by Mike Shinn
I am currently testing Windows 7, Microsoft's new operating system that will replace Vista. You may have heard some negative comments about Vista from friends, or even experienced it yourself. Microsoft has heard your complaints and is rushing to replace Vista with something that you can be happy with.
If you are already using Vista, good news! This is so similar to Vista that you won't notice the difference in functionality. The parts that you will miss are things like the annoying pop-up warnings at every turn. You will also notice that your computer works about twice as fast and on about twice the battery life of Vista - all of the benefits that you were used to with XP.
If you are still using XP, I would like to introduce you to some of the features that might be initially confusing. First, say goodbye to the green start button in the lower-left corner. It has been replaced by a glowing circular start button. Press this button to find your programs just like before - it just looks a little different from XP in color and shape. Next, you will notice that the taskbar on the bottom of your screen is a little bit larger than before. Also, besides Internet Explorer, there are no longer any other programs locked into the taskbar to run. You can still open them from the start button, and the advanced users will be able to "pin" them to the taskbar for future use. If you have multiple windows open (such as several Internet Explorer pages open) Windows 7 will group these by default, just click and then grab the page you want to go to. It is very intuitive. The "Show Desktop" button has transformed as well. Everyone's favorite feature that minimizes all open windows has been moved to the lower right-corner and is not labeled. Still, use it a couple of times and you will grow to prefer its new location over its old home next to the start button.
Windows 7 also comes pre-loaded with IE8. Internet explorer 8 is fast like IE6, but gives you the convenience of tabbed browsing like IE7. Best of all, if you close out of your websites, the next time you open IE, it will ask you if you would like to continue on with the previously-closed websites. For those of you familiar with Firefox, it is a very similar browser.
Windows 7 hasn't been without its own hurdles. If you don't update immediately in this beta version, for example, it will remove the first few seconds of all of your mp3 music. But, it's good to remember that this is still the beta test of the software and that this bug will be addressed in the general release of the software. (Note: Microsoft did immediately patch this bug for its beta test users). One other major hurdle of the software - it does take significant resources to run. Do not expect to upgrade your old Windows98 workstation. However, if your computer is currently running XP with 4 GB of RAM and 80 GB of harddrive, you should be okay to take the plunge.
If you waited for a Vista alternative, your patience will pay off with Windows 7. It has all of the functionality of Windows XP with none of the hassle of Windows Vista.