Zaki Mirza’s Blog

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… About software and beyond!

Windows 7 beta 1 (Build 7000) – A Review


Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-53-35 (2)

A colleague and friend of mine handed me to checkout Windows 7 beta build 7000 DVD today that he had burned for himself. Before recently, I had been quite disappointed by Microsoft and the quality of products they were producing. Windows Live seemed like a very vague, ideas-in-the-cloud (no pun on cloud computing) kind of thing, IE8 would crash more than occasionally and Live mail would filter out everything but spam. But having reviewed and used Live applications like Live Writer and Live Gallery, I am starting to get excited again. In this post I review my first experience with Windows 7 – the next Operating System from Microsoft after Windows Vista. I never switched to vista and have been a die hard XP SP2 fan and user. Lets see what experience Windows 7 has in store for me in this one hour review session.

Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-53-58 (2)

The Setup

I used VM Ware 6.5 to test this. Now I know that VM Ware does not let me run Aero on Vista or anywhere – and unfortunately you will not see lots of aero gloss in my screenshots but I could not wait enough to do a workaround for that =D. So a standard VMWare6.5 machine, that efficiently detected that I had a Windows Vista type CD in it, asked me for the key for an easy install. I did not provide any because I did not get any, so a couple of nexts and my virtual machine is set up.

Installation

Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-54-50 (2) Next it starts the windows installation, which takes a mere 15 minutes from start to desktop! Now that is impressive. I used to installer Windows XP a lot (I happened to be the local de-facto computer technician at my school and college) and that did take a standard 40 minutes at least. Perhaps this a beta, so we cannot exactly say if this has really improved, after all the installation only asked me one question, the version of Windows 7 I want. I opt for ultimate and the installation continues.

First Look

Now here’s a cheat, I had viewed the whole presentation of PDC about windows 7 on channel 9 by Chaitanya Sareen on Welcome to windows 7 Desktop and Samuel Moreau on Windows 7 Design Principles. So perhaps my experience is biased towards things Microsoft is really proud to show, and does not really reflect the experience of an untamed die-hard XP user. But nevertheless I try to be as impartial as possible.

Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-55-46 (2)

The Taskbar

The first thing I would do when I install XP for a gazillion-th time, I would turn on the Quick Launch. The Very first thing any user would notice (especially if they are not coming from a Vista experience) is the new Taskbar. Lot of new additions on that. For one, its neater – with larger icons. And for me, the quick launch is back =).Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-59-54 (2)

IE taskbar tab list (2)Hovering over application icons on the in quick launch gives an eye candy. But the shock comes when you try to start an application. What?? No Windows on the task bar – and that wasn’t a quick launch? The icon itself illuminates and shows you that it is in fact active. Not only does it bring less clutter to your taskbar, it also adds a couple of new features here (talking of which, the group windows option in XP also tried to bring less clutter on my taskbar and more on my head! The next thing I would do after installing XP is disable that). One of them is the support for multi-tab applications such as internet explorer and Firefox. When you click on internet explorer for example (see screen shot), you get a discrete view of all tabs. Since I am not using aero, its showing me all pages’ titles. Clicking on any will let me jump to that one immediately (sort of excludes and extra click IMHO).

The Quicklist

quick list in task bar (2) Next is the quick list. When you right click on an application icon that is pinned on the taskbar, you see a quick list which shows certain information the application allows you to do quickly. For instance, Paint allows you to see recently opened files in Paint, without even opening Paint and selecting it to open it in Paint. These are also available for applications in the Start menu (which remains more or less the same as Vista, if you have seen it). I think this feature will be one of the most used one, if not the most used one. So far so good.

quicklist in start menu (2)

The Explorer

The explorer is not exactly revamped, but still gives a fresher look. This is something they did not show in PDC (or did they?) and caught my eye in the first place. The first thing you will notice that windows explorer no longer opens in the default My Documents or Desktop. It opens in the Libraries View.

default library vie (2)

Libraries

Libraries is sort of a catalog view of different things you want to manage at different places but want to view in one place. Sort of a consolidated view of what ever you have in your computer. You can create music libraries, picture libraries, document libraries, or even your own custom libraries and assign specific folders to them. And this is an N-to-N relation, a same folder can exist in multiple libraries. Here is a screenshot of the default view of the explorer.

arrange by mode in libraries (2) Within a library, there are a few interesting options. One is to sort by Folders that are inside that library, or the month, day, rating, tag … anything. 

