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Windows 7 UI previewed

Windows 7 UI previewed

The improved user interface in Windows 7 draws a lot from Vista's Aero, but introduces some lovely new features of its own.

If you're hoping that Windows 7 will be a step in the right direction for Microsoft, you might want to cast your eyes over some details revealed at the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference.

Ars Technica's coverage includes confirmation from Microsoft that Windows 7 will be based on the core work carried out for Vista, with no major changes to the underlying architecture of the OS. Instead, Microsoft is concentrating on improving the user experience via an enhanced UI which carries on the work done in Vista's Aero.

The first thing to notice is that the taskbar has undergone a complete revamp, now appearing to take its design cues from Apple's Dock – gone are the text labels of old, replaced with big shiny icons in their stead. Hovering over an icon will present thumbnails of each window that application has open; click on a thumbnail and you're taken to the relevant window.

Right-click on an icon and you'll get a feature new to Windows 7: the 'jump list', which allows an application that hooks into the provided API to bring up a menu containing recent documents and common tasks for rapid access. Interestingly, the jump lists have been designed with a touch interface in mind: when used with such a device, the lists are larger to make accurate selection easier.

The functionality of Aero has been extended, too: as well as providing eye candy, the 'glass' effect has been used to provide a 'peek' function. Simply mouse over a thumbnail on the taskbar and all currently open windows except the one you select will turn transparent, allowing you to see information contained in an application without actually having to change focus. Handy, although it's something other operating systems have had for a while now.

Neowin has mentioned that the sidebar introduced with Vista has vanished from sight. Gadget fans needn't worry, however: rather than having a large floating bar taking up precious screen real-estate, Windows 7 will allow gadgets to integrate directly with the Windows desktop – which, to be honest, is where they should have been in the first place. While anyone enjoying the benefits of a 22”+ high-resolution monitor probably won't care all that much, if you're using an ultra-portable laptop you'll be only too aware that every pixel counts – making this possibly one of the most useful changes so far.

Another change to the UI is improved window snapping: bring a window alongside another and it will automagically 'snap' to the right place, making tiling multiple windows together much easier. Drag a window to the top of the screen, and it will automatically be maximised.

The system tray has had a revamp as well. While XP introduced the ability to hide system tray icons, Windows 7 will make that the default. Any new icon inserted into the system tray by an application will be hidden unless the user chooses to have it displayed. A smart move, and one which again shows the desire to maximise usable screen area without impacting the eye candy too severely.

Additional features demonstrated within Windows 7 include a simplified home networking system with centralised search capabilities called Home Group, 'libraries' that allow easier organising of media and simple sharing between PCs, and improved accessibility options including an enhanced magnifier application.

Music fans will be pleased to hear that Windows Media Player can now be controlled directly from the task bar, and even more astounded to hear that the ability to control UPnP media devices across the network has been added under the name Play To: simply pick a song (or picture, or video) and a device on your network and Windows will start playing the music through said device. Especially handy if you've got a laptop with a large collection of music and a SoundBridge or similar hooked up to an amplifier.

The last feature that deserves special mention is the 'Device Stage'. Built into the new version of Windows Explorer, the system searches an external device for a specially crafted XML file containing information and product definitions. When loaded, this will allow Explorer to display a picture of the particular device you're exploring along with device-specific tasks and status information.

If you're still interested in learning more about the changes due in Windows 7, PC Pro has a near-exhaustive list of content from PDC for you to peruse. If that still isn't enough, the official PDC website has a range of video content for you to drool over while you wait for the official launch. Sadly, there's still no sign of a public beta; while PDC attendees snagged a closed copy of the code, it was sadly an earlier version than was previewed and as such was missing many of the features referred to in this article. Whoops.

Do you think Windows 7 might be worth the upgrade from Vista, or could it even be enough to tempt the stalwart XP holdouts into a new OS? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

55 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
confusis 29th October 2008, 08:15 Quote
glorified patch?
Shielder 29th October 2008, 08:30 Quote
Looks a lot like Vista. Some of those ideas have been 'borrowed' from OSX as you say, but KDE4 offers similar functionality via Plasma. Unfortunately, for Microsoft that is, businesses will look at this and question the relevance. Unless MS can force users down the Windows 7 route via some compelling features (from Microsoft?) then XP will live long in the Corporate IT sphere.

