Friday, July 31, 2009

Windows 7 - the little things add up

Back to Microsoft Windows 7, which is still performing better and with fewer problems on my main desktop PC than Vista ever did. (I’m holding my breath.)

In this first in an occasional series of updates on the experience with Win7 Release Candidate 1 (available for another couple of weeks as a free download), I want to take a closer look at the new taskbar, which I mentioned in a previous post. It’s significantly improved.

Under Vista, when you mouse over an icon for a program in which one document is open, you see a thumbnail of the document, but it's really too small to be useful. If multiple documents are open, you see a not very useful stack of thumbnails, with only the top one visible. (Tap the icon and you get a pop-up list of document names.)

Windows 7 improves on this in a few ways. When you mouse over a program with multiple open documents, a row of significantly larger thumbnails appear side by side above the taskbar. You can see enough to, for example, distinguish Outlook Inbox from Outlook Calendar, making it easier and faster to select the document or activity you want.

Furthermore, when you mouse over a thumbnail, the document moves temporarily to the top of the desktop and appears full size. (Microsoft calls this taskbar peek.) So you can easily read or see information without having to switch to a different program or document.

This is a real convenience if, like me, you’re constantly being interrupted in a task and forget information in another open document that you need to complete the job at hand.

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