Is it Windows or Linux?
Let’s take a look at the latest Windows 7 Ultimate RC. After spending some time with it, the bells started ringing. It became quite evident that they were recreating the best elements of Linux while reversing some of the confusion created in Vista. As a matter of fact, the widgets look like direct copies of KDE 4.x plasma desktop.
What’s new in Windows 7
Windows 7 does a much better job of presenting video and images than any previous version of Windows, and it’s centrally designed and fully upgraded Windows Media Player organizes all your various media into one location. The aggregation of media is surely Windows 7’s finest feature and is far superior to any competing product in that space.
The installation was painless, so let’s get right to the desktop and sees what’s cooking…
Nice clean desktop with many options
There is a large assortment of desktop images and eye-popping screen saver themes to choose from. You do not have to download ‘extras’ as in the past. You simply go to the desktop configuration applet (similar to Gnome or KDE on Linux) and choose the elements of the theme that you want to replace.
I downloaded and installed Irfan, the great freeware graphics program. Windows 7 popped up with a warning notification that this application I was about to install wanted to modify registry information. The rest of the screen went dark to draw attention to this Yes/No decision of going forward or not. That’s a good security feature.
Sticky Notes – borrowed from Linux
Usually I’ll get a phone call and will need to jot something down. I’m always looking for a pen on my real desktop. Now, with sticky notes you’ll never have to jostle again. Thanks to Sticky Notes, you just type something on to your Windows Desktop, and there it will stay until you make it go away. This is a great feature for Windows enthusiasts. Linux users will be less impressed since we’ve had Tomboy Notes and the like for many years.
Calculator, Screen Capture
The calculator got a bit of a face lift. Notice that scientific looking Zero… Then of course Windows 7 adds the extremely useful (and baked into Linux for many generations) Screen Capture utility. It works well, and I am glad they finally added it into the basic toolset.
Windows 7 ships (so far) with IE8. Since you are already probably using IE8, there’s not much new to report there. IE8 does give a good preview of the design and centralization of Windows 7.
The Newly Revamped Windows Media Player
It’s gorgeous eye candy, and it’s functional too. This is the crown in the jewels of the new Windows OS. Microsoft has captured all the media related elements of the OS into a cohesive entertainment center that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful too. The thumbnails barely do justice to the beauty and ease with which you glide from TV to Videos to images to music to live entertainment guides and more.
Mirosoft Widgets Look like KDE 4.2 Plasma
Microsoft lets you widgetize your desktop and pull elements from the Media Player on to a separate and smaller widget. Look at the TV listings widget below. Does this not cry KDE 4.2 Plasma? I wonder who dreamed up the plasma look first? The folks at KDE or Microsoft. I also wonder if there isn’t a patent infringement somewhere in the offing?
Windows Libraries (aka Explorer)
Nicely organized, slightly updated look, still Vista-looking, and essentially the same functionality as from XP.
KDE or Windows?
Is it just me, or does this new tab menu interface borrow a lot from Linux KDE?
Windows Power Shell
Finally we have something to sink our programming teeth into. The power shell combines many of the best shell and terminal commands from Linux into the Windows command line utility. Notice the ls and dir work here.
This is still an early review and Microsoft is still tweaking elements before the actual release of Windows 7 scheduled for next year. Clearly they are on the right track. By combining many of the best of Linux, side-stepping the potholes of Vista, and fusing the Media Player as a central ‘meeting spot’ on the desktop, Microsoft will reclaim its glory with Windows 7.
Note – we have mostly focused on the visual and functional elements for this review. There are many enhanced security features, that we have not reviewed, which Microsoft touts as a major reason to move to the new OS.