Top Windows 7 Features That Vista Should Have Had

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1. Reasonable System Requirements

Today, this sounds like such a no-brainer, but Vista really got this one wrong. People were duly excited about upgrading their OS to something that was prettier, more flashy and more intuitive, but they weren't banking on buying an entirely new system in order to do so. The cost of Vista was tough enough to swallow; the cost of Vista plus the cost of a machine capable of running Vista was too much for some. Microsoft put off a lot of potential customers by demanding such high-end hardware to run its OS, and to compound the issue, many end-users felt that the upgrade wasn't even worth it once they'd splurged on a new PC.


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Windows 7's hardware requirements are the exact same as Vista's hardware requirements. The difference? Windows 7 is coming out in late 2009, whereas Windows Vista came out in early 2007. Windows 7 enables older machines (particularly those strong enough to handle Vista) to run beautifully on a new platform.  Even netbooks and Windows XP-based machines are seeing smooth performance on Win7, though Vista is still sluggish. The bottom line? Windows 7 does more with what you give it, and it functions smoothly with older hardware that has less to offer it.

2. Streamlined Code/Speed
We haven't read through each and every line of code that makes up Windows 7, but we can tell you this much just from using it: the developers spent an awful lot of time cleaning up background activity in Windows 7 compared to Vista. In Vista, it always felt like too much was going on underneath, as if wheels were turning unnecessarily. This led to the OS being far too resource intensive, as it couldn't do the things it needed to do in a highly efficient fashion.


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Win7, on the other hand, is buttery smooth from bootup to shut down. Transitions are seamless, application launching is quick and everything just seems to fit together better. If Vista was a first or second draft, Windows 7 is the final copy after being edited four or five times over.

3. Trust
Okay, so maybe trust is awkward--but is Ritalin any more politically correct? Windows Vista seemed to question your every move, and while we know its intentions were (it wouldn't want you venturing to some virus-installed website, for example), the incessant nagging grew tiresome very quickly. Vista wanted to check, double-check and sometimes triple-check every single move you made, and while Windows 7 still asks for your permission before doing an awful lot of tasks, it's not nearly as persistent.


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4. Aero Peek
Vista was plenty advanced enough to include Aero Peek, but instead, the only thing Aero was good for in Vista was adding a bit of sheen to your desktop while consuming 500MB of RAM in the process. Aero Peek is a Windows 7 feature that allows users to hover over application/window groupings in the task bar in order to see what's currently going on. Let's say you've got three IE8 windows, two Windows Explorer windows and four Adobe Reader windows open on the desktop. If you roll over the IE8 icon in the task bar, your three IE8 windows pop-up above it; hover over the one you want to maximize, and that windows automatically takes center stage over everything else. What once was chaos is now calm and understandable.


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5. Aero Shake
Here's yet another Windows 7 feature that sounds simple--almost too simple to matter--yet makes a huge difference in daily work. Let's re-insert yourself into that chaotic desktop situation mentioned above. What if you'd just like to have one single window on the desktop? In Vista, you had to either show the desktop and then click on the window you wanted to appear alone, or you had to manually minimize each and every window except your preferred one. What a pain. Aero Shake lets you grab a window, shake your mouse like a crazy person, and watch all of the other windows shrink down into the task bar. It's the Windows equivalent of a stress reliever ball, but it actually helps your productivity.


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6. Aero Snap
In case you haven't noticed, Windows 7 puts Aero to good use. Rather than just making your windows, desktop and transitions look "cooler," Aero Snap is another great tool for instantly re-arranging your desktop into how you'd like it. Using this is simple; you just grab a window, ram it into the left or right side, and immediately that window resizes to fill precisely half of your desktop space (on whichever side you slammed it into). Do the same process to another window on the opposite side, and bam, you've just maximized your screen space while viewing two documents/web pages/etc. Oh, and if you want to get really crazy, you can slam a window into the top of your desktop space in order to maximize that document to full screen. Brilliant.


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7. A Smart Task bar
The task bar in Windows Vista was simply a shiny version of the task bar in Windows XP. Sure, it worked, but it didn't innovate. And look, you're paying a lot of money for this new OS--surely some innovation should come standard, right? Windows 7's task bar enables users to pin app launchers and documents to the bar, and it even lets you pin web pages and specific shortcuts on each main icon. As we alluded to earlier, the new task bar also stacks up documents in a certain application (such as three Firefox windows or four Adobe Reader documents) in order to pop-up the available windows when moused over rather than crowding the screen with all of them. Simple, subtle and perfect.


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8. A Windows Media Center That Likes Media
For casual users of Windows Media Center, the one in Windows Vista is probably "good enough." But for those with multiple TV tuners, a Netflix subscription and a library of movies that runs a few hundred titles deep, there were loads of issues to deal with. We won't get into the nuts and bolts of it all, but suffice it to say, the Windows Media Center within Windows 7 runs a whole lot smoother, feels a lot less like a shoe-horned addition to the OS and is actually built to handle extenders such as the Xbox 360. If Microsoft ever wanted to be taken seriously in the HTPC arena, it had to nail its own media playing software; thankfully, it did. Win7's version boasts a slicker interface, faster transitions and integration with far more web content portals. Oh, and did we mention the extra long list of compatible HTPC hardware? Chances are, your TV tuner, sound card and optical drive will work without any extra drivers on Windows 7, and simplicity is always a good thing.


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9. Search That Works
Microsoft really, really fine tuned searching in Windows 7, and considering that an operating system is a big, scary world, it makes perfect sense. You'll probably find yourself search for one thing or another on a daily basis, so wouldn't it be nice if your OS was ready at all times to help you find it? Vista's search was universally a pain. It oftentimes wouldn't search in the places you needed it to, and many times it would look right over the file you were trying to find. Worst of all, it acted like it needed you to give it "a head start" by telling in where in the drive to search. Windows 7, on the other hand, allows you to simply hit the Windows key and start typing; your text automatically goes into a search field and the gears start turning as soon as you mash the first hey. Windows 7 is far better at indexing material to search, and we've yet to type in something that it couldn't locate.


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10. Multi-touch Support
We know multi-touch wasn't at the height of popularity in 2007, but it wasn't unheard of. Microsoft's own Surface paved the way for simpler, consumer-oriented multi-touch applications, so we're confident the boys and girls in Redmond know a thing or two about it. Vista simply wasn't built for touch, which is baffling given the amount of Tablet PCs on the market (particularly in enterprise) and the amount of touch-panel PCs that are shipping. Windows 7 rights that wrong, however, added a deep level of multi-touch support throughout the OS. We recently reviewed a multi-touch Lenovo notebook, and the interaction between Win7 and the touch-friendly panel was amazing. Take a look below.



All told, we think Windows 7 is an outstanding operating system, and it really improves on the areas that Vista was weak. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, Microsoft has done what Apple did with its most recent OS, 'Snow Leopard.' Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. It's Windows Vista done right. Thankfully for us, it's Windows Vista done right and more, as the ten features we listed are nowhere to be found within the prior system.


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Windows 7 could still stand to be improved, sure. For starters, there shouldn't be so many OS options; having a half dozen difference Win7 retail boxes is only bound to confuse consumers, though we are thrilled to know that some netbooks will soon start shipping with the OS. If you've been looking for more from your OS while using Vista, Windows 7 is worth a look. If you've been holding tight to Windows XP after hearing horror stories of Vista, you can finally sleep easy knowing that this upgrade won't ruin your life. Of course, Microsoft doesn't make it super easy to migrate all of your files and settings from XP to Win7, but with a little extra effort (think Windows 7 Easy Transfer Wizard)  it's not all that painful.


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Will Windows 7 finally get people smiling when discussing Microsoft's operating systems again? Based on our testing, we'd say yes--but you have to wonder, is Microsoft benefiting here from Vista being so problematic? Either way, we're excited about the new features and streamlined nature of the new OS, and we're betting future service packs have even more of that "wow" in store that we've been waiting for since early '07.

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11. XP mode?! Big Smile

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XP Mode that doesn't demand higher cost VT support... as 98% Netbooks don't offer VT! Making it 100% impossible to run legacy software as a Microsoft paid solution!

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The new things in Windows 7 search is good but they left out things in XP that was good.

For example, lets say you plug in an external harddrive and quickly want to search for all music (whether its wma, mp3 etc.) or even pictures as well. It takes you just a few click on XP as you can actually choose what type of media you want. In Windows 7 you have to write down the extensions down yourself. Once you know the commands it's okay but your average person won't know that. The average person wants fields to fill in their quiery.  Lets take mp3s as example again. Lets say someone wants to (linear) search all mp3s that are between 3 and 5 MB, simple in XP? Yes, simple in Windows 7? No. It has predefined sizes and I can't figure out how to enter my own. Also if you want many things that little search box is pretty small.

Just know I was trying to make a search inside the first search results and I couldn't figure it out. I'm no Guru but I'm an expert in comparison to the average Joe. How are they supposed to figure it out?

