One of the benefits to writing a book about an OS or application is that you have to spend hours going through all the details, turning over every stone and dialog box, finding the good and bad and ugly, and putting it together in a way that others will understand. In doing this for my new Spotlight book on Windows 7 for Que, I've found some really cool features I didn't even know existed. In case you missed them too, I'll share my top 10 here, presented in reverse order.
10. Federated searches. Federated searches extend Explorer search capabilities beyond the desktop, allowing you to search remote repositories through "search connectors." You can find and download these connectors throughout the Internet. For example, noted Internet blogger Long Zheng at istartedsomething.com has one for Flickr that I downloaded and tested. Connectors have more than a coolness factor for those who work with Flickr and other external sites. As Zheng says, "Imagine the possibilities. Searching the files on your remote Windows Home Server, searching your documents on Google Docs, finding music on Pandora, finding videos on YouTube, finding PDFs from your library. Basically anywhere with a repository of files."
[ Randall Kennedy and Thom Holwerda debate both sides of the Windows 7 in InfoWorld's matchup. | Get the analysis and insights that only Randall C. Kennedy can provide on Windows tech in InfoWorld's Enterprise Desktop blog and Technology: Windows newsletter. And download our free Windows performance-monitoring tool. ]
9. Libraries. A library provides you with the ability to see more than one folder's worth of content in one view. So, for example, the Documents library will show all of your documents in My Documents (C:\Users\<username>\Documents) and Public Documents (C:\Users\Public\Documents) and any other locations you choose. This isn't exactly a new concept. Windows Vista let you perform saved searches and create virtual folders in Explorer. However, Windows 7 libraries also let you write to these saved searches, which you couldn't do before.
8. UAC slider. Personally, I liked the UAC (User Account Control) in Windows Vista. I felt better protected than I did using Windows XP. But I agree that we need an easier way to choose how much protection we want. I mean, it may be safer for people to lock their doors and shut their windows at night, but sometimes there's a good reason to leave a window open. Now you can. Windows 7 provides four UAC settings you can configure with the slider: a) Never Notify; b) Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop); c) Default - Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer; d) Always Notify.
7. Action Center. Originally I thought this was merely a new name for the Security Center. But in fact Action Center does more than its predecessor. In addition to altering security information (Windows Update, Windows Firewall, Windows Defender, User Account Control, Network and Internet security settings), you can now access maintenance information and troubleshoot computer problems. Here you can check for solutions to problem reports, perform backups or recovery, and more. Yes, it's a one-stop shop.