Windows 7, what has changed from Beta to Release Candidate?

As Microsoft unveils the Release Candidate to the world today we take a look at what has changed from the original Beta in January to the Release Candidate (RC).

AutoRun changes

AutoRun for non-optical removable storage devices has been disabled to better protect users against worms and malicious software. Neowin detailed these changes yesterday after Microsoft officially unveiled them.

Windows Touch Support

Microsoft have improved their touch support in the RC. You can now drag your finger across taskbar thumbnail previews and trigger a peek at the related window (thubmail peek). Also, the show desktop button supports a press-and-hold gesture that will expose your desktop. The ability to zoom in on and imagine by using two fingers close together or out be parting them has been added to Windows Explorer. The RC also supports multi-touch for the soft touch keyboard. Right click with touch is much easier in the RC due to simply touching an item with one finger and using another finger to tap to access right click.Multi-Touch Zoom, in the RC, Windows Explorer supports the multi-touch zoom gesture.

Windows Search improvements

Microsoft have improved search in the RC including:

  • Changing content view mode to now include labels for all properties for each item in search results.
  • The text layout and colours have been updated to make each item easier to see and group.
  • Search results highlight words from the search query named "snippets", the RC uses longer snippets and uses them in more places.
For more information on Windows Explorer Search please read our overview.

Device Stage for all devices

Device Stage has been updated to allow for device manufacturers to support older devices in a baseline device stage. This allows for a device image to appear on the taskbar whenever the device is connected and improve the experience for devices which aren't fully device stage enabled.

For more information on Device stage please see our overview.

Windows Media Player improvements

Windows Media Player "now playing mode" has been greatly improved in the RC, it includes a more compact view so it fits into a smaller section on your desktop.

The RC also introduces resume playback from sleep allowing content stored locally to resume playing after an interruption.

Remote Media Streaming (new feature) has been introduced in the RC. You simply associate two or more computers running Windows 7 with an online Windows Live ID and it will allow internet access to your media. Windows Media Player displays and plays the media libraries from remote computers in the same way as any other shared libraries on a home network.

For more information on Remote Media Streaming please see our overview.

Windows Themes

Theme's to customise your desktop have been greatly improved for the RC. Microsoft officials have hinted that they might sneak some more fun bits and themes into the final product but for now a number of new wallpaper and Aero colour combination's are available for those testing the RC.

Windows XP mode

XP Mode is the big RC "secret". The RC allows you to run older Windows XP applications in a virtual Windows XP environment on Windows 7. The feature is an additional download. The feature will allow you to run legacy XP applications in tandem with Windows 7 applications. In the screenshot below you can see IE6 and IE8 running alongside each other. Please read the Q&A session on XP mode for more information.

So what has Microsoft removed since beta?

Company officials have confirmed Microsoft has removed the Bluetooth audio class driver from Windows 7. When installing a Bluetooth audio device for the first time, you will now need to install a 3rd party driver. The company has also changed the library behaviour, the RC has removed the ability to drag/drop a folder into the libraries node in Windows Explorer. Microsoft were concerned users would delete the old folder thinking they had moved it or copied it to the library.

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