Windows 7 features you'll love

Windows 7 features you'll loveWashington - Windows 7 is coming to a PC near you - and faster than previously thought. Rumours are flying that Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista. The "release candidate" of the new operating system is expected in early May, and those eager to test out the new operating system will likely be able to download this all-but-final version by early summer. The well-publicised features of Windows 7 are that it's faster, less resource intensive, and more compatible than Windows Vista. But a look at a recent build of the operating system reveals that there's a lot more to look forward to than those headline features. Here's a look at some of the less publicised features that are likely to make a good impression.

Driver heaven

If you are installing Windows 7 from scratch, you are in for a treat. Unlike virtually every other version of Windows, Windows 7 has an uncanny ability to recognise and find drivers for most many - if not all - of the components of your computer. Graphics cards, printers, scanners, chipsets, sound cards, and wireless cards - many current models are recongized during the course of the installation. That means you can probably say good-bye to what used to be the inevitable hunt for driver disks required to get all of your PC's parts working together.

Aero Peek

An enduring complaint of Windows users has been that the contents of the Windows desktop are soon obscured - either by a single maximised application or a multitude of open windows. The Windows Key+D keyboard shortcut addressed this by allowing users to quickly minimise all running applications to see the desktop again. Pressing Windows Key+D again restored all applications. But the problem was that Windows+D sometimes changes the active window.

Aero Peek is Windows 7's answer to this dilemma. A narrow horizontal bar at the far end of the Windows task bar, Aero Peek displays the contents of the Windows desktop whenever you move your mouse cursor over the Aero Peek bar. Mouse the mouse cursor away, and the contents of your desktop reappear just as they were. Clearly Aero Peek will be most useful to those who have one or more gadgets fixed to their Windows desktops. To actually click anything on the desktop, you will still need to minimise one or more applications.

Taskbar previews

If you have five browser windows open and minimised, what's the best way to find out which one you'd like to call up again? Previously, the best solution was to Alt-Tab your way through all of those windows. Unfortunately, alt-tabbing still left you guessing, as you had only small icons and part of the text that appeared in title bars to assist you in finding the instance you wanted. Windows 7 adds a nifty taskbar preview feature that will put an end to the guessing. With taskbar preview, if you have five browser windows open and minimised, all of those browsers will be condensed onto one icon on the taskbar, and when you mouse your mouse to that icon, you'll see a long vertical strip containing very legible previews of the contents of all five browser windows. Move to the one you want, click, and you are done.


Windows 7 is going to allow you to do away with a range of programs that you previously had to purchase separately, and antivirus is just the first - but probably the most significant - of these.

Microsoft's first foray into the antivirus arena came with Windows Live OneCare, a capable antivirus utility that was remarkable for its unobtrusiveness and its small footprint. Windows 7, however, will not support OneCare, and the reason is code-named Morro, Microsoft's new comprehensive anti-malware software.

Still under development, Morro will do what most people look for in antivirus programs - protect your computer against spyware, viruses, and Trojans - and it will do it for no charge. When Microsoft first announced Morro, the stock prices of antivirus makers Symantec and McAfee took a dive. But Microsoft claims that Morro is not designed to replace the more comprehensive security suites offered by these companies.

Still, Morro will be free, and it will be delivered with the shipping version of Windows 7. It's probably safe to assume that it will offer protection that's good enough for the masses.

Configurable annoyances

Aside from slowing down your computer, there was one major reason to hate Windows Vista: its user account control (UAC) feature annoyed you at every turn. Confirmation dialog boxes popped up whenever you wanted to install a program, install a device driver, configure aspects of the operating system, run the task scheduler, or perform dozens of other tasks that previously went without a hitch.

Windows 7 does not do away with user account control, but it does give you more control over UAC, reduce the number of UAC dialog boxes, and make the dialog boxes themselves more intelligible. That's a step forward.

Integrated imaging

Windows 7 will be the first version of Windows to include not just system backup but full-fledged system imaging. Imaging differs from a backup in that a system image backs up everything on your PC - including hidden system and boot files - so that you can easily restore the contents of a failed hard drive or upgrade an existing system drive, without having to reinstall all of your applications. This alone is a valuable feature that previously you would have needed a third-party utility to handle.

Along with the new system image feature comes a system repair disk utility. The system repair disk creates a bootable CD, DVD, or USB drive so that you can easily access your previously-created disk image without first having to install Windows. The system repair disk also provides easy access to other system repair features that can help you to restore an unresponsive system.

The final word

Windows 7 is poised to be what Windows Vista promised: a slicker, more attractive interface combined with functionality that does not leave you pining for the faster, simpler way of Windows XP. When the release candidate version of Windows 7 appears, secure yourself a copy - and perhaps reserve a machine on which to run it. Windows 7 will probably be the version that finally weans you away from XP. (dpa)

Technology Update: