Windows 7 Beta- First Impressions

Posted in Reviews by tux4life on January 25, 2009

I have always been a curious observer of Microsoft technology developments, be it Windows or Office or Visual Studio.  Not that I am a big fan of Microsoft but just that I want to have a keen eye on what the largest software maker in the world has to offer.

The only product that really impressed me was Office 2007.  Visual Studio has also evolved a lot and it has a lot of nice features.  But I have always been cribbing a lot about Windows, especially Windows Vista for being very very sluggish.

So I was keeping a close eye on the developments with Windows 7.  On reading about the release of the first public beta of Windows 7, I was eager to give it a test.

I did  a fresh install (as opposed to running it under VM) since I wanted to see how Windows 7’s performance compared with XP / Vista.

Here are some of my observations .

Installation and Booting

Installing Windows 7 was seamless.  No issues with partitioning as the partitioning tool did a fair job.  I was able to create  a new partition without too much trouble.  The installation itself took about 30 to 35 minutes, a big improvement over Vista.  Also Windows 7 booted in considerably less time compared to Vista.

But however, if you need to upgrade an existing Windows Vista installation to Windows 7, you need Vista SP1 to be installed previously.

User Interface

On the user interface front, Windows 7 is more or less Vista’ish.  There are minor changes here and there but over all no big complaints.  The interface has become more zippy. E.g. Opening Windows explorer in Vista would take for ever but that has improved a lot and the windows come up very fast.  Again another improvement over Vista.

Task Bar

The task bar has been completely re-designed.  You see icons for each type of application that is open and when mouse is hovered over them, a small visual preview of the windows that are open for that application comes up.  Pausing the mouse over the preview brings up the actual window in front for a preview.  Clicking the preview takes you to that window.

Right clicking an icon the task bar pops up a list of recently opened documents using that application.

You can catch a glimpse of this here.

Overall, the new task bar is kind of ok but there are certain nagging issues.  E.g. If I have Internet Explorer open, clicking on the task bare IE icon wont open up a new window.  To do so, I need to go to an already existing IE window and do Ctrl + N or Fil -> New Window.  This is the case with all the applications.

Also, needless to say that the inspiration of the new task bar came from Mac.

Will Microsoft ever have OWN Innovative Ideas ?? All they do is borrow ( or steal ) ideas, make some minor changes and the end product turns out to be an actual mess.

Internet Explorer

Windows 7 comes with IE 8 Beta 2 bundled.  I have to say, IE8 Beta 2 is a very big improvement over what was considered a lackluster IE7.  To start with, IE8 starts up very fast, almost immediately after you launch the application.  Also the pages load much much faster.   To go with this, there are some new features added to IE8 like Web Slices, Private Mode etc. Some of the are new and some of them borrowed from other browsers.

But in my perspective, IE8 is a very big improvement over previous versions.

Drivers & Compatibility

Windows 7 by default installed all the drivers that are required.  My laptop was usable with these drivers but I was missing certain features such as scrolling with touch pad, monitor refresh rate was kind of low.

Normally, installing drivers from the vendors would fix these minor issues.  But being a beta, vendors have not developed drivers for Windows 7 yet and the existing Vista drivers fail to work. (E.g Synaptics touch pad driver failed to install on the first attemt but some how it installed the second time)

Installing Cisco VPN client corrupted the system and Windows 7 refused to boot ever since.  (Not even in safe mode without networking)  So, there are certainly some issues on the driver front but I guess these issues will be ironed out in the final release.

Search & Indexing

Microsoft claims that the search box on the start menu performs better.  I did notice a slight improvement in performance.  But nothing big or innovative to write home about.   Again, this search feature was stolen from Mac ( remember Spotlight in Mac ).

Conclusion

Overall, Windows 7 is a real improvement over Vista.  OS has become very responsive and zippy, boots fast.  There are still some issues that needs some work and I hope that Microsoft is already working on them.

I am looking forward for the final release of Windows 7 and I hope that the performance improvement is not lost in the final gold build.

And a final note, Microsoft – Please have your own ideas.  New innovative ideas makes the difference.

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