Andy
Woodstock 29th October 2008, 08:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by confusis
glorified patch?

an expensive glorified patch

Why do I see this surpassing the amount of insults that vista recieved
UncertainGod 29th October 2008, 08:40 Quote
It's a good catch up to KDE's plasma, but all I really give a crap about is general performance improvements and less notifications about pointless stuff.
veland 29th October 2008, 08:47 Quote
This looks more like some "My first Windows!" thing... I don't want all the fancy graphics, give me something that works and where I can find what I'm looking for without going through lots of wizards, helps systems, fancy windows with no content and so on...
Brooxy 29th October 2008, 08:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodstock
an expensive glorified patch

Why do I see this surpassing the amount of insults that vista recieved

Maybe not so - it's only a UI preview, so for all we know, Microsoft may have some uber function that hasn't been announced yet. Hell for all we know, it could require the computing power of Windows 3.1 to run the OS, while providing us with shiny colors, reliable data security, a browser that is better than firefox.

My god it's cold outside...hell freezing over anyone?
Burnout21 29th October 2008, 09:19 Quote
wow that looks like KDE!
DougEdey 29th October 2008, 09:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnout21
wow that looks like KDE!

I just thought exactly the same thing!
Crunch77 29th October 2008, 09:44 Quote
Would love to have the UI enhancements mentioned in the article. I wonder however, if this couldn't be possible to do in Vista?
liratheal 29th October 2008, 09:50 Quote
What the **** is that?
ramjet 29th October 2008, 10:06 Quote
x
ramjet 29th October 2008, 10:07 Quote
I have an open mind about W7 - but Vista never worked for networked computers

I am responsible for 7 inter-linked file servers & numerous PCs and Laptops on and off-site - every one is on XP which is a stable network environment

Not only my company but all the companies I know in the UK are are on XP for networked workstations AND our external network suppliers/installer who supply networks all over the UK tell me that they have NO - that's NONE - networks running on VISTA -

when I buy a new set of laptops I insist on being supplied with an XP roll-back disk for each

etc etc etc

W7's going to have to be able to provide a guaranteed stable network to prompt any change at all

RJ
bowman 29th October 2008, 10:08 Quote
Oh look, they copied KDE.

I'll stick to *nix and install KDE 4.2 instead..
Ninja_182 29th October 2008, 10:13 Quote
Going back to the Windows 7 name thread some time ago, doesnt this make it Windows 6.1? Or have I missed something :p
icutebluezone 29th October 2008, 10:26 Quote
Im still with XP pro SP3. And hate visaand have used, Windows 7 i mite try Thats a mite. :)
theevilelephant 29th October 2008, 10:29 Quote
I quite like the look of that actually, sure it "borrows" heavily from OSX and KDE but i like it. I might just skip vista alltogether and go straight to 7
proxess 29th October 2008, 10:34 Quote
They should just release it as a UI service pack for Vista, thats exactly what it is.
<A88> 29th October 2008, 10:37 Quote
I'm quite impressed by all the UI enhancements and tweaks they've showed off so far. Things like simply shuffling taskbar items I've been after for a long time, and the whole docking windows into different grid setups should be cool (ironically I sat through the PDC keynote the liveblog next to it using Vista's more difficult method). There doesn't seem to be too much going on elsewhere but 7 should at least make up for all the problems people had with Vista- all the 'under the hood' changes have already been made so there's not much to go wrong here.

I was also doubly impressed when he held up a 1Ghz (VIA?), 1GB netbook and said it ran Windows 7 fine and used only 500mb of disk space (so obviously a slightly cut down version).
Woodstock 29th October 2008, 10:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
They should just release it as a UI service pack for Vista, thats exactly what it is.

but people dont pay for a UI service pack, which is what they want
Cobalt 29th October 2008, 11:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
They should just release it as a UI service pack for Vista, thats exactly what it is.

