Microsoft Windows 7: A Closer Look at Your Next OS?

Pre-beta code for Windows 7 released this week addresses many complaints about Windows Vista--and introduces a slew of changes intended to make the OS faster, easier to use, and more customizable. Take a look at some of the more visible features, including a redesigned UAC, handy Jump Lists, and more.

Windows 7 Makes Its Pre-Beta Debut

Windows 7, successor to Windows Vista, is slated to ship in early 2010 (although rumor has it that Microsoft hopes to get it out even earlier. But aside from saying it will refine Vista's kernel, Microsoft hadn't released many details about the new OS--until now. Pre-beta code distributed at the Microsoft Professional Developers' conference suggests that Microsoft is serious about creating a less in-your-face OS.

For a comprehensive look at the next edition of Microsoft's flagship OS, read Windows 7 First Look: A Big Fix for Vista. And for much more on Windows 7, from various angles, click on the following links:

Windows 7 on YouTube? (video)

Azure and Windows 7 Explained (Azure will be Microsoft's approach to cloud computing.)

Windows 7: Will Your PC Be Ready?

Microsoft Plans a Stripped-Down Windows 7

Video - See Windows 7 Multi-Touch Demoed

Microsoft Defends 'Windows 7' Moniker

Windows 7 Fuels War Against Google

Meet Your Next Desktop: Sidebar Dies; Gadgets Live

Microsoft has killed the Sidebar in Windows 7, but the Gadgets it contained live on. They simply sit wherever you choose to place them on your desktop.

Jump Lists Provide Easy Access to Common Tasks

Both the Taskbar and the Start Menu now include Jump Lists--context-sensitive selections of actions relating to a particular application, such as files you've used recently or access frequently.

Device Stage: One-Stop Acess to Hardware-Related Tasks and Information

Device Stage is a new feature that gathers all of the information (everything from drivers and applications to manuals) relating to a particular phone, printer, or other piece of hardware, and lets you access it from a single window. But it will show up only if device vendors create an XML document based on a Microsoft template, a document that also must be approved by Microsoft. The good news is that such documents are a lot easier to create than new device drivers--and vendors can stick with the drivers created for Vista.

Libraries Aggregate Like Content in Different Locations

Windows 7 introduces Libraries, which are virtual folders that provide easy access to related content, regardless of its location on your PC or even on your network. While the OS will ship with several preset Libraries (Documents, Music, Photos, Video) based on file type, you can create additional Libraries based on criteria you set, such as music genre or photos created on a specific date.

User Account Control Slider Gives You Greater Control Over Security Settings

Vista's famously annoying User Account Control becomes less annoying: It now lets you control which potential security risks it alerts you to, and which ones it lets slide.

Windows Solution Center Replaces Pesky Systray Balloons

The new Windows Solution Center lets you review notifications about potential system problems at your convenience, rather than when you're in the middle of doing something else.

Federated Search Scans Networked PCs

The new Federated Search feature collates results from multiple PCs on a network into one list of results.

Custom Theme Creation Gets Easier

Windows 7 introduces a slicker interface for choosing, customizing, and/or creating desktop Themes--a feature Microsoft says it will rename Styles before Windows 7 ships.

Take a Closer Look

The new Magnifier feature lets you enlarge a part of a screen in Windows 7.

Where's My Desktop?

If you frequently work with multiple windows and need to grab something off your desktop, you'll like the ability to quickly take a look. Here's a Windows 7 desktop before you click on the lower right hand corner of the taskbar...

Oh, There It Is!

...And here's the same Windows 7 desktop shown in the previous slide, but with the windows hidden. Now you can see the desktop itself.

Route Music and Video From PCs to Streaming Devices

Windows 7 can route music and video from PCs on your home network to streaming devices on the Net.

Lightweight Windows Media Player

Windows 7's Windows Media Player now pops up in a streamlined version that doesn't overwhelm you with features or hog your entire display.

Windows Media Player Jump List

In the revamped Windows Media Player, a Jump List provides access to recently played content.

Paint Application Now Uses Ribbon

Windows 7's Paint application has adopted Microsoft's so-called Scenic Ribbon toolbar interface, as first seen in Office 2007. The ribbon also appears in WordPad.

Do the Math

In Windows 7, the trusty Calculator accessory gets a makeover.

Easily Check Battery Life

To help you conserve power when using a laptop, Windows 7 provides an improved battery indicator.

Again, for a comprehensive look at the new OS, see Windows 7 First Look: A Big Fix for Vista.

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