Neowin's top 5 Windows 7 Features

We've all been playing with Windows 7 for quite some time now, and now that general availability has passed we recently asked the community what their favorite feature of Windows 7 was. We've tallied the results, and just in case you haven't explored these features yet here's an in depth overview of our community's favorite features:

#5 Libraries

Since the days of Windows XP, Microsoft has continued to simplify the way users can store their data on a PC. Windows 7 has introduced users to a new way of file organization by adding a new structure called libraries. What exactly is a library? By default Windows 7 has four separate libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos.

Most users store data in different folders across their PC in a somewhat unified manner. Libraries organize all of your data into one view, while leaving the physical location of your files in the folders in which you saved them in. In other words, Libraries monitor the folders you select and provide a single access point to all of your selected data (Music, Pictures, Video, and Documents).

Confused? Let's take another look at my music library. By default the library will monitor the following folders:

Like most people, I use various applications to download music. These programs will normally store music in a designated folder instead of the actual "Music" folder that Windows provides (Unless specified). To include these files in your library, click the "X locations" link underneath the navigation bar.

Then navigate to the folder you want the library to monitor and add the folder. It's as simple as that, now all of your music can be viewed in one library instead of opening multiple windows.

#4 Aero Peek

The addition of the new improved thumbnail previews to the taskbar has led to a new feature called Aero Peek. This feature allows you to simply hover over the thumbnail previews on your taskbar, and easily switch to that application. All other programs fade away into glass sheets.

#3 Jumplists

Jump lists are a fantastic feature that allows users to quickly access application options by right clicking an open application in the taskbar. Internet Explorer's jump list features your most frequently visited websites, the ability to open a new tab, and access your options. A few programs have already started taking advantage of this feature include: Internet Explorer, Zune, Windows Live Messenger, Office 2010, Paint, Windows Media Player, and so on. Check it out:

But they don't stop there; jump lists are also available in your start menu. Applications that opens specific files will have an arrow next to it and when hovered over will show a list of your most recent documents allowing you to quickly launch files.


Image courtesy of TechRepublic.com

#2 Superbar

One of the most simplistic yet widely liked features in Windows 7 is the 'Superbar' (A.K.A. the taskbar), as Microsoft likes to call it. Applications that are running will appear in the form of an icon with a gentle glowing gradient as shown below:

Applications with multiple windows open will have extra overlays:

One of the cooler features of the Superbar is if an application is in the process of downloading or copying a file. The Superbar provides a progress bar throughout the icon of the program:

#1 Aero Snap

The number one feature that Neowinians like in Windows 7 is undoubtedly Aero Snap. Aero Snap is a very simple feature that allows you to quickly organize open windows. The feature allows you to simply drag windows to the top, bottom, left, or right side of your screen.

There is also hotkeys that allow you to quickly use Aero Snap: Windows Key+Left/Right/Up/Down.

Discover other features in Windows 7 by viewing our other feature overviews:

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with each new version of Windows I find that I am more and more restricted in how I can configure my files and programs to the way I want them, rather than how Microsoft wants me to have them. Why can't they give us more freedom to configure the way we want to.

One new feature I am struggling with is SEARCH. I didn't like it in Vista and I don't like it in 7, this one is a real trial for me.

I am "old" and I don't want all the change. I only upgraded to 7 in hopes of making Vista better. I hate Vista and liked XP but my computer crashed and I didn't have a choice. SO now I am just trying to make it do what I want it to do. Big task but I keep deleting and trying

What do you not like about search? Set it to index the folders where your data is and you're done. Now you get instant search results instead of like in XP when you'd end up waiting for 10 minutes only for it to say there are no results when you know there should be.

Now what I wish they'd add is an easy, supported way of moving an entire profile to a different location (as in, not just Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc, but everything including AppData and the like)...