Yeah and XP should just have been a UI service pack for 2000.
Tim S 29th October 2008, 11:13 Quote
I actually quite like what Microsoft has done :)
koola 29th October 2008, 11:27 Quote
Oh dear, it's looking more like OS X and Linux every day isn't it Microsoft.

And for the people saying this is a UI update, you do know under the bonnet will be vastly different to Vista... this is what Vista should have been in the first place. Those of you who have bought Vista have purchased another Win ME lolz.
Hamish 29th October 2008, 11:30 Quote
of all those changes theres 2 i like (the tiling thing and re-arranging taskbar items) theres 1 i really dislike (no text labels on taskbar...) and the rest i dont care about
i just hope theres an option to turn on text labels... :\
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramjet
I have an open mind about W7 - but Vista never worked for networked computers
oh dont be ridiculous, our network at work is a mixture of Vista Business, XP Pro and even the odd 2k Pro with 2003 servers
it works flawlessly, in fact the only thing that didnt work was vista connecting to the shitbox NAS that some idiot bought without consulting me ¬_¬
we also make use of the built in windows VPN client, which is actually better in vista imo
GoodBytes 29th October 2008, 11:32 Quote
During the demo of WIn7, it was on running, to be said by people to run ruin flawlessly on a 1Ghz VIA CPU with 1 GB of RAM, and only ~50% of the RAM was used. That's pretty good if you ask me.

It features a bunch of features. Stay tuned, I will post my findings (or bit-tech will). I have to go to school now.
stephen2002 29th October 2008, 11:33 Quote
That taskbar is really gross. It's double-tall, but then makes everything take up less horizontal space by using only icons to represent the applications you have open at the time. How many apps does one use at once? Four or five? Sure maybe you have 5 explorer windows open but it looks like grouping is always enabled now. So you have this huge double-wide taskbar with four icons on it and no text labels. If you happen to have two of anything open you have to click twice to go to one of the windows. Awesome, waste my screen space and make me click more, just what I wanted!
Gareth Halfacree 29th October 2008, 11:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by koola
And for the people saying this is a UI update, you do know under the bonnet will be vastly different to Vista... this is what Vista should have been in the first place. Those of you who have bought Vista have purchased another Win ME lolz.
Actually, if you read the article you'll see that this is exactly what Windows 7 isn't: Microsoft has stated several times that the core OS is based on Vista, and contains simple optimisations. Basically, this is Vista+, not "vastly different" in any way.
DougEdey 29th October 2008, 11:45 Quote
If this is just a set of optimisations they'll still charge us as though it's a seperate OS rather then an expansion pack, and why call it Win 7?
Gareth Halfacree 29th October 2008, 11:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougEdey
If this is just a set of optimisations they'll still charge us as though it's a seperate OS rather then an expansion pack, and why call it Win 7?
Same reason they charged us for Windows XP when it was nothing more than an optimised version of Windows 2000, and Windows 2000 when it was nothing more than an optimsed version of Windows NT...
Mentai 29th October 2008, 12:04 Quote
I don't see Vista as another ME. For a start, it's perfectly stable, I've never had it crash on me. I also find it a lot snappier than XP, since it preloads all the common apps into the memory. The aero interface is a lot nicer than XP as well (though I know you can re skin that if you're bothered). I don't see what all the vista bashing is about.
Windows 7 looks to be for Vista what XP was to 2000, although I'm surprised to hear it run so smoothly on such a low end system if it has the same underlying architecture. We'll see how well it really performs once proper betas are released.
I also couldn't care less about the UI changes, if the performance of the OS is about the same, I'll probably just stick with Vista.
GoodBytes 29th October 2008, 12:16 Quote
Image of Win7 with classic task bar. My guess is the new task bar was designed when you are in a touch screen interface mode.
http://www.istartedsomething.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/win7glass.png
koola 29th October 2008, 12:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Actually, if you read the article you'll see that this is exactly what Windows 7 isn't: Microsoft has stated several times that the core OS is based on Vista, and contains simple optimisations. Basically, this is Vista+, not "vastly different" in any way.

