After a brief look back at the original taskbar in Windows 1.0 (Windows turned 20 this month), the Engineering Windows 7 blog dug deep into the enhanced features of the Windows 7 taskbar in its most recent entry.
A More Visual Taskbar
The Windows 7 taskbar now features large icons, support for Aero Glass, and no text, and when a window is maximized, the taskbar and the window's title bar no longer turn opaque and dark.
Smarter Program Launch Options
Windows 7 no longer has separate taskbar and Quick Launch buttons for applications, avoiding duplications. Right-click a button on the taskbar, and you can open recently-used documents associated with the program. How can you tell which button represents a program that's already running? A new feature called Color Hot-track changes the color of a running program's taskbar icon when you move your mouse over it.
To find out what's new with thumbnails, the notification area, and for your chance to sound off about the changes, join us after the jump.
A recent posting to the Engineering Windows 7 blog (one of our favorite sites for Windows 7 news, by the way) has some very useful information about the mysterious WinSxS directory in Windows 7 (and Vista), and how Microsoft is trying to curb Windows' appetite for disk space in Windows 7.
The C:\Windows\WinSxS folder (first introduced in Vista) looks as if it is a huge gobbler of disk space, (it uses 3.5GB of disk space on a new system, and can use 10GB or more as a system is used) but what does it do, and is that space really being "used up?"
As it turns out, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 use the WinSxS folder to point to files that are actually found elsewhere in Windows; in other words, the amount of space that the WinSxS properties sheet says is in use isn't accurate. So, what's the folder for?
By using the WinSxS folder to store what the blog calls the "installation and servicing state" of all system components, Microsoft makes it easier to roll out Vista installations with imaging technology and to patch the image offline (Windows XP and earlier versions aren't image-friendly, and require third-party tools and clunky workarounds to permit image-based deployment). Also, if you get rid of the WinSxS folder, you make it difficult to keep Windows running reliably. So, the word on the street is, "keep the WinSxS folder." To remove old files replaced by Windows Vista SP1, the blog entry provides a link to information about the command-line VSP1CLN.exe tool.
To find out how Microsoft is working to put Windows 7 on a disk-space diet, join us after the jump.
New versions of Windows have featured new versions of DirectX, the 3D audio and graphics family of APIs, and it now appears that Windows 7 will be no exception. According to PC Games Hardware, Microsoft's Ben Basaric, Product Marketing Manager Windows, says that Redmond will be bundling DirectX 11 with Windows 7, after all. Earlier this week, PCGH had reported that the pairing of DirectX 11 and Windows 7 was "unlikely."
So, what's new in DirectX 11? As we reported this summer, DX 11 will include compute shader technology, enabling the GPU to perform operations other than 3D graphics; better multi-core resource handling; more efficient utilization of the processing pipeline; hardware tesselation support for more detailed 3D models.
For you chance to sound off about your plans to buy DirectX 11-compliant hardware, and how long you'll have to wait for it, join us after the jump.
When can you expect to buy DirectX 11-compliant GPUs? AMD says its first DirectX 11 parts will be available in late 2009 - right about the time Windows 7 is expected to arrive. New operating system and new graphics hardware? Hopefully, that's a recipe for more realistic 3D graphics than ever before. If Microsoft and OEMs continue to work as closely as the Engineering Windows 7 blog suggests, that's much more likely than a repeat of the poorly handled integration of hardware and Windows Vista at rollout.
How about you? Are you going to wait for DirectX 11 before you buy a new graphics card, or are NVIDIA and ATI's current products tempting you to make the jump now? Hit Comment and tell us what your heart (and your wallet) are telling you.
During the press briefing for Windows 7 at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), corporate vice president for Windows product management Mike Nash insisted Microsoft had learned from the Vista experience.
Judging by early Windows 7 code released at PDC, the signs are that it really has....Windows 7 feels more polished than Vista, even in the preview, and performance is good.
Anderson noted the new Device Stage, BitLocker to Go, and improvements in Windows Media Player. To find out what other features Anderson likes in the next Windows, join us after the jump.
InfoWorld's Randall C. Kennedy has put Windows 7's Milestone 3 pre-beta build 6801, a freebie from last month's Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference, through a variety of benchmark tests, and isn't all that impressed:
As I reported on my Enterprise Desktop blog, the more I dug into Windows 7, the more I saw an OS that looked and felt like a slightly tweaked version of Windows Vista.
Just as slow as Vista...Just as consumer-focused as Vista...Just as confusing as Vista...
Kennedy cites these similarities:
The number of execution threads in key subsystems is almost the same in Windows 7 as in Vista
Benchmarks of Windows 7 and Vista Ultimate SP1 using the DMS Clarity Studio tools suite show almost identical results
Similar amounts of RAM are used by Windows 7 and Windows Vista
From these facts and visual similarities between Windows 7 and Vista, Kennedy concludes:
Bottom line: So far, Windows 7 looks and behaves almost exactly like Windows Vista. It performs almost exactly like Vista. And it breaks all sorts of things that used to work just fine under Vista. In other words, Microsoft's follow-up to its most unpopular OS release since Windows Me threatens to deliver zero measurable performance benefits while introducing new and potentially crippling compatibility issues.
