12 Things You Should Know About Windows 7BY: J.R. Nelson, NotebookReview.com Editor
|12 Things You Should Know About Windows 7 Article Contents|
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The new taskbar
Love it or hate it, Microsoft made a lot of fundamental changes to the way the taskbar works in Windows 7. More than anything, it's really a combination of the old "quick launch" toolbar and the active taskbar from Windows Vista. Entries have gone from a big button with the title of the window to just a square with the icon. The new taskbar has a number of features over the old one: media players like iTunes, Zune and WMP have playback controls in the dynamic pop-up window preview and browser like IE (and the upcoming Firefox 3.7) offer individual tab shots. Want to change it back to the version seen in Windows XP and Vista? Right-click on the taskbar and select 'Properties'. In the 'Taskbar buttons' drop-down menu, choose either 'Never combine' or 'Combine when taskbar is full'. Additionally, if you like the new taskbar the way it is but think it's just a tad too thick, you can check the 'Use small icons' box to cut the height by 25% or so.
Improved window tiling
In previous versions of Windows, it was difficult to easily arrange windows in such a way that maximized efficient use of your desktop. In Windows 7, it's easy. Drag the top or bottom of the window to the top or bottom of the screen, and the application will jump to fill that vertical column (while still maintaining horizontal width). Drag the whole window to the top to maximize it or to the left and right to tile it across one half of the screen.
Great keyboard shortcuts
The taskbar and windowing we mentioned earlier? It's all accessible via keyboard shortcuts. Since the taskbar is something of a glorified Quick Launch, the same keyboard shortcuts work to launch any apps you've pinned: hit the Windows key + a number one through zero (ten) to launch any of the first ten apps you've pinned to the taskbar. Similarly, use the Windows key + up, down, left or right to tile your windows as you see fit. Up will maximize them, down will restore them (or minimize them, if they aren't already maximized) whereas left and right will split them down one half of the screen. If you're using multiple monitors, just keep pressing the proper arrow key, and you can move your applications all around your workspace.
Popularity of the optical disc may slowly be waning in favor of digital solutions such as downloads or removable storage media, but it still has its uses. In older versions of Windows, burning a .ISO file required users to download some alternately sketchy or expensive third-party software. In Windows 7, it's as simple as right-clicking on the file and selecting what drive it's using to burn the item to disc. Multitouch capabilities
Up until now, any computers -- either notebook or desktop -- that have implemented multitouch features have been using functionality shoehorned forcefully into the operating system by device manufacturers. It's been like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Win7, however, includes support for these inputs natively, making the all-around experience much smoother. In fact, Microsoft has even gone out of their way to take some of the features implemented in their multitouch Surface tables and push them into the general OS.
Cheaper than ever
Most people don't really notice the cost of a Windows license since it's built into the pre-built computers that make up the vast majority of what most people buy. There are an awful lot of XP and Vista computers out there, however, and there's no real reason why they should miss out on all the fun. If you have an .edu e-mail address, Microsoft will let you buy Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional for just $29.99 (to get Professional, click on the link that says you need to join a domain). You can also buy a 'family pack' which consists of 3 Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade licenses for just $150. While these are upgrades and not full versions, you can still use them on a clean system by using the "double install" trick that was popularized with the rise of Windows Vista.