In terms of engineering and features, yes it will be vastly different from Vista. I've been following the engineering blog and not listening to the sales spin. The devs are the ones who really give a clear impression on how different Win7 will be and it looks to be the best yet. It might even make be upgrade from XP SP3.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mentai
I don't see Vista as another ME.

Was meaning more of the short market life it had until being superseded by the net generation.
leexgx 29th October 2008, 12:34 Quote
perfoamce on win7 should be alot better may bring it back to XP, seems so from the spec that it was running on

vista is fine as long as you got an 2 hard disks in raid 0 and an high clocked cpu lots of ram (+2gb)
Hamish 29th October 2008, 12:43 Quote
i hope they put a decent amount of effort into sorting the Audio and I/O subsystems from vista tbh
thats where most of my vista problems come from
for example, on audio everytime i boot i have to mess around restarting the windows audio service a few times and poking the test buttons in the right order and stuff to get it to output DD/DTS over spidf (note, pcm is fine just dd/dts)
for I/O (tbh i dont know if this is a vista thing a vista 64 thing or an intel sata controller thing) but it seems to be insanely i/o sensitive, much more so than my old XP machine was on the same disks
any kind of heavy i/o work seems to make the machine crawl and it for damn sure isnt cpu or ram :p
<A88> 29th October 2008, 12:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodBytes
Image of Win7 with classic task bar. My guess is the new task bar was designed when you are in a touch screen interface mode.
http://www.istartedsomething.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/win7glass.png

No- the build of Win7 given out to PDC attendees is simply an older version which doesn't have the new taskbar in it yet. It will definitely be the default (and I assume only) taskbar in Win7. As for touchscreen mode, the taskbar automatically increases size by 25% when using your digits.
mclean007 29th October 2008, 12:50 Quote
I don't get the moaning. Nobody bleats when Apple expects them to pay again and again for what are effectively service packs on OSX. Microsoft has clearly put a lot of work into the new UI features on Windows 7. It isn't just security and bug patches, which you could legitimately claim shouldn't have to be paid for.

If you're still running XP, 7 will be a bigger step over Vista so might make it worth the upgrade. If you're running Vista and don't see the benefit of the new UI features, nobody is forcing you to upgrade. MS gets a beating for taking so long to release Vista, and now they're getting another beating for bringing Windows 7 to market so quickly and having the audacity to expect its customers to pay for an upgrade which offers valuable new features. Some people are never satisfied.
bogie170 29th October 2008, 13:05 Quote
1. Are they going to remove all the DRM?
2. Are you going to need 4 Gb of Ram to run this like Vista?
3. How big an install is it and how big is the memory footprint of the os?
4. Is the installation going to be customizable?
5. Is the windows/explorer environment going to be as responsive as xp?
6. Are they going to turn off/sort out windows indexing and UAC?

These are the major concerns they need to address. A shiny new interface means nothing.
bogie170 29th October 2008, 13:07 Quote
Oh and,
7. Are they going to sort out the Audio for gaming and EAX support?
Xir 29th October 2008, 13:07 Quote
One of the first things I do when installing XP is turn on the "Performance" mode, which makes it look like Win2000.
When toying with (my parents new) Vista i turned off all the clicketybling and hey presto, it looked like Win2000, and is a lot faster than before.

Is there an estimate what percentage USES aero, and how many just turn it off?

Xir
kenco_uk 29th October 2008, 13:27 Quote
In no way is Vista, Me. Me either worked really well or just plain didn't work at all - Me was not very forgiving at all. In contrast, Vista at least works. Granted, there was a performance loss with NVidia drivers at first and Creative's Vista support for older cards has been (and continues to be imo) mostly crap, but at least it doesn't bluescreen at every given opportunity (if it does, it points to the fact you're perhaps a bit 'on the edge' with your overclocking, you have some oddball hardware or you are experiencing a severe lack of cheesecake).

