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Will Windows 7 be a Worthwhile Upgrade?

Windows 7 News & Development Add comments

An In-depth Look at Windows 7

A few days ago, I shared my initial thoughts on Windows 7. After spending more time with the operating system, I now share my findings and whether or not I feel Windows 7 will be a worthwhile upgrade.

I agree that Microsoft ran a little faster than they new how with Vista, which hurt them a lot. Windows 7 better be good, or people will either stick with XP until 2013, or switch to Linux, Mac, or the next big OS (will there be one soon?)

In this review, I’ll explore some of the new features Windows 7 brings and whether I like them or not. I’ll take a look at updated core applications, desktop and window management, home networking, and built-in troubleshooting. Then you decide… is Windows 7 a worthwhile upgrade?

What Will Windows 7 Bring?

Let’s take a look at the new features in Windows 7 and see how they fair up. Before I begin, I must avoid repetition by stating the Windows 7 UI is much tidier and a lot less cluttered, which is favorable for my opinion. I still wish Windows apps would have ’standard’ and ‘advanced’ modes, so basic users could navigate more easily, while more experienced users could use the programs to their full potential, but I’ll overlook that for now.

Updated Core Applications

A lot of the programs that skipped an upgrade (or didn’t change enough to count) in Windows Vista have been overhauled in Windows 7. Programs like Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer are always updated to the latest version with each iteration of Windows, but programs like Paint, Calculator, and Wordpad usually remain the same. While the three mentioned programs are simple, their UI and functionality can always be improved–which is the case in 7, so let’s take a look.

MS Paint

Figure 1 - Brushes in MS Paint

Figure 1 - Brushes in MS Paint

I personally use Paint a lot and usually use keyboard shortcuts; thus, avoiding the menus. However, with Paint’s new look and ribbon menu system, I’m sure I’ll use the mouse a lot more, which is something you can’t really aboid in graphics software anyway. As you can see in Figure 1, paint now comes with a set of brushes, which are completely useless for me, but I’m sure will come in handy for many smaller-scale graphic projects.

Figure 2 - Shapes in MS Paint

Figure 2 - Shapes in MS Paint

Figure 2 reveals the shape option: yes, you can even add fun shapes in Paint now, which will make annotating screenshots, for example, a lot easier.

Figure 3 - Full Screen in MS Paint

Figure 3 - Full Screen in MS Paint

Finally, in Figure 3, you can see the Full Screen option, which allows you to view your masterpiece without any distractions–fantastic. Overall, I like the new version of paint–a lot–and will continue to be a regular user of the software.


Figure 4 - Home Tab on Wordpad Ribbon

Figure 4 - Wordpad Ribbon UI

In a similar fashion to Paint, Wordpad is now equipped with the ribbon UI. I feel the ribbon UI is just as helpful in Wordpad and by now, many users are familiar (and in favor) with this interface. I’m pretty sure there are no new features in Windows 7’s Wordpad, but it is easier to use and just as useful to me. The home tab seems a little redundant in the ribbon UI, because it’s the only tab. Microsoft probably left this in for one of two reasons: 1) consistency 2) room for expansion in future releases. See Figure 4, which highlights the Home tab as the only tab.

Wordpad - Screenshot 3 Wordpad - Screenshot 2 Wordpad - Screenshot 4


Gas Mileage Calculator

Figure 5 - Gas Mileage Calculator

The most impressive update to a core application, by far, is the update to the Calculator. The calculator now comes with a bunch of handy tools like a mortgage calculator, a gas mileage calculator (figure 5), a statistics mode, and even a programmer mode. The new version of the calculator also comes with a history, which means you no longer have to keep 3 or more instances of the calculator open at once to retain the results of your calculations. Previously I reviewed FreeCalc, which pretty much becomes redundant when Windows 7 is released.

Enjoy the array of screenshots of the new calculator:

Desktop and Window Management

Windows Vista did nothing in the realm of Window management. Windows 7 puts Vista to shame and has some really cool features including Snap to Docking, Aero Shake, an Updated Taskbar, Jump Lists, and Gadgets wherever you want them. I already find myself attempting to use these features when I boot back into Vista or Windows Server 2008, which is a good sign that they are really useful.

Snap to Docking

Figure 6 - Maximize Windows with Snap to Docking

Figure 6 - Maximize Windows with Snap to Docking

Figure 7 - Compare Windows Side by Side

Figure 7 - Compare Windows Side by Side

By far my favorite new window management feature is snap to docking. Basically, if you want to maximize a window, drag it to the top of the screen (figure 6); if you want to restore the window, drag it from the top of the screen; if you want to compare two windows side by side, drag each one to the side of the screen (figre 7)–it’s as simple as that and I absolutely love it. With screen resolutions always increasing, the ability to easily compare two windows side by side will become an invaluable feature.

