Windows 7 is the latest version of Windows. Released in 2009, Windows 7 has been universally praised for being much better than Windows Vista, which was panned by users and critics alike.
Speed and Performance of Windows 7 vs Windows Vista
Windows 7 has better speed and performance compared to Windows Vista.
User Interface Differences in Windows 7 vs Vista
Support for themes has been extended in Windows 7. In addition to setting the colors of the window chrome and desktop background, themes in Windows 7 include a sound set, and desktop slideshow settings. The default theme is titled "Windows 7", which consists of a single desktop background codenamed "Harmony" and the same sound set as Windows Vista. Six new "Aero Themes" are included.
Windows Vista introduced Gadgets and a sidebar which provides the ability to anchor Gadgets to the side of the user's desktop. In Windows 7, the sidebar has been removed, while gadgets can still be placed on the desktop. Windows 7 adds a Windows Media Center gadget to the default collection while removing the Contacts and Notes gadgets.
Unlike Windows Vista, all gadgets run in a single process, which saves memory, and the process is not run at all if the user has no gadgets on the desktop.
Windows Explorer in Windows 7 supports Libraries, which are virtual folders that aggregate content from various locations and present them in a unified view. Searching in a library automatically federates the query to the remote systems, in addition to searching on the local system, so that files on the remote systems are also searched. Unlike search folders, Libraries are backed by a physical location which allows files to be saved in the Libraries.
Windows 7 Start menu
Windows 7's Start menu retains the two-column layout of its predecessors, with several functional changes:
- The Classic version of the Start menu from Windows 95 is no longer available.
- The "Documents", "Pictures" and "Music" buttons now link to the Libraries of the same name.
- A "Devices and Printers" option has been added that displays a new device manager.
- The "shut down" icon in Windows Vista has been replaced with a text link indicating what action will be taken when the icon is clicked. The default action to take is now configurable through the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window.
- Taskbar Jump Lists are presented in the Start Menu via a guillemet; when the user moves his or her mouse over the guillemet, or presses the right-arrow key, the right-hand side of the Start menu is widened and replaced with the application's Jump List.
- The search box, first introduced with Windows Vista, has been extended to support searching Control Panel items.
Windows 7 Taskbar Differences
- The taskbar is 10 pixels taller than in Windows Vista to accommodate touch screen input and a new larger default icon size. A smaller taskbar size is also available. Running applications are denoted by a border frame around the icon.
- The Quick Launch toolbar has been removed. The Windows 7 taskbar is more application-oriented than window-oriented, and therefore doesn't show window titles (these are instead shown when an icon is clicked if there are multiple windows, or hovered over). Applications can now be pinned to the taskbar allowing the user instant access to the applications they commonly use.
- Thumbnail previews: Thumbnail previews which were introduced in Windows Vista have been expanded to not only preview the windows opened by the application in a small-sized thumbnail view, but to also interact with them. The user can close any windows opened by clicking the X on the corresponding thumbnail preview. The name of the window is also shown in the thumbnail previews. Another new feature added is the ability to get a "peek" of the window by hovering over the thumbnail preview.
- Jump lists: These are menu options available from right-clicking any of the icons on the taskbar or by holding the left mouse button and sliding up on an icon. Each application will have unique jump lists which will correspond to the features unique to the application.
- Aero Peek: In past versions of Windows, the taskbar ended with the notification area on the right side. However, there is now the Aero Peek button. If the button is clicked, all applications are minimized, and when clicked again, they are restored.
- Notification area: The notification area has been redesigned in Windows 7. The standard Volume, Network, Power and Action Center (now renamed "Action") status icons are present, but no other application icons are shown unless the user has chosen for them to be shown. A new "Notification Area Icons" control panel has been added. In addition to being able to configure whether the application icons are shown, the ability to hide each application's notification balloons has been added. The user can then view the notifications at a later time.
Window management mouse gestures in Windows 7
- Aero Snap; Window maximizing and tiling: Windows can be dragged to the top of the screen to maximize them and dragged away to restore them. Dragging a window to the left or right of the screen makes it take up half the screen allowing the user to tile two windows next to each other.
- Aero Shake: Aero Shake allows users to clear up any clutter on their screen by shaking (dragging back and forth) a window of their choice with the mouse. All other windows will minimize, while the window the user shook stays active on the screen. When the window is shaken again, they are all restored, similar to desktop preview.
New Keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7
A variety of new keyboard shortcuts have been introduced in Windows 7 compared to Windows Vista.
Global keyboard shortcuts:
- Win+Space operates as a keyboard shortcut for Aero Peek.
- Win+Up and Win+Down are new shortcuts for Maximize and Restore/Minimize.
- Win+Shift+Up vertically maximises the current window
- Win+Left and Win+Right snap the current window to the left or right half of the current display; successive keypresses will move the window to other monitors in a multi-monitor configuration.
- Win+Shift+Left and Win+Shift+Right move the current window to the left or right display.
- Win+ + and Win+ - (minus sign) zoom the desktop in and out.
- Win+Home operates as a keyboard shortcut for Aero Shake.
- Win+P shows an "external display options" selector that gives the user the choice of showing the desktop on only the computer's screen, only the external display, on both at the same time (mirroring), or on both displays with independent desktops (extending).
- Shift + Click, or Middle click starts a new instance of the application, regardless of whether it's already running.
- Ctrl + Shift + Click starts a new instance with Administrator privileges; by default, a User Account Control prompt will be displayed.
- Shift + Right-click shows the classic Window menu (Restore / Minimize / Move / etc); right-clicking on the application's thumbnail image will also show this menu. If the icon being clicked on is a grouped icon, the classic menu with Restore All / Minimize All / Close All menu is shown.
- Ctrl + Click on a grouped icon cycles between the windows (or tabs) in the group.
The user interface for font management has been overhauled. As with Windows Vista, the collection of installed fonts is shown in a Windows Explorer window, but fonts from the same font family appear as "stacks" instead of as individual icons. The Font dialog box has also been updated to show previews of the font selection in the selection lists.
Device Management in Windows 7 vs Windows Vista
There are two major new user interface components for device management in Windows 7, "Devices and Printers" and "Device Stage". Both of these are integrated with Windows Explorer, and together provide a simplified view of what devices are connected to the computer, and what capabilities they support.
Devices and Printers
Devices and Printers is a new Control Panel interface that is directly accessible from the Start menu. Unlike the Device Manager Control Panel applet, which is still present, the icons shown on the Devices and Printers screen is limited to components of the system that a non-expert user will recognize as plug-in devices. For example, an external monitor connected to the system will be displayed as a device, but the internal monitor on a laptop will not.
This new Control Panel applet also replaces the "Printers" window in Windows Vista; common printer operations such as setting the default printer, installing or removing printers, and configuring properties such as paper size are done through this control panel.
Device Stage provides a centralized location for an externally-connected multi-function device to present its functionality to the user. When a device such as a portable music player is connected to the system, the device appears as an icon on the task bar, as well as in Windows Explorer. Opening the icon presents a window that displays actions relevant to that device. Device status information such as free memory and battery life can also be shown.
Touch features in Windows 7
An overview of the multi-touch capabilities of Windows 7, including a virtual piano program, a mapping and directions program and a touch-aware version of Paint, was demonstrated at the All Things Digital Conference on May 27, 2008. A video demonstrating the multi-touch capabilities was later made available on the web.
Windows 7 File System Features
Solid state drives
In order to take advantage of the capabilities and unique performance characteristics of solid-state drives, Windows 7 will turn off Windows Disk Defragmenter, and will make use of the new SSD TRIM command to physically erase logically deleted data more aggressively.
Virtual hard disks
The Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 incorporate support for the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file format. VHD files can be mounted as drives, created, and booted from, in the same way as WIM files. Furthermore, an installed version of Windows 7 can be booted and run from a VHD drive, even on non-virtual hardware, thereby providing a new way to multi boot Windows.
The default disk partitioning structure in Windows 7 is to create two partitions: the first for booting, Bitlocker and running the Windows Recovery Environment and second to install the operating system.
Windows 7 has also seen improvements to the Safely Remove Hardware menu, including the ability to eject just one camera card at the same time (from a single hub) and retain the ports for future use without reboot; and removable media is now also listed under its label, rather than just its drive letter like it was in Windows Vista.
BitLocker to Go
BitLocker brings encryption support to removable disks such as USB drives. Such devices can be protected by a passphrase, a recovery key, or be automatically unlocked on a computer.