7 Keys to Cleaning Up Windows with Windows 7

During last week's Windows 7 announcement at the Microsoft PDC, it was pretty clear that Ray Ozzie expects Windows 7 to behave like a much different operating system than Windows Vista or any other Windows release. Bill Joy (of Sun) once called Unix the "New Jersey of operating systems" because it had some of everything thrown in it. (I don't think Bill was being kind when he said this.) Vista epitomizes that junk heap theme, with all kinds of junk in it from UAC to hiding helpful XP features under new Vista window dressing (pun intended). Windows 7 takes a much different aim by focusing on how to make Windows more useful, and there's a whole lot of "less is more" in the Windows 7 user experience. Here's a slideshow of pictures I took during the Ray Ozzie announcement and demo of Windows 7 last Tuesday.

Windows Live Spaces

Now, here's the seven things Windows 7 is doing to clean up the user experience in this new Microsoft operating system:

  • 1. Clean Up That Mess - Taskbar, Quick Launch are combined and simplified. No more starting up applications in the order you want them to appear in the Taskbar. Windows 7 doesn't want apps plopping down icons all over your desktop either. And we'll see much less frequent balloon messaging, popping up and annoying us while trying to get other stuff done. Windows 7 also de-emphasizes some of the Windows controls and replaces it with large portions of user content. Viewing picture/graphics files in the Windows Explorer is a good example.
  • 2. Do It Here - Want to see what's in that application window? Want to close it? Want to organize your task bar to how you work? Windows 7 cleans up the task bar and makes managing the desktop easier with jump lists, bigger window previews and close boxes just a short mouse move away.
  • 3. Do It Naturally - Windows 7 adds hot spots to the desktop, so expanding a window for editing or viewing windows side-by-side is just a matter of placing the window next to the screen's edge. Windows 7 also knows that your default printer at home is your home printer, and the default at work is the work printer. Novel idea but little touches like this make your computer work for you rather than the other way around. Windows 7 also doesn't make you remember which computer has what music files on it; you just play the music and it streams from the device the music lives on. Same with data on multiple volumes; Windows 7 keeps those organized in libraries and still knows about them when those devices are offline so you can find that pesky to locate files that live one of the eight flash drives you've accumulate over the past two years.
  • 4. Keep In Touch - Windows 7 is clearly positioning itself for a touch screen revolution on the PC. Though the Microsoft Surface technology is separate from Windows, there were plenty of touch demos during the PDC. I imagine this will fit into some type of Windows Mobile 7 strategy supporting touch interfaces. Windows 7 is also incorporating location aware features and support for sensors like a light sensor, or an accelerometer, like we have in some SmartPhones and the Wii game machine controllers today.
  • 5. Bringing Your Devices Together - Increasingly we're a multi-device world, with mobile phone in one hand, a laptop in another, a media PC or device somewhere else in the house and yet another fixed desktop in the office. Windows 7 wants to be the place that brings all this together and helps you manage all those devices, rather than each being a one-off unto itself.
  • 6. Device Center - Like that helpful little Window that Vista shows when you first begin using it, Windows 7 puts the most important things you do with your mobile device right there in one window; view files on it, sync it, check out the device user guide, etc. And the device icon looks the like device, not something warmed over from Windows 3.1.
  • 7. Less Is More - Yes, as I've said Windows 7 takes the attitude that if it's not needed, don't add it, or at least don't constantly shove it in the user's face all the time. Make UAC even less obtrusive. (I'd still say turn the annoying thing completely off.) We'll see fewer pre-installed apps, in favor of directing users to cloud base Live applications with online versions of Windows Mail, Live Writer and the Photo Gallery.

Now, will third-party apps take the queue from Microsoft and change from their ways of cluttering the desktop, displaying annoying balloon messages, and calling out for our attention like an unruly six year old with a hankering for a temper tantrum? Lets hope Microsoft's good work cleaning up Windows won't be wasted by old paradigm applications and crapware loaded on our PCs. Seems to me Microsoft Office is due for a major extreme makeover too.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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