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Microsoft Reveals New Windows 7 Changes

With the millions of downloads of the Windows 7 public beta in the hands and on the hard drives of PC enthusiasts, the upcoming Microsoft operating system could be the most eagerly anticipated yet.

Most of those testing Windows 7 find many things to like about it, with some saying that it’ll finally give them a reason to start anew after running Windows XP for many, many years. Some are even running the Windows 7 beta as their main OS on their main machines. But the operating system isn’t done cooking yet.

The latest entry on the Engineering Windows 7 blog details some of the changes that the team has made to for the upcoming Release Candidate (RC) since the last public beta.

“We’ve been quite busy for the past two months or so working through all the feedback we’ve received on Windows 7. It should be no surprise but the Release Candidate for Windows 7 will have quite a few changes, many under the hood so to speak but also many visible,” wrote Steven Sinofsky, senior VP of the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group. “The goal of having a fully functional Beta was to make sure we received reliable feedback and not a lot of ‘hey this doesn't work at all sorts of reports. This has allowed us to really focus on delivering a refined RC where the changes we made are all the reflection of feedback we have received.”

Sinofsky then turned the blog content over to program manager Chaitanya Sareen to explain some of the more notable interface tweaks made to Windows 7 since the beta.

The most immediately appreciable feature of Windows 7 is the new taskbar. With Aero Peek, users can preview or “peek” at all the windows open for a particular program. This goes a long way in making life easier for those who work with multiple windows open of the same program. Microsoft has now implemented the same sort of “peek” behavior when using Alt-Tab for scrolling through windows. While the Alt-Tab menu itself brings up a small preview box like it does in Vista, the change for the RC now makes the full window appear by itself on the desktop after a short timed delay.

Of course, those with many windows open will find Alt-Tab a bit too laborious. For that reason, the upcoming RC will feature an upgraded version of a shortcut that is presently in the beta. Holding the Windows key with a number in the will launch that corresponding program (i.e., if Internet Explorer were first in the taskbar from the left, hitting Windows key + 1 would launch it). For the RC build, doing the same key command would also switch to that program if it were already active – and repeatedly hitting the number key would cycle through the window. Other new functions are also opened when the Shift, Ctrl and Alt keys are added into the mix, which will launch new windows, jump lists, or switching back to the last active window. Sareen says, “Think of this as per-program ALT +TAB shortcut for the first 10 items on the taskbar,” – and it’s one of the keyboard shortcuts that we can already picture ourselves using on a very regular basis.

Microsoft is also changing the way a program will alert you if it requires attention. The RC will have a changed flashing animation with a bolder orange color; and instead of flashing just three times, it will flash seven times as a nod to the Windows version designation.

To even further beef up the taskbar, Windows 7 will better scale the number of large and small icons, resulting in a 24 to 39 percent increase in icon quantity before the taskbar scrolls. Sareen adds, “We believe customers will find more than enough room to pin their common programs.”

Those are just some of the more notable changes that caught our eye (you can see a much longer list with descriptions here). Furthermore, Sinofsky pointed out that this is just a “sampling” of just the more visible changes since the beta and that we could expect even more before the final version.

Of course, Sinofsky didn’t shed any light on any shipping date, saying only, “We’re still on the same path working towards the release candidate and of course we know everyone is anxious for the next phase of our path to RTM. In the meantime, our full time machines are still running the Beta build.”

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • kvruhere
    The Windows desktop pictured above reminds me of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Herring--it is complete even with the golden sunrise or sunset. Even the Start Icons at the bottom as they line up across the screen. Microsoft programmers are smart people but they generally lack ingenuity--that is--they only have talent for perfecting what someone else has invented.
    Reply
  • Master Exon
    Also, native .mov support.

    I guess there is no longer a need for QuickAlternative ;)
    Reply
  • captaincharisma
    even better the majority do not have to pollute there systems with apples quicktime. as for the comment that it looks like Linux then you anal linux people always find something to bash windows for. get over it linux will never replace windows and will always be for the nerds of the world
    Reply
  • bydesign
    I'm no Linux fan but it's just as easy as windows to learn. I'll go a step further in that Ubuntu is more intuitive than Windows 7 with more useful utilities and apps out of the box. It doesn’t game so well so it’s rather useless to me personally.

    I’m still in awe of this Windows 7 love though. To me it’s just Vista with a new UI and some services disable or rearranged. I liked Vista and Windows 7 is a very subtle improvement. The main difference is driver support is there, thank to time and Vista.
    Reply
  • Supertrek32
    Still no word on the classic start menu - rather disappointing.
    Reply
  • can't teach my grandma to use linux? she is using linux, and so is my brother, and just about everyone that I help with computer problems, Ubuntu is extremely easy to use, much much easier than windows, and they don't have to worry about Viruses. Besides, linux users don't want it to replace Windows, that isn't the point of linux. However, Ubuntu could very well become mainstream. What you are talking about is linux 10 years ago, get with the times.
    Reply
  • echdskech
    demonhorde665linux is a super nerd's OS and requires more understanding beyound "click here for my documents, then click there for my pictures"
    just curious, which distro/version did you use that you couldn't access your docs/pictures by clicking?
    Reply
  • Efrayim
    I don't know why everyone hates Vista so much I love it. I have no problems with it. I been using it for a year now its wonderful. Win 7 looks awesome but I might wait a couple of months before upgrading to it.
    Reply
  • tayb
    ByDesignI'm no Linux fan but it's just as easy as windows to learn. I'll go a step further in that Ubuntu is more intuitive than Windows 7 with more useful utilities and apps out of the box. It doesn’t game so well so it’s rather useless to me personally.I’m still in awe of this Windows 7 love though. To me it’s just Vista with a new UI and some services disable or rearranged. I liked Vista and Windows 7 is a very subtle improvement. The main difference is driver support is there, thank to time and Vista.
    Ubuntu is more intuitive than Windows? Wow. That is a first. Less viruses, sure. Less footprint, sure. Easier to learn? Hell freaking no.

    Try walking someone who isn't computer literate into updating drivers in Ubuntu.


    Reply
  • echdskech
    taybUbuntu is more intuitive than Windows? Wow. That is a first. Less viruses, sure. Less footprint, sure. Easier to learn? Hell freaking no. Try walking someone who isn't computer literate into updating drivers in Ubuntu.
    I thought that actually happens automatically when they update their system...

    alternately, you can do 'apt-get update' on console...

    how would you guide someone who isn't computer literate into updating drivers in windows? graphics drivers for example?

    or did you mean compiling their own drivers?
    Reply