Showcased in PDC 2008, Microsoft announced several things about the successor of Windows Vista – Windows 7. And while Microsoft has said that it will not change the architecture of 7 as it is based on Vista; it has made several user interface changes – including to the classic task bar and start menu. Among the changes, we will also see a new UI for Paint, and the Windows Sidebar will be ditched in favour of desktop gadgets, similar to that found in Yahoo Widgets.
The Taskbar Changes
In Vista and previous versions before that, it was used to show what applications you have open. Windows 7, however, takes a step in the Mac’s direction by merging both the Quick Launch bar and showing open applications in one bar. Also, it will ditch showing the names of applications, but will still show you the icon, because apparently – no application icons are the same.
Also, similar to that of the dock found in Mac OS X, you can drag and drop applications onto the task bar. Also smart is that you can go directly to the tab in Internet Explorer 8 from the taskbar – and the hovering thumbnail from vista will have still appear, but you will have more control over it.
A new feature in 7 is called “Jump Lists”. These menus are accessible in the Start Menu and the new taskbar and gives you a list of most-recent items or frequent tasks that you perform; meaning one click on Word will take you to a list of your recently viewed documents, or clicking on IE will take you to your browsing history.
This feature could be a potential time-saver, as it does not require you to open the application up and, for the case of Internet Explorer 8, to go through your history to find the site that you were looking at a day ago, before you closed the application – unless it’s not listed up in the menu. I might actually enjoy this new feature when it I get my grubby little hands on Windows 7.
Goodbye Sidebar, Hello Widgets – and other UI changes
The Windows Sidebar, appearing in Vista, has been axed and been replaced with widgets, but it looks like that they will be using a similar architecture in building these gadgets. Also, Windows Search gets a huge revamp, allowing you search your documents, email subjects, contacts, song titles and even settings in Control Panel. It will also bring the items that you like at the top of the results.
The User Account Control has been scaled back, after users and developers got frustrated over the annoyance of the prompts. Now, it will allow you to determine your own preferences using a slider, so you can determine if you want to see less messages or more – but you will get prompt on important messages, like your firewall has been disabled.
Paint, like mentioned before around the web, also got a UI change. It is now using the “Ribbon” navigational system that is found in Microsoft’s Office 2007 and 2008 for Mac (in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access). As well, another change is that you will be able to insert shapes, similar to those in Microsoft Office, and that you have a row of colours that you can add your own to.
A brand new feature included in Windows 7 is called Library. Basically this acts like “Cover Flow” in a Mac; but what makes it a bit different is that you can add objects from other drives to be part of the library. This is great if you want to have everything in one place, like all the images for a camp, though they are in different parts of your computer.
Windows 7 now has a single window that will interact with your gadgets. If you plug in your camera or MP3 player, you will be able to get the details about it – like its battery capacity, available storage space and the date of its last sync. Also it will offer several actions you can do, including syncing it, managing photos or music on it, etc. It’s more likely to be used with Windows Mobile phones, and not the iPhone and iPods.