I’m not sure if this was available in Vista, but this is definitely a great addition to Windows – and after quick list is going to be the second most used feature by everyday and advanced users.

Another interesting thing for libraries is that while you are in a certain folder (say a music folder) you can directly add it to any library, which is quite a quick way to organize you stuff.

include in library (2)

library settings (2)

Explorer Organization

Other things within explorer worth noting is the preview pane and layout options. Though not exactly very flexible, these are fairly useful. You can enable disable any pane and see the view that you like of your folder. This includes the top menu bar, the library view bar, the preview pane, the detail pane, the navigation pane.

layout options (2)

Folder Sharing

Once I used Vista. The only thing I tried to do was share a folder and get some stuff copied into it from another machine. It became a mess. In the end I gave up. I’m told Vista added super security and that’s why it was “sort-of-different from XP and not-much-unintuitive”, if that is the case, and the security remains more or less the same, then Windows 7 is a definite improvement over Vista. Though I never thought there could have been a better workflow than XP’s, but this changes my mind.

folder sharing optionsFolder Sharing is extremely simple in Windows 7. Right click –> sharing –> select your appropriate option. In 70% of the cases it will suffice, if it doesn’t you can go to “specific” people option and do more advanced sharing (for home users).

 

Action Center

The tray used to be the most annoying thing in Windows XP. Every other application would think it is the most important application, and the message it wants to show is the most important. Now the user can control and tame these application using the action center.

action center (2)

Another interesting thing to see in the screen shot is the way we can revert back to classic windows theme. Now I love this feature. Aero gives me a squirmy feeling.

File Versioning

One of the final things that ticked me was the file versioning option. But I dont see it as promising since snapshots are created after a whole system restore checkpoint is created. Though you can get an earlier version of any file and can view the earlier versions in this neat dialog.

file versioning (2)

Final Verdict

Windows Vista-2009-01-20-18-53-35 (2) I know you would by now be craving for more and more, but hey, why dont you download it and try it yourself =). I only had an hour to review it. The VM did halt a couple of times. First it was my temptation to start the chess game, and then a couple of times with internet explorer 8 (which always seems to be the case. When will IE8 team start hiring better programmers?).

So overall the operation system, as far as I have experienced it, looks quite promising. But perhaps my judgment was biased. If you think so, download, experience and share =).

 

You can download this beta from Microsoft Downloads.

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Filed under: Comparisons, reviews, software, windows, , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Its actually pretty sad knowing your reviews are the only one’s I’m reading these days. I don’t know if MAC comes up with something and I don’t even use it I’m excited, windows PC I don’t know man. Their just too predictable.

  2. garagedeveloper says:

    Great review. Cant wait to test it out on my machine 🙂

  3. zakimirza says:

    “Bashir Ustaad” … that’s called the ‘coolness’ complex.

  4. Ali Dar says:

    I have always found Windows 7 to be very much like VISTA. Although they have added few features that you mentioned, But this doesn’t seems to make it a new operating system. More like an Addon or Vista Plus.

    But I am excited about the new touch features of this operating system. Maybe you can review it sometime.

  5. Obaid Ashraf says:

    Good job, dude… 🙂 I’m interested to try it on.

  6. Ammar Moughis says:

    Good overall review. What I would be more interested in are the inner workings of the OS, like vista is less prone to viruses,would 7 be even better? Vista had improved networking feature but i think it still needed a lot of improvements. Lets hope 7 is better. But a 15 minute setup is very very impressive:p

  7. Asad says:

    Sorry, Windows 7 Beta downloads are no longer available. 😦

    from where can i download the beta?

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