It’s worth reviewing the full list of new features in Windows 7 if only to give you fresh ideas. Guy bets that you will find at least one feature that you did not know existed, for example ‘Aero Shake’. In my case, reviewing Windows 7 also reminded me of a number of items that I had overlooked in Vista, for example biometrics.
Microsoft Windows 7 Features Review
- Windows 7 Cosmetic Changes
- Review of Windows 7 New Networking Features
- What’s New in Group Policy
- HomeGroup – (Home Network)
- User Account Control – Better Balance
- Biometrics and Smart Cards
- Search, Browse, and Organization
- Vista Items Removed from Windows 7
- Windows 8.1 Latest Features
I believe that learning should be fun; I even believe that working should be fun. Vista was an interesting operating system, yet all too often it was frustrating; consequently, one could easily get into the wrong frame of mind. Later on this page I will review Windows 7’s technical enhancements. But for now I want to highlight innovative cosmetic changes because they make us feel good and put us in a good mood ready to tackle our day-to-day tasks.
‘Customer in Control’ is the mantra, thus Window 7 does not allow newly installed programs to bully their way into the Taskbar, and the Notification Area is also cleaner and uncluttered;
There are subtle changes in behavior for displaying open programs on the Taskbar, for instance if you open a Windows explorer, the icon for the new window stacks onto the existing pinned icon rather than creating a separate icon on the taskbar. See screenshot showing the lower example with no explorers open, in contrast, the top strip featuring a glowing icon with 4 windows open.
Moreover, you also get more ‘drill-down’, just hover over a preview and see details of what’s going on in that program, for example views or files that are open. As ever, you can right-click the Taskbar and change its properties and how it combines these buttons.
The Old Quick Launch
For Luddites, like my friend Mad Mick, it is possible to get back the old Quick Launch
Aero Shake (Title bar) and Aero Snap (Side-by-side Windows)
Discover the ‘Aero Shake’, and instantly clear the clutter caused be opening too many windows. This new Windows 7 feature works by grabbing the title bar of the program you are interested in and shaking it with the mouse, all the other windows disappear clearing the untidiness with a flick of the top of a window. N.B. if Aero Shake does not work for you, check that you have Aero Graphics.
Incidentally, my friend ‘Mad’ Mick still wouldn’t believe that the Aero Shake feature is by design and not a bug! Then he went to the other extreme and hacked his registry, added a key called NoWindowMinimizingShortcuts. To follow his path, launch Regedit then navigate to:
- Add a Key called Explorer
- Create a 32-bit DWORD called NoWindowMinimizingShortcuts
- Set the value = 1.
- Result Aero Shake is disabled
Troubleshooting Aero Shake
I find that Aero Shake does not work with Remote Desktop, unless the host system is also Windows 7.
Other ways to maximise a window. These are not so much problems, more genuine new features. If you drag the title bar to the top of the window it maximises. Also if you happen to be holding down the Winkey and press the up arrow, the same thing happens.
There are other neat enhancements of the way that you can control windows so that you can compare the contents of two pages. The idea behind Aero Snap, is that when you drag one window to the left, and the other to the right edge, they each get resized to half the screen. To tell the truth it took me ages to get Aero Snap to work, the knack is to drag one Window left, but to a ridiculous extent. And the other window way, way way right. I say again it’s a knack, just drag it so that half disappears off screen, something you would never normally do. The other trap is that you have to drag the windows to the side and not the top of the screen.
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Aero Peek allows you to glimpse the desktop when its underneath layers of open programs. It relies on the ‘Show desktop’ icon, which is now positioned to the right of the clock, see screenshot.
To see the effect you must open a few programs before you right-click on the Show desktop icon, now you should now be able to peek at the desktop. This is not a feature that I will use often, I am guessing Aero Peek is designed for those who have gadgets embedded on their desktop, and want to see a stock update or the latest sports results.
Possible problem, I could not get Aero Peek to work with remote desktop. Perhaps a limitation of the graphics resulted in this feature being greyed-out. Another reason that you don’t see Aero Peek, could be that it’s been disabled in the Taskbar properties.