Aero Shake

Figure 8 - Aero Shake

Figure 8 - Aero Shake

When I first came across this feature, I shrugged it off as useless; however, I’ve already tried to use it twice since I booted back into Windows Server 2008. Aero shake is simple and provides a great way to focus on just one application. Grab the Title Bar, shake the mouse, and all the other applications disappear leaving you free to focus. I tried to capture this effect in an image as shown in Figure 8, so hopefully you get the feel of all the other windows disappearing.

The Taskbar

Figure 9 - Vista style Taskbar in 7

Figure 9 - Vista style Taskbar in 7

Figure 10 -Change the Order of Running Applications

Figure 10 - Change the Order of Running Applications

I’m not converted to the new taskbar in Windows 7 yet, and I will likely use the classic style, which you can achieve quite easily (figure 9.) The one thing I really like about the new taskbar is the ability to switch the order of the windows (figure 10), which is useful when you are trying to prioritize or group tasks. This functionality is part of Firefox, so I have found myself trying to switch windows in Vista, which of course doesn’t work–without extra software.

Jump Lists

Figure 11 - Jump Lists

I mentioned the jump lists in my inital thoughts article because I immediately liked them. However, I’ve found that I never use them–hopefully I can remember they’re there and utilize them. Jump Lists (figure 11) a smart lists of links specific to each application, such as a history of pages visited (IE), opened files (word), favorites (IE), and more. You can get to all these features in earlier versions of Windows, but now it’s much easier.

Whenever you open a program, an up arrow becomes available next to the program icon; click the list and save time.

Gadgets — Anywhere

Figure 12 - Moveable Gadgets

Figure 12 - Moveable Gadgets

I’ve never used gadgets with Vista. As soon as I first installed Vista, I disabled the sidebar, and after making an image, I never saw it again. Gadgets really don’t attract me. Vista appears to have gadgets anywhere (shows you how familiar I am with them)–thanks Christopher. but Microsoft have included the ability to move gadgets anywhere you like on the desktop. I still don’t like them and I wont use them, but this seems like an improvement to me. See figure 12 for my desktop gadget array.

Home Networking

Figure 12 - Set up a Home Network

Figure 12 - Set up a Home Network

I only have access to one copy of Windows 7, so I couldn’t test home networking (Windows  to Windows 7) out fully, but let me give you a sneak preview–home networking in Windows 7 looks good. Networking has always been a pain in Windows, so I really hope Microsoft get it right this time… or in other words I hope Microsoft help us stop getting it wrong!

Figure 13 - Secure Your Network

Figure 13 - Secure Your Network

When you save a network as a home network, Windows pops up a dialog box (figure 12), which lets you decide what you want to share at home. Connect a second Windows 7 pc to the same network, enter the key given to you by the first machine (figure 13) and you have instant secure filesharing. I’ll write more about this as I get to test it futher. I am a strong adovcate for home networking and believe each household with two or more supported devices (desktops, laptops, media extenders, bluetooth-enabled devices etc.) should utilize home networking.

Built in Troubleshooting

Figure 14 - Windows 7 Troubleshooting

Figure 14 - Windows 7 Troubleshooting

A computer that is self healing would put programmers like me out of a job. Imagine a computer that self diagnoses it issues, fixes them, and gets along its way. There is nothing I know of that can do this; a car can highlight problems and fix some of them temporarily (run-flat tires), and we can certainly repair ourselves if we get sick, but nothing can fully maintain itself forever… I think. Windows 7 is no exception, but the built in troubleshooting feature (figure 14) is fantastic.

Figure 15 - Windows 7 Messages

Figure 15 - Windows 7 Messages

The new message center (figure 15) highlights any issues such as anti-virus deficiencies, an unset windows update configuration etc. so you stay on top of any vulnerabilities that can otherwise be avoided.

Below is a collection of screens that show the troubleshooting process including identifying maintenance and performance issues.

Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

Figure 16 - Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

Figure 16 - Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

The program compatibility troubleshooter (figure 16) asks you a series of questions to help you get a piece of incompatible software working as is much more streamlined than in Vista (Christopher thanks for pointing out its inclusion in Vista.) Simply select the software that is giving you issues, list the problems associated with the software, select the operating system it does work with, run the test, and if the software works, save the settings. I spent a LONG time trying to find software that isn’t compatible and found everything works; thus, the screenshots below show me “fixing” 7zip. We’ll just assume this feature works and that it will help us in the future!

