Now that Windows 7 has been out for some time, many people are starting to transition to it from Windows XP. It is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase a computer with Windows XP pre-installed, and many are upgrading their existing PCs to the new operating system from Microsoft. When faced with using Windows 7 for the first time, many new features are available that provide new opportunities for challenges as well as expanded capabilities. Below I have outlined several of the new features.
Libraries: Whereas Windows XP made it very difficult to store data in a location other than My Documents, the Windows 7 Libraries directory structure makes things much simpler as you have separate folders for your Personal Documents, Public Documents that are shared with others, as well as downloads and pictures. It is also much easier to include additional folders, including from remote network locations. This can be a real productivity helper as this provides a convenient starting location to all of your important storage locations.
Homegroup: Creating a network to share information between computers in a small environment without a server to manage things could be tricky on Windows XP. Either unnecessary accounts needed to be created on PCs sharing data to control access, or all users where given access to all shared data. Maintaining multiple accounts could become very time consuming when a password was changed as it would need to be changed on all computers. With the Homegroup, Windows 7 manages all of this for you as one needs only to configure a homegroup and establish a homegroup password. With the use of this password, the actual account that a user is connecting with becomes less important. This gives the person configuring sharing more flexibility and requires less maintenance to keep things working properly. This is a great feature for small environments without a dedicated file server.
Aero Snap: In today’s world of increased multi-tasking, it is often helpful to hot only have multiple applications open at the same time, but also be able to view multiple applications at the same time. In previous versions of Windows, this could be a time consuming operation to setup the way the user liked. In Windows 7 it is as simple as dragging an application to one side of the screen. It will then automatically expand to fill one half of the screen. Drag a second application to the other side of the screen for the same effect and now you can easily multi-task and refer to two applications at the same time without having to continually minimize and maximize the applications.
Aero Shake: In the past if your desktop became cluttered with multiple applications, you had to visit each running program individually and minimize it to the taskbar. This could be time consuming if you had more than a few applications running at the time. In Windows 7, you can utilize Aero Shake to accomplish the same task. To use Aero Shake, simply click and hold on the taskbar of the application you would like to keep displayed on your desktop and shake the mouse. All other applications will minimize to the Windows taskbar. Repeating the process will bring all of the other applications back with the same window size and location they originally had.
Snipping Tool: In Windows XP, creating a screenshot could be a time consuming task. Either you needed a third party application, or you used the PrtScr key to copy the current contents of the desktop to the clipboard and then started an application where you could paste the picture before cropping it to only select the parts you wished to display. The Snipping Tool in Windows 7 simplifies this task and makes it much quicker and easier. It also provides additional flexibility concerning what part of the screen you would like to capture.
Problem Steps Recorder: As more and more end users need to rely on remote support over the phone, it becomes difficult for both end users and support personal. Often times a user is doing something in a very unusual way, and lacking the proper technical terminology, finds it very difficult to explain to support what they are doing. As a result, the support personal cannot duplicate the problem. With the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder, the end user can simply start this application and record all of the steps required to produce the issue. The Problem Steps Recorder then creates a zip file containing all the necessary information, along with screen shots to send to support personal to aid then in diagnosing and correcting the problem.
These are just a few of the many new and exciting features that are provided with Windows 7. While there is going to be a learning curve in the adoption of any new technology, once one uses Windows 7 for a while they will find that the many enhancements vastly outweigh the initial difficulties in making the change. As more people adopt Windows 7 and become comfortable with it’s use, Windows XP will slowly fade in use.