The list of programs that you see when you click the Start Orb is now called a Jump List, personally, I like to pin regularly used programs to the Start menu, that way they don’t get bumped off the list by new-comers. Windows 7 extends this ‘Start menu’ behaviour to other programs. The result is that it’s easier to resume a playlist from where you left off, or find a Word file that you used yesterday. Right-click IE8 in Windows 7 and you get a ‘Frequent’ list. Right-click Word or Notepad and you get a ‘Recent’ jump list, see screenshot.
Jump lists are yet another example where Windows 7 rewards intelligent user behaviour. I would not want to go overboard here, but this and similar features, make me more productive; I feel the operating system understands what I want and provides the easiest possible method to tackle my current task. See more on Windows 7 Jump Lists.
Needy State (Icon blink)
There is a subtle change on the Windows Orb, it now glows when you hover over the Start Button area. This concept of enhanced visual clues extends to the Taskbar icons. ‘Needy State’ is a Microsoft term for when programs in the Taskbar try to grab your attention, for example a blinking icon alerting you that email has just arrived in Outlook. The difference in Windows 7 is that the icon now flashes gently seven times, rather than aggressively three times.
The Action Center folder collects messages about security and maintenance and literally flags problems via an icon in the notification area. It’s hard to ignore a red flag, as usual, just double-click and the flag will take you to the Action Center where you can see what’s occurring. If the problem looks tricky, then there are a new generation of intelligent troubleshooters on hand to help you.
Gadgets are In – But The Sidebar is Out
Gadgets are now embedded into the desktop rather than a sidebar. It may sound strange, but the new system is easier to use, and is an improvement over grappling with gadgets in Vista’s sidebar. Just right-click the desktop and you will see ‘Gadgets’ on the shortcut menu.
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Windows 7 brings new features which make it easier for computers not only to get connected, but also to stay connected regardless of their location or type of network. These enhancements also enable IT professionals to meet the needs of their business in a secure, reliable, and flexible way.
- DirectAccess allows users to experience their office environment at home, or anywhere with an internet connection. This solution uses IPSec to provide authentication and encryption for communication, thus eliminating the need to fiddle around with VPN connections. By it’s nature this is a feature for domain users and requires configuration of a Windows Server 2008. Actually, there is quite a lot of configuration on the Windows 2008 server, especially if you wish to restrict parts of the corporate network to the users when they are offsite.
- BranchCache, which enables updated content from file and Web servers on a wide area network (WAN) to be cached on computers at a local branch office, increasing application response time and reducing WAN traffic. The idea is that one user access data, which the branch server caches, others users get cached copy.
- Multiple active firewall profiles. The benefit is that firewall rules are based on the network to which each network adapter is connected, for example, Private, Public, or Domain. Let us suppose that you are at a station which supplies wireless connection. This is what happens, your VPN connection to the corporate domain network is protected by the Domain profile. While surfing the internet uses the Public profile.
- Mobile broadband device support provides another consistent driver-based model for devices that are used to access a mobile broadband network. What’s new is that users don’t need to grapple with third-party software, Windows 7 takes care of business.
- IPv6 provides the end-to-end addressing necessary for clients to connect to the enterprise network. If you are not yet ready to fully deploy IPv6, then you can use Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP), Teredo, and 6to4 to connect across the IPv4 Internet and to access IPv4 resources.
- URL-based Quality of Service (QoS), which enables you to assign a priority level to traffic based on the URL from which the traffic originates.
- DISM (Deployment Image Service and Management) Installation is not my speciality, but if it was I would study and use this new utility. DISM is like a new incarnation of AIK (Automated Installation Kit) and its crucial feature is slicker update of drivers resulting in smaller image files. This is new for Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 R2) Key phrase, Dynamic Driver Provision. DISM replaces PEimg.exe, Intlcfg.exe, and Pkgmgr.exe.
- MultiCore Processing. Better support for dual-core and quad-core CPU.
- Faster WiFi network discovery on startup.
One message which I have repeated down the years is how it pays to have balanced systems. Windows 7 with Windows Server 2008, XP teamed with Windows Server 2003. If you have Windows 7 on the desktop, but Window Server 2003 then some of these new features may not work.
