First thoughts on Windows 7

Overall I’d say Windows 7 is an improvement over Vista. Personally I never had issues with Vista (I first installed RTM) so I can’t say it’s a vast improvement but better for sure. What I’m happiest about is the overall performance improvement. General Windows administration windows/dialogs seem to display markedly faster.

Drivers

The only significant issues I’ve run into have been around drivers. I first upgraded my x86 version of Vista to 7 which worked fine until I tried to use Cisco’s VPN. I was presented with a blue screen after rebooting after uninstalling which I could not get around. Luckily I was able to get to a command prompt and copy my most important files (stupid for not backing up before upgrading, won’t make that mistake again) so I didn’t lose anything relevant. I then reinstalled x64 7 from scratch. Everything seemed to be ok except for a few painting issues of windows and the background. Every few hours the background would all of a sudden start to show garbage, small pieces of other open windows or just black on top of the background picture. The windows themselves seemed to slowly degrade over the course of a few hours. The content of the windows displayed fine but it was the minimize/maximize/close menu at the top of the windows which would become fuzzy and paint very screwy. A restart seemed the only way to fix it. I tried updating the display driver through windows but only to find it had the “latest” driver installed. I checked the dell support site (I’m running on a work laptop, Latitude D630) to find there were in fact newer drivers. I updated all the relevant drivers and everything now seems to be ok. Not sure what’s taking so long on getting Windows Update to push out the latest drivers but I guess that’s what you have to expect with beta software.

I would say this only took a couple hours but unfortunately I also had to deal with a shot graphics card. That took a few additional hours to discover but after a new graphics card everything seems to be good.

UI

I really like the new Quick-launch/Open applications bar. I don’t run a lot of different programs and some I just start from the command line so I currently only 5 “shortcuts” or “quick launch” icons. I could see real estate becoming very limited if you like a lot of quick launch items. Supposedly they can be made smaller to fit more in but it may then become tougher to see if multiple windows or instances of an app are open.

The preview windows that pop up on a mouse over are great. I’d like to see a bit more focus on usability from the keyboard to utilize this. Alt-tab is great but when you’ve got 15 or 20 windows open it can take a while to tab into the app you want. Especially if you’re only looking for a specific browser tab you shouldn’t have to tab past itunes, any number of visual studio instances or other apps to just get to the browser tabs. It would be nice to utilize the grouped windows afforded by previews that are displayed somehow combined by the alt tab. Then again, maybe I just have discovered the right hotkey combos yet.

Perception

I think Windows 7 is going to be well received. One of the biggest reasons I believe Vista was such a flop was the fire storm of negativity around it. I’m not going to try to argue Vista didn’t have it’s problems initially but I don’t believe they were anywhere near as bad as they were made out to be. Surely it was a bit of a drag on resources and some driver compatibility issues early on but those issues are really only problems for power users. The general user uses a computer for checking email and surfing the web. Maybe they run word or excel every now and then but that’s it. All of those operations together wouldn’t be a major drag on resources. Couple that with the fact that users don’t typically buy an operating system, they buy a new computer with the operating system it comes with. I believe a few power users discovered the shortcomings mentioned above, put out some negative blogs and the anti-vista campaign snow balled out of control.

Windows 7 though seems to be getting positive remarks. I believe this will setup firm grounding for positive perceptions of Windows 7 such that it will be orders of magnitude more successful than vista. Though I don’t see it being vastly improved over vista it will likely be billed as such.

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