Windows 7's Worst Features

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Complicated Themes

Windows 7 themes simplify switching various interface elements simultaneously, but they complicate the task of changing a background image.
All I wanted to do was change my desktop background--not get new system sounds or a new color scheme or a new mouse pointer. In XP, adopting one of my own photos as my desktop background took just a few clicks; and even in Windows Vista, the process was pretty straightforward. But Windows 7's themes take changing your desktop background to a new and unpleasant level of complication.

Themes in Windows 7 are predefined profiles that compile everything from your system sounds, screen savers, and windows colors in one place, where you can activate them with just one click. For the most part this is a great and highly customizable feature, but one of the things people are most likely to want to change is their desktop background. So why not make this basic act something you can do on the fly in just a few clicks, instead of the confusing rigmarole Windows 7 makes you go through now?

Vague Control Panel

The Windows 7 Control Panel's default Category view is vague and confusing. Switch to Large Icons view for an interface that’s easier to navigate.
The problem with the Control Panel started with Windows XP's introduction of Classic View. In truth, there’s nothing classic about this view, and "Standard View" would be a more apt name for it. Though the Classic View in XP has a very practical organizational structure, Microsoft insisted on switching to a new default organization in Windows 7 called ‘Category.’

Though it may contain numerous icons, the Large Icons view in the Windows 7 Control Panel is easier to navigate than the Category view’s vague and confusing options.
Supposedly, Category provides a simplified version of the Control Panel; but in reality it’s vague, confusing, and much harder to navigate. The display closest to the Control Panel's old Classic View is called ‘Large icons’, and you select it in the ‘View by’ drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the Control Panel window.

The other trouble with the Control Panel is that, ever since Vista, some icons have acquired more-confusing names. The straightforward 'Add or remove programs', became 'Programs and Features', and ‘Accessibility Options’ became ‘Ease of Access Center'. Give me that old-time Windows 98 Control Panel any day.

Screenshots: Easy but Not Simple

Creating screen grabs, which I do every day, has always been a chore in Windows. Before Windows 7 you had to press Ctrl-Print Screen, open a program such as Windows Paint, paste the image into Paint, and then save it. You can still do this in Windows 7, but Microsoft has tried to make the screenshot process easier by introducing the Snipping Tool. To access this new application, clicking Start, Accessories, Snipping Tool.

Windows 7 Snipping Tool; click for full-size image.
The Windows 7 Snipping Tool is the most efficient way yet to capture screenshots in Windows, but Mac OS X's approach is simpler still.
The Snipping Tool offers such options as a one-window snip, a full-screen snip, a rectangular snip that you frame yourself, and a free-form snip for tablet computers. You select the snip you want, the application performs the action, and then you save. But again, Windows 7 falls short by making the screen capture path unnecessarily difficult.

In contrast, Mac OS X gives you two basic choices for screen grabs: Command-Shift-3 takes a shot of the whole screen; and Command-Shift-4 lets you frame your own shot. Screenshots in OS X are saved directly to your desktop as a Portable Network Graphic file (.png). Like the Snipping Tool, Mac OS X offers various other screenshot options, but in OS X the variations use keyboard shortcuts and don’t require you to open any applications. Microsoft should create a similarly easy method for capturing screenshots.

Tip: To make screen grabs a little easier, create a keyboard shortcut to the Snipping Tool. Click Start, Accessories, and right-click Snipping Tool, Properties. Move your cursor into the Shortcut tab’s entry box, enter s (or any other keystroke), and click apply. From now on, whenever you type Ctrl-Alt-s, the Snipping Tool should open up.

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