I think it looks cool and will pretty much jump on a beta/rc when it's released.

I can only hope that, as it's built on the Vista kernel, that most, if not all, Vista-compatible drivers, work. And that UAC is made transparent - it's very annoying. Indexing works well on Vista, it needs to be made simpler to find *any file you want* rather than *any file Vista thinks you want*.

Vista works okay with 1GB, tbh, as long as you're not doing anything too strenuous. It sounds like Win7 may be a fair bit kinder to memory usage. In all honesty, to run games like Crysis, you'll still need 4to 8GB of ram, as it's software on top of the OS that eats memory.
Bluephoenix 29th October 2008, 13:32 Quote
will you load of harpies quit bleating every time one particular comapny releases something because of your misappropriated blind hate for that company?

MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION don't cry about something purely based on its name or what company produced it.


on personal notes, I don't really mind about the GUI, but what I look for is the overall thing, and the underlying code is just as important as the user experience.




please guys, take a check and vote with your wallet, but don't go screaming from the rooftops saying "I believe X about X product so you must too" it just gets old and makes you look quite juvenile.
Redbeaver 29th October 2008, 13:38 Quote
great, more UI stuff. more place where the video driver can screw up. plus u probably need some GTX260 minimum for all the new features to run.

they should just call that thing Vista ServicePack 3.
Redbeaver 29th October 2008, 13:39 Quote
oh, and the biggest issue with vista isnt the damn GUI. its the network. its stupid. it's the only single sole reason the hundreds of PC in my company not using vista.
Denis_iii 29th October 2008, 14:00 Quote
how many versions of windows 7? 25 or so
WTF can't they release ONE version and leave it at that. WIll make life easier for them, there customers, developers and IT support....
kenco_uk 29th October 2008, 14:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluephoenix
will you load of harpies quit bleating every time one particular comapny releases something because of your misappropriated blind hate for that company?

MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION don't cry about something purely based on its name or what company produced it.


on personal notes, I don't really mind about the GUI, but what I look for is the overall thing, and the underlying code is just as important as the user experience.




please guys, take a check and vote with your wallet, but don't go screaming from the rooftops saying "I believe X about X product so you must too" it just gets old and makes you look quite juvenile.

If you'd actually bothered to read some posts other than those complaining about how Vista ruined their lives, you'd see that there are a handful that agree with your sentiment of, 'It doesn't look too bad, hope it turns out okay..'
Bluephoenix 29th October 2008, 14:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenco_uk
If you'd actually bothered to read some posts other than those complaining about how Vista ruined their lives, you'd see that there are a handful that agree with your sentiment of, 'It doesn't look too bad, hope it turns out okay..'

an extremely small precentage.

that post wasn't aimed at them, it was aimed at those spreading FUD without having decent information, but pure speculation and rumor

vista's network stack might not be flawless, but it does work, a good deal of the DoD contractors I've worked with are now using that and server 2008.
chrisb2e9 29th October 2008, 15:37 Quote
I just went to vista, I'm not changing for a few years yet.
docodine 29th October 2008, 16:49 Quote
I never bought Vista for myself, but I'll get Windows 7.
ParaHelix.org 29th October 2008, 18:06 Quote
They stole the Mac GUI once already, and now, again? lol
HourBeforeDawn 29th October 2008, 19:44 Quote
omg will people stop with the whole stealing bit lol companies take ideas from other companies ALL the time, seriously, if it wasnt for Miscrosoft Mac wouldnt even be here and on top of that Mac would have gone belly up....