Is Kennedy right, or is he missing a big difference between Windows 7 and its predecessor? For my take, join me after the break.
Long Zheng's I Started Something blog reports a welcome improvement in Windows 7's Complete PC Backup: in addition to backing up to local hard disks and DVDs, you can now back up to a network share. Complete PC Backup is the image (aka "bare metal restore") backup feature originally found in Vista's Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions (see our 2007 article to learn how it compares to other popular image backup/restore programs). This new feature brings Complete PC Backup's backup target options basically in line with those in the file/folder backup portion of the Backup and Restore Center, and makes it possible to use an NAS appliance as well as a folder share on another PC as a backup target.
It's important to realize that Complete PC Backup is a complementary technology to file and folder backup. Use it to back up your entire PC, and then use file and folder backup to backup data files that change after you create an image backup. Note that the NTBackup program (included in Windows XP and earlier versions) is not an image backup program, but a file and folder backup program only; it does not have a true 'bare metal' restore option.
I've used Complete PC Backup on a number of occasions to backup and restore Windows Vista systems, and I'm looking forward to this additional improvement in Windows 7's version (and I hope it will be available in all Windows 7 SKUs, by the way). What do you think? Join us after the jump and tell us.
This year's edition of WinHEC, which has already demonstrated Windows 7's digital goodness with Device Stage, has more good news about Microsoft's next desktop operating system:
Longer battery life
Faster boot times
As Maximum PC.com readers know, better hardware support has been a major goal of Windows 7 right from the start, and it looks as if Windows 7, even in its pre-beta stage, is making impressive strides.
Engadget has posted a video from WinHEC that shows a Windows 7 machine providing energy savings equivalent to an extra hour of DVD playback: you won't have to worry about running out of power before the movie ends, and you'll even have enough juice for a special feature or two.
WinHEC also featured Microsoft exec Jon DeVaan, the Senior Vice President in charge of Core Operating System Division, performing a "boot drag race" pitting identical machines running Windows 7 and Windows Vista: Windows 7 won by several seconds. It's part of DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky's keynote address, which you can see at the WinHEC virtual pressroom.
To find out who else is seeing the improvements in Windows 7, join us after the jump.
Among other things, Vista's successor, Windows 7, will bring with it multi-touch support utilizing technology developed by the Surface team. What impact this will have on touch-based computing as a whole remains to be seen; just be sure not to make the mistake of referring to the Tablet PC as a niche market when discussing touch-based computing.
"I won't go so far as to say it's the next mouse, meaning it will be on everything and you have to use it," Microsoft's Ray Ozzie said during an interview with TechFlash. "But it's not going to be like the Tablet PC, where it was truly niche. I think it will go broader and broader."
Ozzie's comments have sparked a backlash of sorts from some of the Tablet PC faithful who feel that the his comments are a slight against their, well, niche PC. But it's not necessarily the truth of the statement that has users perturbed so much as it is hearing Microsoft make such a comment. For example, Loren Heiny of the Incremental Blogger writes:
"What is the case, is that Tablet PCs have been sold like they are niche. The manufacturers have kept the prices high – keeping the volume down and off of store shelves. Even Microsoft itself has relegated the Tablet features to its premium SKUs rather than making them available in low-cost educational PCs where isn’t it obvious that there’s great value and need for them? And feature-wise, we keep coming back to Tablets and IT. Yeah, I wonder why that might be? Might it be the niche thinking of some large northwestern company? Huh? Ring a bell?"
Do you take issue with Ozzie's statement? Hit the jump and let us know.
While Windows 7's basic "look" is a refined version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 is much more than "Vista, Take 2." One of the most significant new features coming in Windows 7 is Device Stage, and Device Stage is one of the major themes of this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).
What is Device Stage?
Device Stage, for the first time, looks at a device as a single entity rather than as a collection of different components. As ArsTechnica describes Device Stage:
Attaching a device in current versions of Windows gives sometimes unpredictable results. A multi-function printer/scanner/fax, for instance, might show up as several different things within Windows: a printer, scanner, removable disk, and some vendor supplied management suite...The "Device Stage" feature is designed to alleviate some of these problems by treating devices as distinct "things" with multiple abilities.
To learn more about Device Stage, and to find out what hardware vendors think about this new feature, join us after the jump.
While Windows 7 is shaping up to be something fresh and new, this pre-beta isn’t anything to worry about. To spend the time, bandwidth (especially for Comcast and AT&T users) and electricity downloading this pirated version of the fledgling OS would be cheating yourself, because this pre-beta comes up low on the impressive meter. And plus, we can’t in all good consciousness condone pirating software.
While the accidental release of the build of Windows 7 came through the Pirate Bay and Mininova (in convenient 32-bit and 64-bit formats!), it was originally intended for an unnamed group of developers. The downloads of Microsoft’s OS of tomorrow have been off the charts as well, with one particular copy providing more than 1,000 uploaders, and roughly 7,000 downloaders.
The build that’s being sought so desperately is a notably incomplete version. It’s missing taskbar updates, as well as other large features. According to comment threads on the torrent sites, most users are unimpressed with what they’ve found. But with a pre-beta, what did they expect?