Underneath the GUI, what does Windows 7 bring to the table. The first thing you are likely to do it bring up the start menu, and it is interesting to note some new icons there. The two that stuck out like a sore thumb to me were “Sticky Notes” and the “Snipping Tool”. Their names pretty much say all that needs to be said; Sticky Notes are Post-It style text boxes that you can place on your monitor, while Snipping Tool is a glorified Print Screen button. While both programs may become a staple diet of new users to the Windows environ, older customers are likely to throw them both out the window in favour of tried and true techniques that still work just as well.
What I personally dislike about Stickey notes is that each note seems to be a seperate process, and is always shown on the Applications Bar, making it an ugly program to be running when compared to programs like PostIt or others like it which usually have a single process that (turns out the multiple processes was a bug and is now fixed) sits in the SysTray. Furthermore, I am way too ingrained into the habit of opening a Notepad.exe file whenever I need to jot something down. In fact, hitting the Windows button and typing “note” to bring up a notepad document no longer works as the Sticky Notes programs holds some kind of Trump card when the order is defined; this brings me to a jarring halt as I close the unwanted program and then use the mouse to open notepad instead. I will most likely uninstall Sticky Notes ASAP.
Snipping Tool as a concept, as I said earlier, will probably become second nature for some. Maybe, like the Amish, I fear change; I simply cannot bring myself to use this feature. Print Screen and Photoshop will always be my port of call when I feel the need to take a screenshot.
Now onto the good news. The talking heads over at MS Public Relations have been vomiting rainbows everytime they talk about Windows 7’s battery conservation “skillz” and its 1337 Power Management. As a University student who frequently has 2 hour lectures and 5 hour lab sessions, being able to work without the constant fear of my battery being depleted halfway through a data run is a huge turn on (yes, a power-pun!). As such, I decided to start catalogueing my battery life a couple of weeks prior to installing W7 onto my laptop. My old Dell portable utilised a 9-Cell battery; when I had to replace it however, Dell was not offering anything larger than a 6-Cell battery for their new laptops. As such, the longest time I could use it from 100% charge was usually about 2 hours on a good day.
As you can see, while I have significantly fewer data points for W7, the battery life is undoubtably longer on average. The data was taken over a week with varied levels of use, from simple web surfing using a wireless access point, to rendering flame fractals using apophosys while listening to music. Each data point was taken in minutes from Power On until the Critical Battery Warning which is displayed at <1% battery power (about 5 seconds before the computer shuts down and refuses to turn back on). However, for ease of reading the data, it was converted into Hours (Base 10). To ensure that W7 was not pulling the wool over my eyes, I verified the complete discharge of the battery using the LED indicator that is now standard on the new Dell data batteries. My data is available as a .csv file for anyone interested in reproducing my statistical analysis.
Further good news, and something I am sure a lot of people are aching for, the User Account Controls have completely been redone. Not removed, and I don’t believe they should be excised from the OS entirely as it is a good feature for the elderly and the very young (or stupid); experienced users now have the chance to run their computer at a level that matches their capabilities. Want to be in control of everything your compter does while maintaining your own sense of security? Turn UAC off with a single click from the control panel. Don’t want Windows to tell you that UAC is off and that it should be on? That is simply smashing; since you turned it off we just assumed you knew it was gone. In fact there is a nice big ol’ button in the control panel that lets you chose what windows will announce at any given time.
All this is now in a catagory called the Action Centre which seems to be an amalgamation of UAC, Windows Update and Error Reporting all in a single panel. I personally feel like it has been thought out by a rational person this time, so that is a nice change from the Redmond team.