Anyhow why are you guys saying this is a glorified patch lol normally for M$ they release a new OS every two years roughly, XP was the only exception to this. So this Windows 7 is right on time in all honestly, Im looking forward to it, I have enjoyed Vista so this will be interesting to see what else they have changed or added.
proxess 30th October 2008, 10:38 Quote
So if you think about it... this is Windows 2000 SP 12? With the 4 SP for 2000, + original + 3 SP from XP, and original + SP1 from Vista, and now Windows 7. This sure goes well with the RPC holes they still have. Cause nothing's really changed that much.
kenco_uk 30th October 2008, 13:10 Quote
Having recently found the 'feature' of GigE networking working nowhere near GigE speeds, I can only hope this is fully rectified.
UncertainGod 30th October 2008, 13:14 Quote
The improvements to Windows Media Player that will ship with 7 are very nice, it actually looks like a media player program I might use.
Bluephoenix 30th October 2008, 14:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
So if you think about it... this is Windows 2000 SP 12? With the 4 SP for 2000, + original + 3 SP from XP, and original + SP1 from Vista, and now Windows 7. This sure goes well with the RPC holes they still have. Cause nothing's really changed that much.

ignorance or stupidity?
proxess 30th October 2008, 15:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluephoenix
ignorance or stupidity?

Fanboyism, you either love me or hate me.
GoodBytes 30th October 2008, 15:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bogie170
1. Are they going to remove all the DRM?
2. Are you going to need 4 Gb of Ram to run this like Vista?
3. How big an install is it and how big is the memory footprint of the os?
4. Is the installation going to be customizable?
5. Is the windows/explorer environment going to be as responsive as xp?
6. Are they going to turn off/sort out windows indexing and UAC?
7. Are they going to sort out the Audio for gaming and EAX support?

These are the major concerns they need to address. A shiny new interface means nothing.

1- Why? without it you can't play in full quality Blu-ray/HDDVD movies. It only does this. Without this, then Sony (for Blu-ray) will go "No support for PC". I am sure if Microsoft would refuse to put DRM, Sony would go "ok screw it, we tried", but well... Microsoft is not perfect. I am no expert, but probably a contract was signed, so that they can't remove it from the OS. If the case... well Microsoft was dummy. Perhaps someone would know the exact details, but i know for sure DRM doesn't do anything other then encode/decode Blu-ray and HDVD (but I don't think it was implemented for HDDVD... can't remember)

2- You need 2GB for Vista to run flawlessly. At PDC08, people tested Windows 7 machines with a VIA 1Ghz CPU with 1Gb of RAM (50% used), and the system was running flawlessly (apparently). We can see a lot of work has been placed on it, especially that you must consider all the new features and fancy UI. And I think in the presentation Microsoft used one of those netbooks, and people say it was also running flawlessly during the presentation.

3- How big the OS? Why you still use a 5GB HDD?!?! Who cares. Of course it will be bigger. I mean it has fancy 256x256 icons in all formats down to 16x16. You have pictures for the UI, more files and processes for the added features.... I am not going on details, this is just a stupid complaint. This is just complaining for complaining. Especially that Vista installs in record time (20-25min using disk, faster with high speed USB stick) compared to Windows NT, 2000, and XP. And now Microsoft claims 10-15min install with Windows 7.

4- I don't know. But Movie Maker and other software will be downloadable and not included in the OS. This is what has been decided for the moment. I would have preferred a second disk, or simply customize button.. but what can you do.

5- Windows Vista already has a significantly more responsive explorer system over XP's. I think it's program asynchronously instead of synchronously like XP. Meaning, if you load a large project file or video, while it loads you don't lose control of a big part of explorer, while the task is complete.

6- UAC can already be turned off. Windows 7 will still feature UAC, however will contain additional options to customize it's behavior. (I don't know the details).

7- EAX is not Microsoft fault AT ALL. EAX is 100% Creative fault. Since day 1 EAX was badly engineered. Why other video cards that has Environmental systems doesn't have issues? BTW, EAX sucks really bad, and useless. On games where Creative didn't pay them a fortune to make it EAX only, you have options to select a different system (ex: WarCraft III), and if you turn it off, the program can use it's own system (it's not that 5% increase in CPU because you use software render by the game (for using it's own system), that it will make any difference. Unless, you still use a Pentium III 800Mhz). Heck, I have an nForce 2 with Vista 32-bit on, with nVidia sound storm (my media center), and I have Dolby live and all the sound card feature working under Vista, despite even installing XP drivers.
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