Happy Birthday, Windows 7! Microsoft's successor to the widely-derided Windows Vista turns one year old today. It's been a wild, and hugely successful, ride: Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc blogged that more than 240 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold to date, making it the fastest-selling operating system in history.
It's not hard to see why: Windows 7 is the easiest to use, most powerful OS Microsoft has ever built. It works great on desktops and laptops alike. Its networking capabilities are far superior to any previous versions, and security is very strong. In other words, you can use Window 7 with confidence, and get more work (or play) done.
To celebrate its birthday, I present this list of the seven things I like best about Windows 7.
- The Taskbar. This one addition changed everything for me. It makes Windows so much more usable. Being able to "pin" items to the taskbar makes getting to your most-often used programs is simple, and other features like "jump lists" also make you more productive.
- Aero Interface. I love the new desktop, which has a host of features. Aero really is just a translucent look -- windows show what's behind them. Again, it makes finding stuff easier. It also has a clean, professional look that Windows XP, for all the love it (still!) gets, can't touch.
- Action Center. The Windows 7 Action Center is an early-warning system for your computer. It's accessed through the little flag in the lower-right corner; if it's white, you're OK. If it has a red "X" over it, something important needs your attention. It's great for heading off problems before they become bigger.
- Themes. Yeah, Themes were available with Vista, but they've really come into their own with Windows 7. A theme is a package of desktop background and sounds that personalize your experience. I'm addicted to Themes, and use them constantly. I have at least 20 available, and am constantly on the lookout for more. (As a side note, not being able to use Themes is one of the top reasons to upgrade from Windows 7 Starter Edition, which comes with most netbooks.)
- Aero Snap. Part of Aero interface, Aero Snap lets you move around and resize open windows, one of the most common tasks most users perform. Its kissin' cousins, Aero Peek and Aero Shake, are also shortcuts for moving windows around. I strongly urge you to learn and use these tools if you don't already -- you'll be amazed at how much time you can save by taking advantage of what their capabilities.
- Windows Search. Search is vastly improved in Windows 7. Type a search term in the window (the window right above the Start key when you click on it), and in moment, you'll get a list of results. What's great is that the results aren't just presented as one huge list -- they're grouped into categories like Programs, Music and Documents. It makes finding your files a snap. Search is also lightning-fast; no more waiting, like in Vista or XP. Microsoft did it right with Windows Search.
- Windows Live Essentials. These are programs that formerly came bundled with Windows; programs like Windows Mail, Live Writer (blogging software), Windows Movie Maker, etc. They're now available as free downloads for Windows 7. Since they're not bundled, it makes Windows 7 less bulky and faster to install. This is a significant improvement, since Windows OSs have been getting bigger and more unweildy. In addition, Microsoft has improved them, and they're still absolutely free.
So there you have it: My personal list of the seven best things about Windows 7. What things are on your list? Let me know.