I don't like Libraries messing with my photos and my music. I want to delete the folders but don't know if they will just come back or if it will effect any thing else about my "stuff" I have my photos listed LIKE I WANT THEM WHERE I WANT THEM and I just don't like 7 messing with them. So can I just delete the whole Libraries thing?

also I am one who likes the old task bar, so I just changed it to the old view, easy and now I am happy.

but I too am about to disable Aero, it gets in my way.

What do you mean "messing" with them? Libraries won't move or change your pictures, it just gives you a single place to go when you have files spread across multiple folders/drives/computers.

with homegroups enabled, u cant access hidden administrative shares. the only thing putting me off using the homegroups.

I find the old taskbar more efficient, so I disable the "Superbar" by not combining them. Takes me less click that way to get to what I want

hmm, ok I am running ultimate 7 64 bit, call me old school but I don't use Libraries, don't use aero snap, hate the new superbar, LOL.............installed xp last week to try it and loved it, even tried vista ultimate 64 and loved it, lol.......guess I just love the old ways, haha..........go figure

I'm surprised people like the libraries....sounds like a big mess to me. Nothing beats a well organized home folder....

Otherwise most of the features are pretty good

1st drive - Win7
2nd drive - part1: Linux root / part:2 home (just configurations and app data) / part3: ntfs Data partition holding all my music, pics, documents, etc etc... that Win7 and Linux share together.

Just add the folders from the Data partition into libraries and remove the others set there from install.

Actually love the libraries feature cause of this.

The side-by-side snap is only rarely useful, but snap is very useful for mult-monitor setups, and actually feels more natural for maximize/restore (even though you could always double-click the title bar, dragging feels more intuitive).

There is nothing here that I need, Xp runs perfectly for me and all the extra things I have wanted have not been addressed in 7. I have to upgrade soon or face losing security in the end but come on, give me something that makes me want to install it.

Greatest feature ever? Improving remote connection. Remote connection has never run this smooth until Win7 system.

Although great in theory, the problem with libraries is that every system on your network must be running 7 in order to take advantage of it. It is incredibly poorly designed otherwise.

For example, I already have a music collection on a (non-7) machine that I use as a media server, among other things. If I try to add that machine's music share to the library, I'm told "this network location can't be included because it is not indexed".

What does the help have to say about that? The relevant portion of the help screen says that the folder should be "...made available offline" and that in order to do that, "...copies of all the files in that folder will be stored on your computer's hard disk".

I'm sorry, what? For the library to work, I have to duplicate my multi-gigabyte music collection? Doesn't that go against the very concept of libraries, and thus make it completely pointless?

Sure, it may still be useful within the boundaries of a single machine, but guess what--my music/video/photo collection is already pretty well organized, so the library view doesn't offer me anything I don't already have.

Bottom line--although I thought it was going to be a great feature when I first heard of it, the reality is that because of this limitation, it's completely and utterly useless to me. And they rub it in by having Explorer default to the library view whenever you start it...

What OS are you using on your media server? Because Libraries work just great between my Winodws Home Server where I keep songs/movies/photos and my 3 Win 7 PCs. If you are using an older MS OS you can get it indexed by installing Windows Desktop Search, which is why it does work on WHS.

bob_c_b said,
What OS are you using on your media server? Because Libraries work just great between my Winodws Home Server where I keep songs/movies/photos and my 3 Win 7 PCs. If you are using an older MS OS you can get it indexed by installing Windows Desktop Search, which is why it does work on WHS.


That machine is running Server 2003.

I refuse to run Windows Desktop Search, because it replaces the working search feature with one that never finds anything I'm looking for (I just need simple 'find in files' functionality, which is not what WDS does).

_dandy_ said,
That machine is running Server 2003.

I refuse to run Windows Desktop Search, because it replaces the working search feature with one that never finds anything I'm looking for (I just need simple 'find in files' functionality, which is not what WDS does).


Install, index files and learn to use it. Or upgrade to 2008 R2.

epple said,

Install, index files and learn to use it. Or upgrade to 2008 R2.


