Today Windows 7 hits the GA or general availability milestone. That means that you'll be able to pick up a PC with the OS pre-installed on it, or pick up a disc from your favorite virtual or bricks-and-mortar outlet. To celebrate, here are my top 7 favorite Windows 7 features.
#1 - Performance boost
Without a doubt the top Windows 7 feature for me is performance. On every system that I've put Windows 7 on, from monster quad core rigs to humble netbooks, I've seen a performance boost.
Putting numbers on this performance hike, on key metrics such as boot-up, video encoding and gaming frames per second, the boost over Vista is, on average, in the region of 10%.
In my opinion, this performance boost is Windows 7's strongest selling point.
#2 - More restrained UAC
The User Account Control (UAC) experience under Vista was a little like being shot in the face with a shotgun filled with dialog boxes. A single simple action could unleash a barrage of warnings that left many users feeling confused, bewildered and angry.
Under Windows 7, UAC is a little more restrained, limiting prompts to specific actions. Some might argue that this decreases the security it offers, but I think that the "dialog blindness" that the old UAC caused is worse.
Another good side of the new, improved UAC is the fact that users can customize the level of warnings they receive and so set up the system to best suit their needs.
#3 - 64-bit becomes the new default
Microsoft, along with the big OEMs, are pushing 64-bit flavor of Windows harder than ever. Given that hardware, software and driver support for 64-bit is now at an all-time high, there's very little reason for users not to migrate to 64-bit.
Within a few years I expect the Windows 7 effect to start to erode 32-bit's strangle-hold on PCs.
#4 - Improved troubleshooting tools
When users hit a problem, what they want to do is find a solution or fix and get on with their day. To help users accomplish this, Microsoft has incorporated numerous troubleshooters into Windows 7.
No troubleshooter is perfect, but the work that Microsoft has done in Windows 7 will help many users fix problems for themselves without having to resort to tech support or trawling the web for answers.
#5 - UI improvements
No one can say that the Windows 7 UI is revolutionary, but the evolutionary changes that Microsoft has made in this new OS are almost all steps in the right direction. There are two aspects of the UI that have been tweaked:
- Helping users find the applications and documents they want to work with
- Once the user has found what they want, the UI fades into the background and allows the user to get on with things
#6 - Touch support
It's going to be a while until the built-in touch support incorporated into Windows 7 really takes off, but there's no doubt that Microsoft's inclusion of support for touch-screens right into the Windows 7 OS will encourage OEMs to offer more systems with this cool feature.
#7 - XP Mode
I'm not a huge fan of the XP Mode feature available in some editions of Windows 7 that allows users to run XP within a virtual machine from the desktop. However, for those folks with specific bits of software that won't work on a later OS, then XP Mode does offer a lifeline.
Bonus favorite feature - It's not Vista. 'Nuff said!
So, is it a good OS? Yes. In fact, I agree with Ed Bott when he calls the OS "impressive." However, that said, I can't see any really compelling reason to rush adoption. Take your time, Windows 7 will be there waiting for you 6 months of a year down the line. Over that time it'll get better, and hardware/driver support will get better, so everyone's a winner.
So, join the party and upgrade now, or wait and upgrade later. Or stick with what you are already running. Or go with a Mac or Linux ... The choice if yours.
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