Is it a major release or just a revamped Windows Vista? Thatís the big question surrounding Windows 7, which made its public debut in a keynote address by Steven Sinofsky today at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
Microsoft executives showed off the new Windows upgrade in a day-long series of demos on Sunday, doing their level best to impress a room full of journalists with a long list of new and improved features. At the end of the day, they loaned me a sleek new Lenovo X300 notebook running a recent build of the OS so that I could test Windows 7 for myself.
Iím using that loaner PC to compose this post, but I canít use several of the key Windows 7 features that I saw over the weekend. The problem? My test machine is running the M3 release of Windows 7, build 6801, which was locked down more than six weeks ago in preparation for distribution at PDC. The demos I saw on Sunday were using more recent builds (6926 and 6933, according to ID tags on the desktop), which contain some significant revisions to core Windows features.
As a result of that dichotomy, the gallery that accompanies this post contains a mix of screen shots I created and screens provided by Microsoft from those later builds. (My Windows Vista Inside Out co-author Carl Siechert assisted in the preparation of this post and the accompanying screen shots.)
This loaner machine certainly doesnít feel like itís running pre-beta code. Itís wicked fast and eerily quiet thanks to a solid state drive. In a very long dayís worth of use it has yet to crash or display any of the flaky behavior you might expect from a beta.
So whatís in Windows 7?
The most visible new features are enhancements that streamline core Windows tasks like connecting to a wireless network or organizing a digital music collection. But the new OS features are more than just skin-deep; there are also improvements to core components, such as an innovative way to stream music and other media directly to network-connected media players.
Some of the tweaks to the Windows interface are blindingly obvious, at least in retrospect. Explorer windows now include a button that toggles the preview pane on and off; in Vista, you have to drill three levels deep into a menu to enable or disable the preview pane. Much cooler is the new technique for maximizing, restoring, and resizing a window. Drag the windowís title bar to the top of the screen and it maximizes. Drag the title bar of a maximized window away from the top of the screen and it restores to its former position. Drag a window to either side of the screen and it resizes to fill half the screen. Drag another window to the opposite side and, voila, you now have two windows arranged side by. side
On the next page, weíll show you some of other key improvements to the Windows 7 desktop. A first look at Windows 7’s pre-beta PDC release | Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report | ZDNet.com