I typically only need to search for filenames, or the content of files of various types that WDS does not index (ie, some value in some binary file). WDS (and Vista/7/2008's Find) simply are not designed to work that way.

Anyway, any suggestion to change operating systems for the purpose at hand is rather drastic.

I still think Windows needs an Expose clone - it's still somewhat kludgy when you're trying to multitask. A Spaces clone would be nice too.

The "show desktop" feature of Aero Peek lets you see your gadgets. Assuming you have any, that is.

Now, the thumbnail previews are extremely useful, if you have multiple windows open and need to navigate to a specific one quickly.

I like the "snipping tool", it's simple & serves me well. I'm not sure if it's a new feature or existed in previous versions, if it was then I never found it until 7, haha.

Duostyle� said,
I like the "snipping tool", it's simple & serves me well. I'm not sure if it's a new feature or existed in previous versions, if it was then I never found it until 7, haha.

It was in Vista also. I like being able to easily crop pictures in paint!

Heck most people don't even know it can automatically take screenshots of entire windows if you want, just choose it from the drop down arrow next to "New Snip". Really neat tool

~Johnny said,
Heck most people don't even know it can automatically take screenshots of entire windows if you want, just choose it from the drop down arrow next to "New Snip". Really neat tool


why would you want to do that, alt-prt sc does that job a lot faster

XerXis said,
why would you want to do that, alt-prt sc does that job a lot faster ;)

thats true, but i guess since its origin was from tablet pc use, a hard keyboard wasnt always available.

My fav is definately Aero Snap maybe tied with Libaries.

homegroup is no biggie anyone with a clue could have a network setup just as well without it. (It just makes it simple for the totally clueless)

*Slightly ****ed....will fix test up in morning *Sorry

LoveGod said,
I hate that aero snap. Anybody know how to disable it?

sure....just don't use it lol

Why do you hate it ? Curious....

How not to use it? It's impossible without a disable mechanism.

Whenever I want to move my IM windows to any of the screen's edges it friggin puts them on half the screen.

I run into the same problem you have when moving chat windows however it only triggers that when the mouse cursor hits the edge so my advice is to just grab the window on the edge furthest from the side of the screen you're moving it to.

I agree with the list, those improvements have made my productivity a lot higher than previous windows XP/Vista. Aero peek is my personal favourite, i tend to have a lot of windows open and this feature alone is worth the upgrade.

I would also add that Bitlocker for USB / Removable devices is a godsend, it's nice to have this level of encryption integrated into the OS and it's so easy to use.

funny but i did not use snap even once! peek is sometimes usefull, but not to see desktop..mostly other ie window.

qdave said,
funny but i did not use snap even once! peek is sometimes usefull, but not to see desktop..mostly other ie window.

i never used it aswell unitl recently if you get used to it, its actually a very good feature.

Solid Knight said,
I use snap all the time. Side-by-side windows > *

side-by-side monitors > side-by-side windows anyday

I still don't get the point of aero peak, or the show desktop button. What's wrong with alt-tab or windows+d ?

Also where has my media player taskbar controller gone?!!! Bring it back MS

Aero peek allows you to hover over a window's taskbar icon to get a quick look at it without losing focus on your current window. For example, if I was downloading a torrent and browsing the web, I could hover over the uTorrent* icon in the taskbar to look at the progress without removing focus from the web browser. Pretty neat :)

For the show desktop thing, you can still Win+D to get the desktop, the "Show Desktop" button does the same job as the old "Show Desktop" quick launch shortcut. The difference in Windows 7 is that you can also use aero peek on it (if you wanted to look at a specific desktop gadget in a hurry, for example).

As for the Media player controller, I also miss that, but I think its been removed in favour of jumplists. You can still perform the same functionality from the WMP jumplist (except for volume, which you can now set from the speaker icon in the notification area). In my case however, its just pushed me to use my keyboard buttons instead :P

SuperHans said,
I still don't get the point of aero peak, or the show desktop button. What's wrong with alt-tab or windows+d ?

