Sunday, 18 January 2009

Windows 7 Beta UI changes

So, if you read the last post, you will see that I now have a fully working Windows 7 system, with fairly little work and only a small amount of swearing required to get it to that stage.

Firstly, regarding the new or changed UI parts of the OS. As everyone knows, the taskbar has been changed substantially, the quick launch bar has been removed and you now pin applications to the taskbar, a bit like, dare I say it, OS X’s dock. At first glance I thought ‘this is shit, I’m really not going to like this’ because it’s a big change for Windows and lets face it, us humans are scared of change and the unknown.

However, I decided to leave it in the default ‘hide labels’ mode, and believe it or not, it works rather nicely and when I have a shitload of programs open, my taskbar doesn’t end up ridiculously full. Hovering over the running program icon gives you a pop up with all of the open Windows like the screenshot below:

taskbar1

As you can see, I have 2 instances of Windows Live Messenger running, logged into 2 different MSN accounts. The first 2 are the hidden WLM main Windows, to show you are signed in. (On Vista these are the icons in the system tray). The 3rd is the main window for the first instance, and the second is a conversation from the first instance also.

See screenshots while I was running IE with 2 instances, 1 with 3 tabs open and the other with 2 tabs open.

iehover

And if I right click on the IE icon:

ierightclick

So, while those UI changes are fairly radical, they are actually very usable and very easy to get used to.

The Notification Area has also been changed substantially with a different method of choosing what you want to be shown. It then hides the rest of the icons in a little box which is accessible by clicking the little up arrow to the right of the Notification Area.

The use of Aero for resizing windows is a major step forwards. If you want a window maximised, move the window to the top of the screen and hold it for a second until you see the outline go right round the screen. Pull it back from the top of the screen it goes back to the size it was, see screenshot (Poor but you can see the outline):

fullscreenaero

If you drag a window to the left edge of the screen it will maximise it to fill that half of the screen, similarly if you drag a window to the edge of the right hand side of the screen it will maximise that to fill the right half of the screen. This makes copying between programs very easy. Also, if you resize the bottom of a window down to the taskbar so it touches the taskbar, it will also do the same at the top so it touches the top of the screen as well. Any movement of the window cancels these out and the window goes back to it’s original size.

The new theme selectors are much better too and the desktop slideshow, although it’s been around for years on KDE, is a welcome addition for Windows 7.

Sorry for the waffling about this new UI, it’s just there is a lot of changes to the way Aero works and the UI in itself, so much so that I haven’t got onto application compatibility yet which I will do in the next post. :-)

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