Windows 7 Beta: Quick Review

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, announced that Windows 7 beta is available from today to MSDN and Technet subscribers. A public preview version will be available on Friday January 9th 2009.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking into Windows 7 features, so far we have published the following overviews:

Over the new few weeks we will be adding many more focus items on Windows 7 including Touch, Internet Explorer 8, Windows 7 networking and media enhancements. Stay tuned for the ultimate Windows 7 focus from Neowin.net. Here is a quick review of Windows 7 Beta.

My PC Configuration

  • Intel Quad Core Q9400 @ 2.66GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 9800 GT
  • 24" Monitor - LG246WH Flatron Display
I chose to install the 64bit version.

Installation
The installation was very simple and it just took 20 minutes. It was a hassle free installation. The thing which surprised me was that Windows 7 had installed most of the drivers for my PC, unlike in Vista where I had to insert manufacturer's disc to install drivers. This saved a lot of time to get started with Windows 7!

Windows 7 Desktop
Below is the screenshot of the default Windows 7 desktop. Nothing fancy, pretty neat and tidy:

Superbar
And the quite famous Superbar looks fabulous:

Microsoft introduced thumbnail previews of applications in the Taskbar in Windows Vista, and this has been improved a lot with the new Superbar. It becomes much easier now to look what applications are running and switch between them. You might have probably seen the demo at CES or PDC.

Start Menu
The Start Menu has also undergone some changes:

The default behavior of the Shutdown button is now indeed Shutdown and you can easily change that by accessing the Superbar properties:

Desktop (right-click) Menu
The next immediate change I noticed is the desktop right-click menu. You can change your screen resolution very easily with this menu unlike in Vista. How simple is that?

Appearance and Personalization
The Personalize option in the desktop menu now takes you directly to change your desktop background, themes, window color and screensaver. It is more informative than in Vista. Windows 7 also lets you create personalized Themes, which I think is in its initial stage:

With Windows 7 desktop you can select multiple pictures for your desktop background. Users had to use 3rd party applications to have a slideshow in their desktop background in previous versions of Windows, and now Windows 7 does the job for you:

Aero Peek
The 'Show Desktop' button is now shifted to the right end of the superbar. The right end corner of your desktop is very useful in the sense that if you hover your mouse to the right end corner, Windows 7 gives you a sneak peek of the open windows in your desktop:

Superbar Notifications
With Windows 7, the user is in total control of the notifications that pop-up occasionally(and sometimes always). These notifications can be very easily customized now in Windows 7:

Games
Has anything changed in Games? Yes, indeed. The first time the user opens Games, the user is presented with game updates and options:

I also noticed somethig new - Game Providers:

Devices and Printers
This is an interesting location in your Windows 7 desktop which shows all of your connected devices and printers. It also provides the ability to troubleshoot if there is anything wrong. When I say connected devices, it not only refers to external devices connected, but also the other internal devices like the monitor and internal hard disk:

In my screenshot above, you can notice a yellow icon near my hard disk device. This indicates that there is some trouble with my device. The details pane of the window shows more information about the problem:

How easy is this to troubleshoot? Just right click the device and choose the Troubleshoot option to troubleshoot. The troubleshoot wizard tries to identify the problem and provides options if any. Below was the option provided for me:

The installer tries to resolve the problem by applying the fix:

And finally, the wizard fixed my problem..

Connecting to a Wireless Network
Connecting to a wireless network has never been so easy. Just click on the wireless network icon to see what networks are available and choose to connect:

You can also choose to connect to the selected network automatically:

Enter security key if its required for your network and you are connected:

Windows Homegroup
Windows Homegroup is a new feature introduced in Windows 7 wherein you can share your music, pictures, documents, videos and printers with other machines in your home network. This is a feature that is one you should just use and see it working, rather than reading a blog post. Anyways, visit here to learn more about Windows Homegroup.

Windows 7 seems to be much improved than Windows Vista in lots of areas and the beta clearly shows that Microsoft has indeed taken users feedback on Vista seriously. I would recommend everyone to try Windows 7 Beta atleast once if you haven't yet, especially if you dislike Vista!

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