The pending arrival - summer, perhaps? - of the Windows 7 operating system
should generate a sigh of relief from millions of computer users. Right after we all
figure out how much this is going to cost us.
Money aside, a "new" new Windows is kind of necessary: call it a "Vista
Recovery Plan," if you will, after the two-year-old Windows Vista, possibly the
least-popular OS after the ill-starred Microsoft Bob. Vista, like the late
Rodney Dangerfield, couldn't get any respect at all. Vista is big (some would say
bloated) and kludgy: sometimes it would run happily, other times it would balk. The
bells and whistles didn't always work as advertised, or as desired.
Win7, as I'll call it here, deserves a lot more respect. I've tested the public
Beta release (www.windows.com/windows7) in two different configurations: an Apple,
Inc., iMac running VMWare's Fusion 2.10, and a Dell Vostro 1510. In both
"emulation," on the iMac, and "native," on the Dell, installation was swift
and operation was smooth.
Some caveats up front: this is Beta software, and, as the saying goes, "there's
many a slip twixt the cup and the lip." Microsoft could "freeze" the feature
set in this Beta, or someone could come in and muck it all up. That's doubtful -
one more OS failure and Microsoft would have a world of hurt to confront - but it
is possible. The other caveat, my installs were either "fresh," on "clean"
computers (the iMac had no previous version of Windows) or on a machine running
Vista. Those currently running Windows XP, the OS that came before Vista, may face
upgrading issues, according to media reports.
Caution aside, Win7 is a delight to work with. Once installed, it loads quickly and
well, and - so far - I've not been able to crash it. The screen display is
nice, almost Mac-like, and switching applications and the like is easy. There's a
"taskbar" at the bottom, which closely resembles the Mac OS X "dock." You
can see a preview of an open application's screen, even in full-size if desired.
The "jump list" on the Windows menu has a way to show the latest files you've
worked on: right-click on an application's icon and the file list pops up.
You can cut and paste between windows, and resize windows, on the fly. On a
touch-sensitive PC, you can do more with your hands to manipulate the OS and the
data on screen. On regular PCs, everything, it seems, works faster and with fewer
In testing Win7, I've used the OpenOffice.org applications suite, and the
installed-with-Win7 version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8, or IE8, as it's
known. On the OpenOffice side, I've got no complaints: word processing, my main
task (and probably yours), ran without a hitch. That's to be expected, of course,
but it's nice to see it play out with a new operating system.
IE8 seems to hold a fair amount of promise as a Web browser, but I'll confess that
it's been a long, long time since I've used any IE as my day-to-day Web client;
I prefer Google's Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox on Windows. Using it was not too
much of a chore, however, and I can imagine that most die-hard IE fans will enjoy
its operation. When downloading files, it seems to work well and you can overcome
the default "don't download this" without too much hassle.
In the "idiosyncratic" applications category, Win7 seems to play well with
e-Sword (www.e-sword.net), a free Bible software program for Windows users that is
very well worth having. Again, downloads and installs of the program and various
add-on components was smooth and successful.
If things hold as they are now, Win7 will be a great boon to users. How much we'll
for that boon - in dollars, hardware and hard disc real estate
- has yet to be seen.