Microsoft has recently released their new operating system Windows 7. Many people, including me, have been running Windows XP for a long time. Things have been working well, so there has been no reason to upgrade. Now that XP is two generations behind, and many of us are looking to replace our old computers with newer ones we are left with a decision. Do we continue using an older operating system that has been working or do we upgrade to the new operating system? Well, with all the productivity enhancing features in Windows 7, plus the speed of Windows 7, there is no reason to not upgrade. I have recently switched to Windows 7 and will outline some of the key features I have found by using it.
- Improved Taskbar – If you have been using Windows XP for any amount of time you may be familiar with a plain taskbar that does not have many uses. When you first boot Windows 7 you will notice a huge difference in the taskbar. Sure it may look like the one in Vista, but believe me, it is much better. First, you will notice that there are no longer any differences between the Quick Launch area and the running programs area. They have combined the two giving you more room on the taskbar. You can tell which programs are running by the glass outline over the icon. You can place any program on the taskbar just by dragging the icon to it, or if you have the program running you can right-click on it and select “pin this program to taskbar”. This is not the only change though. In the notification area, the part of the taskbar near the clock, you will see that Windows 7 also hides the running programs. The difference is the ease in which you can manage what is hidden and what is not for each program. The last major difference is the taskbar previews. Just hover the mouse over the open program and move it over the preview to bring that window to the front of the screen.
- Jump Lists – If you are like most people, you want to make access to files and folders easier. To do this, you probably have lots of items on your desktop. Whether it is files, folders, or shortcuts, your desktop has probably become very cluttered. This has worked for so long because there was not an option that was better than this. Well, now there is. In Windows 7, Microsoft introduced a feature that will not only clean up your desktop, but make accessing both folders and files quicker. On the taskbar there is an icon of a folder, for Windows Explorer. To access the Jump List, all you have to do is right-click on the icon. Not only will you see folders you have visited frequently, but you can pin folders to the Jump List for easy access all the time. All of those shortcuts on your desktop for folders you frequently access can now be pinned to the Jump List simply by dragging the folder to the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar. The Jump List’s don’t stop there though. If you have a Word or Excel file you frequently use, you can pin that to a Jump List as well. Just pin the Word or Excel program to the taskbar, and then pin the document or spreadsheet to that program’s icon just like you did with the folders. Now anytime you need to access that document there is no need to dig for it or have hundreds of icons on the desktop. Just right-click the program on the taskbar and choose that file and it will open right away.
- Improved Search – In previous versions of Windows, searching for files was always a hassle. You had to open the Search Companion and then refine your search on what you were looking for. Microsoft tried to make this better with the Search Indexer, but it was slow and took up a lot of CPU horsepower. In Windows 7 Microsoft refined the search indexer by building it into the operating system. Now everything is included in the index, even emails. Better yet, no more clicking around to get to the search feature, just click the Start button and start typing.
- Automatic Recognition of many devices – Throughout the previous versions of Windows installing printers, camera, and other devices was not fun. Often you would need to load the manufacturer’s software to get it to work, and then with all the extra software running on the computer, it would run more slowly. Now with Windows 7, many drivers are built in, and the ones that aren’t are automatically downloaded from the internet. Just by plugging in a printer or another device, Windows will recognize the device and install it for you. This makes installing devices much faster and keeps your computer running like new.
- Aero Interface – Probably one of the most exciting features of Windows 7 is the Aero Interface. While it might not be the most productive it is very useful, and really fun to play with. So what is the Aero Interface? Microsoft introduced the Aero Interface in Windows Vista, but has greatly improved it in Windows 7. Aero looks like glass, and even allows you to see through parts of the taskbar onto the desktop. Why is this interface in this list? Well there are times when this comes in handy. On the far right of the taskbar there is an area that is the Show Desktop icon. It is just to the right of the clock. Previously there was an icon in the Quick Launch for Show Desktop. When clicked, all the open windows would fall down into the taskbar showing the desktop. With Windows 7, hover the mouse over the Show Desktop and all the open windows will clear out, giving a glass look allowing you to see through to the desktop. Move your mouse off of the Show Desktop and all your open windows return where they were. A new feature in Windows 7, and possibly one of the most productive, is called Aero Snap. Just drag an open window to the top of the screen and let go and the window will go full screen. Drag the window to the right or left and get a half screen snap. This is great when comparing documents.
Switching to a new operating system is often a scary thing to do, but with all the productivity enhancements the upgrade is worth the effort. I think you will see that Windows 7 will help improve your work and is also fun to use.