The following improvements are available in Windows Server 2008 R2. Also, by installing Remote Server Administration Tools on a Windows 7 computer, you can connect to a 2008 DC and manage domain-based Group Policies
- Windows PowerShell provides 25 new cmdlets dedicated for configuring Group Policy, they mimic changing settings via the Group Policy Management Console.
- The ability to run PowerShell scripts during logon and startup.
- There is a new user interface and additional policies in the Administrative Template Settings.
- Group Policy Preferences have additional items, see AppLocker below, or Gpedit here
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AppLocker is a domain feature, and not a setting to configure on a Home Network. In fact, you need at least one Windows Server 2008 R2 domain controller to host the AppLocker rules.
AppLocker is a new Windows 7 feature that replaces the Software Restriction Policies feature of previous versions of Group Policy. AppLocker contains new capabilities and extensions making it easier for you to control how users can access files, such as .exe files, scripts, Windows Installer files (.msi and .msp files), and DLLs.
There are two main strategies for configuring AppLocker. Firstly there is what I call the Mr Nasty approach where you deny all applications, then you create a list of ‘known good’ exceptions. Secondly, there is the Mr Nice approach where you allow all programs, but keep a list of ‘known bad’. By default, AppLocker rules do not permit users to open or run any files that are not specifically allowed.
Windows 7 HomeGroup – (Home Network)
Following the evolution of Home Network in XP and then in Vista, HomeGroup finally delivers easy connections for Windows 7 computers in workgroup configuration. My best contribution on this new Window 7 feature is to persuade you to give HomeGroup a chance.
The most obvious use of this synchronization technology is to connect laptops running Windows 7 to home network. Benefits include accessing music, videos and pictures on your other machines much more easily than Vista. It maybe that the killer feature of HomeGroup is to use ‘Device Stage’ to interrogate or even configure other gadgets such as mobile phones.
Where necessary configure the settings from the Network and Sharing Center. Put the Windows 7 computer in a ‘Home Network’, then create a HomeGroup making a note of the auto-generated password. Naturally, supply this password when joining other Windows 7 computers to your HomeGroup. Any problem reboot!!!
In Windows 7, it helps if you re-evaluate My Documents, My Pictures and My Music. Instead of thinking of each as a single folder, think of them as a ‘Library’, connected to many physical folders. Also appreciate the benefit of sharing these Libraries with other computers in your HomeGroup. If you like this Library concept then you can extend it by creating new virtual folders, or new libraries, and then tick on the box and make them available to other users in your HomeGroup. See more on the Windows 8 Library folders.
Problem with HomeGroup
It is not accessible from XP and Vista machines even if they are in the same Home Network.
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Control Panel Changes
Continuing the theme of more intelligent use, the Device Stage gathers your printer, camera, mouse and other devices into one folder.
The idea of this new Windows 7 feature is that once you connect a media device to your Windows 7 computer, then you can configure it from the Devices and Printers folder in the Control Panel. Not only can you check for firmware updates, but also you can manage the media on the device. To some extent the usefulness of this new way of view devices depends on the manufacturers making their information available to the operating system. One classic use for Device Stage would be to mirror songs in your Media folder with those on the device.
The Action Center is a central point providing access to 4 sub-categories, the benefit is for when you cannot remember when an item such as the Windows Firewall appears in the Maintenance or Security area. Also when you are Troubleshooting you may have forgotten about the Recovery options. Thus its useful to have these 4 categories in one Action Center.
Security: Windows Firewall, Windows Defender, User Account Control (UAC).
Maintenance: Windows Backup, Windows Update, and other system maintenance tools. The Reliability Monitor has now been moved to this section of the Action Center.
Recovery: Connect to System Restore
Troubleshooting: Windows 7 includes ships with over 20 built-in troubleshooters, and more are on their way. The main categories mimic the Control Panel layout for example: Programs, Network and Internet, Hardware and Sound, System and Security, Personalization.
Flag in Navigation Area
You may have noticed a flag in the Navigation Area, well click and you will be taken to the Action Center. The benefit is that not only can you resolve any urgent problems, but you can review the firewall and backup settings.
More New Features in Windows 7