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Windows 7's new taskbar, only enabled in Windows 7 M3 by a special tool, is now see more use. The result is that many reviewers are leveling criticism against the toolbar's cluttered eye-candy design concept.  (Source: Paul Thurrott)

The new jump lists are one of the nicer features of Windows 7, which allows you to launch programs with a specific option, such as going to a specific site or opening a load dialogue.  (Source: Paul Thurrott )
New Windows offers similar experience to milestones with some improvements

With Windows 7 scheduled to hit retailers mid-to-late 2009, Microsoft has been working in a frenzy to prepare for its launch.  It bumped up the development schedule for Windows Vista's second service pack, airing its beta early this month.  Windows 7 itself has been on a tough schedule itself, dropping milestone releases that have been creating a great deal of public buzz. 

Some have questioned whether Microsoft can accomplish the sharp turnaround in several key areas like overhead and compatibility, which it has promised for Windows 7, in the shorter development cycle.  Others have been impressed by the early promising signs of the milestone releases.

Microsoft made news yesterday when the very-significant first beta of Windows 7 leaked to torrents as an ISO file.  The beta won't be released to testers until next month, but those eager to try it out can catch it on torrent for now.

How does it look?  Well, early impressions show some minor differences from previous builds, but an experience remarkably similar to that presented to developers at the PDC conference and critiqued by reviewers in the form of milestone releases. 

Windows 7 beta 1 (specifically, the build 6.1.7000.0.081212-1400 which hit torrents) is remarkably similar to Windows 7 M3, discussed here at DailyTech.  One key difference is that in the milestone release special features had to be enabled using Rafael Rivera's "Blue Badge" tool, while they come automatically equipped in the beta. 

Overall, Microsoft has gone the OS X route for its Windows 7 development, thus far, delivering a smoother user interface, prettier graphics, improved security, and a major drive to improve compatibility.  The result is an OS that will please many.

The new beta, like the milestone, offers an improved installation process as one perk.  Gone are the annoying post-install performance tests of Windows Vista.  The install takes around 25 minutes, much faster than the average install for Windows Vista or Windows XP.  As just one example, Windows 7 cuts Windows Vista's eight information screens down to five.

One major point of criticism that is echoed by virtually all reviewers is the new OS X-like taskbar.  Reviewers fault not concept, but the implementation of it, which sees Microsoft allow program shortcuts to lump together with running tasks to create a hard to decipher mess.  Paul Thurrott, a strong Microsoft supporter describes, "For all the niceties of the new taskbar, this comingling of different functions is a whopper of a mistake, and one that will actively harm most Windows users."

One interesting new feature, again not new to the beta is the "Aero Peek" feature, which allows you to see the desktop without minimizing windows, useful when running multiple applications.  Jump lists are another great new feature.  When entering the start menu, you now have the option of launching programs with a specific task, i.e. going to a specific website in internet explorer or opening with a load file dialog in Microsoft Word.  This feature saves users a bit of time.

A few new features and changes do crop up in the beta versus the M3 release.  The beta eliminates the M3 releases' two-button shut-down and replaces it with a single button, with a popout menu for extra options.  The beta also ditches the lighthouse icon for the action center, which contains solutions to the computer's problems.  It replaces it with a flag icon that's easier to see. 

The beta also adds themes, which are decorative skins that allow you to create customized profiles containing desktop backgrounds, window colors, sounds, and a screensaver.  The feature is nice, albeit eye-candy.

Overall, again Windows 7 beta while possibly changing by the time of its official release, remains remarkably similar to the Windows 7 M3 release. 





"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997







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