The Must-Have Features in Windows 7
Get a visual walk-through of the great new features in Microsoft's latest OS release.
Windows 7 has been released for a while now, and has remained highly popular among users who have switched to it. Personally, I've been using Windows 7 as my primary operating environment since Windows 7 RC, or more than half a year.
One thing is for sure, you certainly won't find me switching back to Windows Vista or Windows XP. So what are some of the practical things to like about Windows 7? I work on Windows 7 Enterprise, and I've compiled a list of 10 of what I love about it.
In addition, simply point the mouse cursor toward any open application on the task bar to see an instant thumbnail of its window - perfect for quickly finding the right window.
There was a time when I would painstakingly organize the shortcuts to my favorite applications into folders, then load them as Toolbars in order to have them show up on my taskbar. With Windows 7, getting an application icon onto the taskbar is as simple as right-clicking on the icon and selecting "Pin to Taskbar." Voila, it magically appears on the Taskbar.
Honestly, I didn't really figure this out until a couple of months back. With just about every laptop being sold now having a widescreen display, have you ever needed to position two documents side-by-side? Rather than tearing your hair out in frustration, Aero Snap offers a quick and easy way to "snap" windows into the left or right half of your screen simply by dragging Windows to the edges. (You can also snap windows vertically.)
Personally, I use the shortcut combination of Win-key with Left/Right Arrow key.
A Jump List is what you'll see when you right-click on a program icon on the Windows 7 taskbar (or Start menu). What appears depends on the specific application, but typically contains a list of frequently or last-viewed files, as well as quick access to common commands.
Improved Boot Performance
When I first installed Windows 7 on my Sony laptop, I was flabbergasted by just how fast it was. Of course, I also happened to be running off a very fast Samsung Solid State Disk - installed at great trouble, and which effectively voided the warranty, I might add.
Still, 11 seconds from loading Windows to a fully usable laptop without the benefit of Windows 7 optimized drivers is nothing to scoff at.
Support for SSD
Microsoft has done a lot of re-engineering to Windows 7 since Windows Vista to improve its SSD read and write speeds; the use of ATA commands and support for the TRIM command further increases write speeds. Features that are not relevant or that slow down SSD are also disabled by default on Windows.
I'll go as far as to say that I will not go back to a laptop without an SSD. You can read an official Q&A about Windows 7's SSD support here.
BitLocker To Go
BitLocker To Go (as with BitLocker) is found only on the Enterprise edition of Windows 7. For enterprise users, it allows them to protect the data stored on portable drives by encrypting them on-the-fly. Set up is extremely easy and recovery keys can be managed via policy-configured Active Directory Domain Services integration.
I've been using various editions of Windows 7 for more than half a year now, and its stability is bliss compared with Windows Vista or even Windows XP. While I would be lying to say that it never crashes, it does so infrequently and is otherwise rock stable.
Windows XP Mode
Need to run Windows XP due to some legacy OS or to run some potentially dangerous software without any risk to your PC? You can make use of Windows XP Mode to run, well, Windows XP as a virtual machine. Of course, your processor must first be capable of hardware-assisted virtualization with AMD-V, Intel VT or VIA VT enabled.
If you're unsure, you can download the Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool to find out.
Ok, this isn't technically something that would qualify as an official feature in Windows 7. However, the folks over at Connectify found that the Windows team did some unfinished work to virtualize the network plumbing in Windows 7. Using it, they managed to build a GUI and an interface that transforms your Windows 7 workstation into a full-fledged AP for other Wi-Fi devices - while it is connected to an AP!
Connectify is particularly useful when trying to share the Wi-Fi connections at hotels and cafes with only one user ID. In fact, there appear to be a number of users who switched to Windows 7 just for this feature!