Microsoft has been accused over the years of stealing many of the Mac's features for Windows. But Windows 7 shows that there are things that Apple can learn from Microsoft. Here are four things that Mac OS X can learn from Windows 7.
Windows 7 taskbar
Start off with the new taskbar. Yes, I know that the Windows 7 taskbar has been modeled on the Mac OS X Dock, but Microsoft does it one better. Both the Dock and the Windows 7 taskbar do double duty as task switchers and program launchers. But the Windows 7 taskbar does it better, particularly as a task switcher. When you're running a program, and it's got multiple windows open, you see an indication of how many windows are open. By hovering over the program's icon, you can see thumbnails of every program running. It's simply better than the Dock.
Related to the new taskbar is the new jump list feature. A jump list is a list of actions or items associated with a particular application. To see a jump list for any application, right-click its icon in the taskbar or in the Most Recently Used Application list on the Start menu. Each jump list's actions or items varies according to the program, but generally you'll see a history list of recently opened files, as well as ways to customize how the application works, such as pinning it to the taskbar. When you right-click an icon in the Mac OS X Dock, you also get a list of items, but they don't include recently used files. Mac OS X should learn from Window 7 and add that feature.
Insane Desktop backgrounds
The choice of Windows 7 Desktop backgrounds is as strange and bizarrely entertaining group of artwork as you'll come across on a PC. They combine Sergeant Pepper-style psychedelics with Japanese anime, with a healthy dose of Hieronymus Bosch grotesques thrown in. Microsoft, for once, seems to have gone wild and crazy.
In the Mac OS X background, by way of contrast, Apple seems to have discovered its inner nerd. Beach, forest, nature, abstract art...yes, it's all there, and all exceedingly dull. I have no doubt there are plenty of artists at Apple waiting to strut their stuff. Apple should turn them loose.
The Windows Network Center isn't new to Windows 7 --- it's been around since Vista. But it was one of the best things about Vista, and remains one of the best things about Windows. It brings together every setting and option you can imagine about networking -- much superior to the Internet & Network section of Mac OS X's System Preferences. And the Network Map, which shows a live, graphical map of your network, is great as well. Apple should steal it.
This story, "Teaching Mac OS X a Few Windows 7 Tricks" was originally published by Computerworld.