For now, I’m happy that functionality like this will be included with Windows 7.


I know I said at the beginning I’d share the things I like and dislike with the current build of Windows 7 (6801), but this review got so long that I decided not to include many of the things I dislike. For a short list of some of the things I dislike, read my initial thoughts.

I really don’t want to make the decision for you, and this early, it’s hard to tell. However, with all these features and more on the horizon (more about that soon), I can safely say I will be making the jump to Windows 7, one release at a time.

Further Reading:

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39 Responses to “Will Windows 7 be a Worthwhile Upgrade?”

  1. Christopher Lynch says:

    Compatibility troubleshooter and gadgets anywhere are both in vista. In control panel in programs it gives you the option to do that. And for gadgets anywhere if you click and drag a gadget from the sidebar in vista you can remove it from the sidebar and put it anywhere.

  2. Nigel Desmond says:

    Good informative article

    Anyone looking at the pre-beta and the betas when they arrive may want to also have a look here …


  3. Rich says:

    @Christopher - Yes they are… thank you for pointing this out. (Article edited)

    @Nigel - Thanks for the link

  4. Keshav says:

    Awesome review, Rich!
    Well i presently use XP. I may never move over to Vista though I’d like to try my hands over 7. Whenever i move on to 7, i will surely dual boot with linux ubuntu. just because my present hardware doesnt work with ubuntu lol.
    Win 7 does seem to be a worthwhile upgrade. Dugg

  5. Michael Paez says:

    I purchased Vista through a package deal for the AMD/Microsoft Tech Tour. There are a few features in Vista that I like, for instance you can click on start and just type in the program you want and Vista does a search.

    For the most part I was upset with the performance and software/driver support. I also didnt like change to network places. I became so fed up with Vista that at home I decided to go full Linux and installed it on my desktop (Ubuntu 7.04) and eventually installed it on my work laptop.

    I am currently running Ubuntu 8.10 and I have been much more satisfied with the GUI, performance and software availability. Linux does have some shortcomings but the good far outweighs the negative.

    I still have Vista installed on a desktop at home but that is because my TV capture card doesn;t have driver support for Ubuntu.

    Back to Windows 7. I am actually excited to see 7 and the features and performance it promises to bring. I would be willing to buy Windows 7 if all the good news I hear about is true.

  6. Hamdani Amin says:

    I think I’ll wait and see first. Every time window upgrade their OS, the hardware requirements also increase which happen to be not in my budget. Well I wait until 2013, it’s pay to use a more stable OS by then, then I change to Vista or OS after Vista, maybe this version.

  7. Curtisbeef says:

    This is going to be another UI update and its probably gonna run like garbage just like vista… They need to focus on pretty much full re-write of the core… that includes better multithreading… and update the File system like we were promised in Vista but didnt get…

    Microsoft needs to Cut all this extra garbage out and Focus on JUST the Core… If i want Fancy Paint program ill use Photoshop… I could care less about Updated Calculator or Wordpad…

    Microsoft needs to get rid of this Wizard crap for the Networking… it never works how its supposed to…

    Built in troubleshooting seems like there fix for not being able to program well so they just hack everything to work…

  8. Christopher Lynch says:

    I will probably upgrade.

  9. fatcatdagg says:

    ok well i bought vista home premium for my mac so i may dual boot, I am thinking of upgrading to 7 when it becomes available…I really enjoy using my mac for work and school but i prefer vista for gaming. I hope 7 will improve performance

  10. tweakwindows says:

    I have been 7 for sometime now and I am impressed with its performance.And I am sure, this will be a hit like XP.Btw,nice review Rich.

  11. Chess Teaching says:

    I think that I am not going to upgrade, but I am convinced that it will be better than Vista. Currently I use XP.

  12. Bigno says:

    There is so nothing wrong with xp - why do we need anything new?

  13. Nathan Driver says:

    Anything upgradable from Vista will be a good thing. I loved XP but @ the same time people get edge when things don’t have the “shiny things” like that compared to the mac.

    One thing I would be interested in is finding what the cpu/memory usage would be in this upgrade

  14. ajay says:

    really wonderful review rich

  15. Nilesh says:

    i would upgrade to windows 7 if I used windows! I am a Linux Geek. But I would like to get an experience of Windows 7 on VirtualBox if someone gives me a free copy!

