If you are one of the many who skipped Windows Vista when it came out in late 2006, I wouldn’t blame you. Vista was a big leap from Windows XP, and was way ahead on the hardware curve. But in terms of performance, Vista’s vaunted ‘AERO’ user interface (Windows with shiny, transparent borders) was slow and required high-end hardware that most people did not have.
Users who’d hung on to their aging Windows XP systems have reason to cheer next month when Microsoft releases its successor to Vista, dubbed Windows 7.
Should you get Windows 7? Simply put — yes!
Think of Windows 7 as Windows Vista all buffed up and polished. This time round, Microsoft has kept things clean, simple and fast.
Last month, I managed to get my hands on an RTM (released-to-manufacturing, the final shipping version) of Windows 7 and decided to take it out for a spin on my year-old Dell laptop. When you get past the rather simplistic installation process, you are presented with a simple, clean desktop with only one icon: Recycle Bin.
The brand new taskbar (which is now see-through) has only three buttons by default — Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and Windows Explorer. With Windows 7 you can pin your most used applications directly to the taskbar, much like the ‘Dock’ in Apple’s Snow Leopard, so you can get to them instantly.
Regular tasks like sending email, browsing the web and playing music are surprisingly snappy: how often do you see applications launch the instant you click on them? Microsoft claims that this version of Windows will run even on low-end hardware.
Windows 7 offers lots of slick eye-candy: click on a button and all open windows instantly morph into pretty, glass panes; drag a window to the edges of the screen to instantly ‘snap’ it to the sides; and if you, like me, tend to have 20 or so windows open at once, just grab one and jiggle it around to instantly minimise the rest of them.
Windows 7 also makes finding and organising data a lot easier. The old ‘My Documents’ and ‘My Pictures’ folders have been replaced with ‘Libraries’. So now when you go to the library, you will be shown all your documents, wherever they are on the hard disk. There are also new editions of Media Player and the latest Internet Explorer (IE 8) built into the system.
Were you annoyed by those ‘Are you sure you want to proceed?’ pop ups that Vista threw at you every two minutes or so? I know I was. In Windows 7, they are considerably less annoying and now, you get a slider to decide how often they should bug you.
So is Windows 7 just Vista with a bit of eye candy added and some performance tweaks? The cynics might believe so. But taken as a whole, the result of all the tiny tweaks — none of them particularly interesting in isolation — is astonishing. The only carp may be the exorbitant price — $119 (Rs 5,000 approximately) for the Home Premium Upgrade Version as against Snow Leopard’s $29 (about Rs 1,300).
That apart, this is by far the best operating system to come of the Redmond stable in a long time.