The Windows 7 team is still at work putting the finishing touches on the highly anticipated operating system.
While the final stretch ahead should be reserved for minor changes and bug fixes, tweaks made to Windows 7 in time for the Release Candidate are ones that will affect user experiences for the years ahead.
Steven Sinofsky, senior VP for the Windows engineering group, posted another blog detailing the latest progress on the upcoming OS as it steams ahead toward reaching RC status.
The most noticeable freshness in Windows 7 is the improved taskbar. We’re now all acquainted with Aero Peek, but one nice little touch just added is the ability to close ‘listed’ windows with a single click. While thumbnailed previews on the taskbar have a close button in the corner, the option was previously unavailable when windows are grouped in a list. In the RC there will be a close option next to each listed item, similar to how we’re now used to having a close button on each tab in our browsers.
Reaching commonly used parts of the control panel are also easier, as now the most recently used items will appear in a jump list. Other parts of Windows joining the jump list party include PowerShell and Remote Desktop.
Besides the taskbar, Windows Explorer has also been improved (or some would say, “fixed”). As mentioned in the blog, “moving up in the folder hierarchy often requires multiple clicks since longer folder names in the address bar often bump the parent folder into the overflow dropdown. For RC, we’ve improved the overflow algorithm so that the parent folder’s button will appear in the address bar at all times and therefore going ‘up’ will always be a single click away in a predictable location. When there isn’t enough room to display the parent folder’s full name, it will appear truncated instead of going into the overflow.”
Those who make good use of “Invert Selection” in Windows Explorer will be relieved to hear that it’ll be back in the RC and for owners of multi-touch trackpads, including MacBooks running Boot Camp, support for such hardware now carries over to Windows Explorer for the zooming and shrinking of icons.
Users of legacy hardware will be happy to know that Microsoft is accommodating them: “The Add Legacy Hardware action was provided in Device Manager on past Windows releases to install non-Plug and Play devices. We removed this functionality for Windows 7 with the belief that this was rarely used.” But users wrote in asking for the feature to be brought back to help add non-Plug and Play devices, and as a result, it’s back in the RC.
Through review of the beta performance data from testers, Microsoft has decided to slim down the pagefile size to match the system RAM. Previously, Microsoft allocated “Memory + 300 MB” for the pagefile, but now it will only grow beyond RAM size if required.
Finally, one change that brought a smile to our faces, as detailed in the writing, “We know our customers care about performance. We discovered that by just trimming the shutdown and logoff WAV files, we could save up to 400 ms. Every little bit counts.”