  16. saleh13 says:

    no i dont think so

  17. Danel R. Lehrman says:

    I am a Mac and not a Dell PC. I love my Mac, however I’ll check out the upgrades for my excellent Dell product. This is a really complete article, it must have took a lot of time to make. I appreciate your effort. Keeping us up to date. Thanks

  18. Kikolani | Poetry, Photography, Blogging Tips says:

    I might upgrade, but more than likely, I’ll be moving to a Mac. My fiancé got me hooked to the graphics on his. :)
    ~ Kristi

  19. Matthew Clark says:

    Great Review, well I do like the features added to Windows 7 I am in the Mac/PC decision mode right now. Mac has really come on strong and I love the new iBooks…Hmm what to do…

  20. kraft says:

    Useful article!
    I was disappointed by Vista! Right now I use XP and I’m totally satisfied! If Windows 7 will be much better than XP I will make the upgrade! Now it’s too early to tell!

  21. pawseries says:

    Nice article, do you think

  22. C K says:

    After what I heard about Vista, I’m sticking to my XP. Though Win 7 seems glitzy, I’m more concern about whether my system can handle it.

    XP’s still good for me… for now at least.

  23. Ghost_BOFH says:

    *Sniffing the air*

    Yep, it’s still Vista, and still smells just like it.

    I’ll stick with a real OS…Ubuntu Linux.

  24. StackOverflow says:

    I hate it when people are so pessimistic and just plain stupid. How can you say it’s Vista when you haven’t really tried it?

    If you ask me, PC graphics are better than Macs.

    Great article anyway.

  25. StackOverflow says:

    Oh, and please tell me how you got 6901/6933 (Pleeeassee?)

  26. Rich says:

    It’s build 6801 and a friend got it from PDC08 :)

  27. StackOverflow says:

    Yes, I just realized you could get the nice taskbar with 6801. However my download speed is truly sad therefore it’s taking extremely long to download. Once it reached 94% then LimeWire crashed and it reverted back to 84%. I threw Limewire out the door.

  28. Christopher Lynch says:

    StackOverflow is right. So many people say Vista is terrible and they have never used it. I heard so many bad things about Vista, but I still went and bought a Vista computer and I love it. So if you say you don’t like Vista or it is terrible, make sure you’ve used it.

  29. Rich says:

    Good luck with p2p, just be sure to scan the ISO etc before you install the OS on your system… who knows who’s played around with that file since it left PDC.

    Chris, I totally agree with you. I happen to really like Vista. I still use XP at work and here when I’m writing XP guides, and I must say I miss the extras Vista has. You can get XP to run pretty much the same as Vista does, but that’s true of any OS.

  30. StackOverflow says:

    @Chris: Are you the director of BHP Billiton? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Lynch

  31. Christopher Lynch says:

    @StackOverflow: no i never knew that company exhisted that is interesting.

  32. StackOverflow says:

    I must admit, what a distinctive name! BTW, is that [i]your[/i] real name? (I wouldn’t suggest making it so public.)

  33. Andrew Drajna says:

    have been a windows user since 3.0 and am currently hooked on xp , milaides new dell came with vista and it seems to me a very easy useful os (although resources are definitely taxed) I am leary of the quick release of 7 but as in the past I will check it , Does anyone have an idea as to resources required for 7?

  34. ewandougie says:

    This looks too be a minor upgrade to Vista on the scale of 98/Me. Its come out too soon, Microsoft need to get RID of the NT Kerneral, it like 15 years old by now, they need to a complete rewire of the core. Also the new aero looks really big and unprofessional compared to Vista. This is one version I am deffinatly skipping.

  35. Avinash Shrestha says:

    Is it possible to upgrade windows Xp to Windows 7 or it just works no VISTA?

  36. Rich says:

    Avinash, I am unsure whether or not you can upgrade from XP to Seven. I believe you should be able to without a problem.

  37. Shadowz says:

    [quote]I’ll stick with a real OS…Ubuntu Linux.[/quote]
    Ubuntu is a REAL OS? its build apon another OS called Debian, which is build on Linux which came from a REAL OS called “Unix”

    Windows 7 is more a real OS then Ubuntu ever will be :P not that i dislike Ubuntu tho

    OT: I got winXP, Vista and since a few days W7. So far it has its own drivers for ALL my hardware (just have to download my media one by windows update) and improved drivers for both my grafics cards. What i loved most is that they where already recognised and preset during instalation. and grafical wise they tweaked aero allot to look allot smoother and nicer then on Vista.

    Can just say that there thousands of small changes and tweaks from Vista to W7 B7000 already to be decent, an improved driver support and well, it just looks neater and this version is more done as a beta already then any previous windows was at its release date.

  38. Todd says:

    The idea of not being able to upgrade XP is insane. I may as well make to move to Mac

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