A few weeks ago, I finally decided to try Windows 7. Not being the trusting sort, I got a second hard drive (okay, fourth, but whatever) and installed Win7 alongside XP. Having heard mixed reviews of it, I wasn’t sure what to expect: I had heard that it was like Vista (not a good thing), but that they had fixed a lot of the bugs (good), but that maybe they had added DRM (always bad.) I hate the direction they’re going with the ribbon interface, and so I was worried about how that would influence the GUI, on top of everything else.
So far, so good, though — it looks like this one’s a keeper! Here are the benefits that I’ve seen so far, in rough order of their importance to me:
- It’s 64-bit (at least that’s what I installed). I’m running a Core i7 now, and even though I’m only at 3GB of memory, it’s time to get the 32-bit barrier out of the way. So far, though, Win7 has done a great job of seamlessly merging 32-bit and 64-bit apps. It’s more-or-less run almost everything I’ve thrown at it nicely so far, from Flight Sim X to MS Office to Firefox to the various FreeBASIC apps I mess around with. Yeah, I know there’s a 64-bit version of XP, too — but I’ve heard that finding the right drivers for it can be a nightmare.
- It seems very stable, at least so far — even with an almost-1GHz overclock. Sweet.
- It still has Remote Desktop access support. (A good thing; if not, it would not stay installed for long.)
- It has the new Math Input Panel! Draw math equations in freehand and they become nicely-formatted, professional-looking equations, complete with all of the symbols I’ve ever seen and a lot that I swear were developed by an advanced alien civilization. I gotta get a drawing pad! Very nice addition, MS.
- They added a sweet Mahjongg-solitaire game. So much for actually learning more math or doing anything else productive at home. Oh, well.
- Minesweeper got a major facelift: the squares now scale along with the window and have all kinds of cool 3D effects.
- Freecell and Solitaire now scale intelligently, too.
- It seems to have excellent driver support. For instance: I plugged in my Panasonic MiniDV camcorder to the FireWire interface, and Windows figured out what it was automagically. A small thing, but very slick.
(Incidentally, it seems to have “semi-automatic” driver installation, for some devices. It didn’t automatically install a driver for my USB-to-RS232 adapter, but it *did* find the right driver on the Prolific website, and point me to it, so I could manually download, extract, and install it. Oookaaay.)
- Win7 seems to think in terms of “libraries.” So do I, ‘cept I prefer to do the organizing myself. I may yet grow to like it, though, since this approach does give it the ability to sort/search things like my mp3 collection various ways (by artist, by genre, by year, etc). This is OK, since Windows doesn’t insist that you use this functionality.
- The “Aero Glass” interface. I suppose it will grow on me — and I suppose it gives the GPUs something to do when I’m not running FSX or playing Oblivion.
- Some of the games from the King’s Quest Collection don’t want to work correctly, at least not yet. (However, they are over twenty years old, so I think I’ll cut Windows some slack on this one.)
- Same ol’ Notepad. Good to see Hell still hasn’t frozen over. <g>
THE UGLY (or at least annoying):
- Where did my right-click-to-search option go, MS? I know you can search from the start menu now, but no breaking existing functionality, guys. Party foul.
- Why is the show-the-desktop button all the way on the lower right? I’ve had it set up on the Quick Launch bar next to the Start button since the first Clinton administration. Grr.
- Task Manager now has a “services” tag? Uh oh. Note to self: do not install Win7 at folks’ place without a LONG explanation of why you do not touch this. It’s bad enough they learned how to kill processes. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, when you (the family IT geek) live several hundred miles away. Yeah, it’s kind of handy to have on my own box — I figure it’ll save me ten or twenty seconds every so often. Maybe. Better would to have made it an optional customization, turned off for the Muggles. But then, the same goes for the Process list.
- Sound Recorder has become even more of a joke than it previously was. Time was, it could change formats, record, playback, etc. Now, it can record, resume, and save. That’s it. No format selection (WMA; who-knows-what sample rate, number of channels, and resolution.) Good thing we have Audacity.
- Paint and WordPad have been infected with the Ribbon interface. BOO.