the default "save to" folder for a Library as well as the the order/arrangement of the different folders within it. (This is far more dynamic than just creating your own folders-of-shortcuts.) Same goes for documents, movies, music, etc. There are a few Libraries already built-in but it's more than easy to create a new one for a different category of files... like games or a library of folders relating to your home business.
Windows 7 "XP Mode"
Now, that's a pretty tall order when you really think about it and it would have been remarkably easy for Microsoft to "go all Vista on it" and make it a clunky, difficult-to-use feature. Fortunately, that's not the case... at all. XP Mode, once you get it installed (it takes a little while), can enable you to run older apps using the Windows XP operating system. Even the XP-Mode apps LOOK like Windows XP apps... right inside Windows 7. If you've got the RAM to spare, it works positively flawlessly and is lightning-quick.
I've highlighted just a fraction of new features in the release but hopefully you've gotten a sense that this release could, in fact, be worthy of your hard-earned dollars and cents. In addition, Windows 7 could finally enable enterprises to rid itself of the increasingly-archaic Windows XP operating system. Check it out yourself using this pretty nice set of introductory videos or just check out the official site for an overview of Windows 7, feature-by-feature.
What about you? Have you had a chance to play around with Win7? What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below.