So to finalize what I'm trying to say: the little search box is okay, it's nice that it's always there for the small searches. But to make queries more specific it's not user friendly. There should also be a Search window like in XP with many many many fields that are very user friendly. In today's age where you have lots of information and not all of it is indexed, being able to make complex queries should easy. And not only do we have lots of information but we also have old information that we can't remember are located. A perfect example is an old laptop from which you took out the hard-drive that has some needed files.

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I still can't stand the photo import mechanism in Vista. It's either all or nothing. I'll often have photos from multiple "shoots" or occasions on the same memory card. Vista won't let me give them a name that goes with the shoot unless I DL the card immediately after each use. XP was way friendlier in this regard. I could import photos 1-25 with one serialized file name to one directory, and then files 26-60 to another directory with another serialized file name. The Vista method makes no sense at all.

 

That said, I do like Vista as a whole much better than XP, and am looking forward to Win7 after spending some time playing with the RC.  I just wish they'd gotten a couple more of the little things right.

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Everytime I see multi-touch used, it's just for pinch & zoom operations.  Like the demo video showed for HH in the browser.

Do this (in Firefox):  hold down your control key, and use your mouse scroll wheel.  Congrats - you just saved yourself from putting fingerprint smudges all over your monitor.

None of these features strikes a chord with me...  They've all been present in Compiz for a long time.  Where's the MS "innovation"?

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@3vi1: Innovation? The whole company started off by rebranding Quick&DirtyDOS into PC-DOS and selling it to IBM. In '84 they ridiculed the idea of needing a graphical user interface with a pointing device. MS has had moments of ingenuity, but mostly they've been followers instead of leaders.

Having suffered Vista Hell for years, I appreciate 7's improvements. There are a few features that Windows 7 is still missing, though.

  1. Stability, or at least, better crash recovery. I leave my computer on so that I can run F@H. Of course, I have the monitor set to dim after 20 minutes. Groovy, but lately I've been returning to see that "Windows has encountered a serious problem" dialog, which says that I had a BSOD (wasn't that supposed to have been fixed in Vista?). Unfortunately, the monitor stays active, and I can't tell how long it's been glaring into nothingness. In the meantime, no folding is going on because
  2. Startup is messedup. There are several executables in my Startup list which should launch at boot time but don't, so I have to manually launch each one (and click on that User Account Control (UAC) window, despite having told 7 that the program should be run with Administrator privileges). I know it's not hard to launch a program, but why, with a computer, should I have to do this routine task manually? Oh, and theres still too much UAC in the system. Yes, I do want to run that program I just double-clicked, Mr. Windows, thank you very much.
  3. Consistency. Often when I unplug a flash drive (using "Eject" from its contextual menu first, natch) and then replug it, all of the folder properties are lost. I have to go to Properties for each one and tell 7 again that this is a video folder, this one has pictures, etc.

Yes, I'm getting the OEM version to replace the Release To Master (RTM) that Microsoft let us download in September. Sure, it lacks tech support, but since I can't remember a single instance of Microsoft tech support being useful, I'll miss it like I missed the third nipple they surgically removed when I was born. And perhaps with more modern hardware, some of the crashing will go away. But I'm going into this not saying "wow," but saying "huh, that's slightly better than the previous version."

Maybe that's what MS was shooting for.

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Clem, Microsoft has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. But to have such a large computer software company in today's age is an anomaly. How has Microsoft managed to retain its main and most successful source of income (Windows + Windows based products)? With computer programming being taught in high schools, you'd think someone would have created decent competition for Microsoft by now.

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>> you'd think someone would have created decent competition for Microsoft by now

They have, but it doesn't come pre-installed on your new PC from BestBuy, so no one tries it.  Since no one tries it, the major software companies (i.e. game makers) ignore it, so the people selling PCs don't pre-install it.  And the vicious cycle continues.

Also, when you have someone like Steve Ballmer spreading FUD by saying this OS violates over 228 Microsoft patents (based on his misunderstanding of a PUBPAT report) and refusing to name any of the patents, it scares companies away from depending on it.  Unless said company owns as many combative patents as IBM, who recently went to a completely Windows-free desktop internally.

Windows is not the king because it's the best OS, it's the king because it got the majority share first, and has the most cutthroat management money can buy.

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if you bought Vista, Steaming, Smelly, Vista, then Win-7 should be free or close to free for you. They should have worn masks when they introduced Vista to the world.

Win-7 is a good OS.

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That reminds me...  did they get around to fixing this in the final release so that it says 7.0 instead of letting people know that internally it's Vista-point-one?

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