Also where has my media player taskbar controller gone?!!! Bring it back MS

One method uses the mouse and has more features, the other the keyboard and is only between two applications unless you keep hitting the key.

Your media player taskbar is now integrated into the Zune software (or install WMP11) instead of WMP12.

*rabble rabble rabble* stolen features *rabble rabble rabble* out of context lawsuit * rabble rabble rabble* mactards *rabble rabble rabble* correlation does not equal causation *rabble rabble rabble* oh wait, this is a pro windows thread, my bad.

the only problem is that the progress bar doesnt always work, sometimes i download files and the green bar doesnt appear, i find this quite annoying.

Actually, aren't those top 5 "Windows 7 GUI" features ? Nothing about the features of the system itself or included programs ? :S

kInG aLeXo said,
Actually, aren't those top 5 "Windows 7 GUI" features ? Nothing about the features of the system itself or included programs ? :S


So none of those were features? You must be blind...

So the GUI isn't powered by an included app? Err wha...

kInG aLeXo said,
Actually, aren't those top 5 "Windows 7 GUI" features ? Nothing about the features of the system itself or included programs ? :S


Libraries are hardly a GUI feature.

Not many manufacturers have put out Device Stage Compatible drivers yet. Its mostly the same tutorial devices such as the new Canon all-in-ones and Nokia N95. Biometrics works best in Windows 7 than in Vista or XP as it has all the software's setup options so the only thing needed is the driver itself.

I'd like to add full screen magnification. It isn't as fully featured as ZoomText, but it isn't a $150+ additional program I had to buy. The person in my house who needs that feature absolutely loves it.

A very welcomed addition to user accessibility on Windows.

I know there are lots of alternatives already available, but having sticky notes built in makes taking down quick jots oh so easy, while Onenote takes care of the rest.

Mav Phoenix said,
I know there are lots of alternatives already available, but having sticky notes built in makes taking down quick jots oh so easy, while Onenote takes care of the rest.

completely agree with you here, being a student with onenote and sticky note is just a treat!

C-Squarez said,
What is that Zune player all about? It looks SWEEEEEEEETT!!

*Why am I about to download it?*

It's codec support is dire.

It's pretty decent if a little basic. I'm waiting for them to integrate that into WMP. Also the Zune Pass is one of the better legal music business models out there. $14.99/month and your smart mixes and stations will feature *everything*. You can listen to any music in the entire catalog and transfer it to your Zune player with 10 DRM-free songs to keep per month so you can grab the stuff you like best and keep it if you ever cancel the service.

I honestly wish someone unaffiliated with any brand of player would implement this (ie Amazon) but I don't know how feasible that is since it depends on some level of DRM to keep it from making it a whole-catalog download fre-for-all.

Minimoose said,


It's codec support is dire.



Really? I guess it depends on what codecs you need. Since all of my music is mp3, AAC, or WMA, I've got no problem with it at all.

I like the Zune software a lot. It's ability to generate playlists is quite impressive, and I like the "cover-view" it provides. It's a great player to stick on and leave up on the screen.

I just REALLY wish they could find a way to offer the Zune Marketplace in Canada.

I wish peek would allow me to grab things from the desktop quickly and get right back to all my open windows. It's nice to be able to see down to your desktop with win+spacebar but why can't we interact with what's there, release the keys and get right back? Yes I know about show desktop but it isn't as elegant.

It's nitpicking on my part though, I love 7.

Gangsta said,
You can drag windows to the bottom of the screen?

OF COURSE!!!!!! DIDN'T KNOW THAT????? .... but it does nothing!!!!! hahahaha!!!

warwagon said,
Nice list. I knew all of them. I was hoping to learn of something I didn't already know about windows 7 before :D

Still nice to see some nice publicity for 7 here though.

warwagon said,
Nice list. I knew all of them. I was hoping to learn of something I didn't already know about windows 7 before :D

just fine for me!