Print 52 comment(s) - last by lk7200.. on Mar 11 at 5:36 PM

Aero Peek has been added to the ALT+TAB keyboard shortcut. When selecting ALT+TAB, if you continue to hold down the ALT key, but pause, indicating you can't decide which program icon to pick, the view switch from icons to an Aero Peek view of program thumbnails.  (Source: Microsoft)

Color Hot-Track, which highlights the program icon on the taskbar, now stays active when browsing Aero Peek thumbnails for the program. This should help remind users which button they picked.  (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft is listening to you, and here's what it's done

Microsoft's Windows 7 team has been pretty quiet for the last month and a half since releasing their beta to the public, and many wondered what, if any, changes were going to show up in the final version of Windows 7.  Microsoft's senior vice president in charge of the Windows group, Steven Sinofsky, this week broke the company's silence, telling about how Microsoft has taken in user feedback from its beta and used it to fix over 2,000 bugs.

Now Microsoft has posted a long Windows 7 blog detailing some of these user-inspired changes that are included in the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of Windows 7.  The changes include tweaks to virtually every area of the OS's operation.  In this first segment, we'll look at some of the interface changes that will affect the user experience in the OS.

First up, one attractive change is the addition of Aero Peek to ALT+TAB'ing through windows.  In Windows, this keyboard shortcut always let you switch through running programs by icon.  Some users inquired, why not use the thumbnail preview of Aero Peek to this feature?  Microsoft complied and after a time delay, the ALT+TAB window turns into an Aero Peek preview that can be tabbed through.

Another big set of changes are tweaks to its Windows Key+<#> launch scheme, a largely overlooked feature in Windows Vista.  In Vista, this shortcut would launch the program that was in the Quick Launch list.  However, it did not switch to the program, but merely started it.  In Windows 7 RC1, this has been tweaked significantly.  The key combination still launches the Window.  However, pressing it again will now scroll through open windows of that type of program, using the above mention Aero Peek additions.  And by clicking SHIFT+Windows Key+<#> you can open new instances of the window.  But the fun doesn't end there, CTRL+Windows Key+<#> allows you to instantly switch to the last window instance, while ALT+Windows Key+<#> will allow you access to the programs jump list --- all without a single finger touching your mouse.

Another nice little tweak is to make "needy windows" -- windows demanding your attention, such as an IM program with new messages -- more visible.  Many users complained that the taskbar button flashing was too subtle and they were missing events.  Microsoft has changed the flashing to a "bolder orange color" and the flash pattern to a more jarring saw tooth wave, as well as increasing the flash rate -- all of which should help get your attention when a window needs it.

One switch which bugged some users was that the drag and drop in Vista's Quick Launch which allowed you to drop a file into a program's icon to open it with that program was replaced by merely pinning the file to a task bar in Windows.  Microsoft, though sounding a bit chagrined about the user feedback on this, consented to adding a SHIFT+drag feature, which allows you to drag and drop files into pinned programs, just like in Vista.

Another key change is that your task bar will now scale based on your resolution.  This means at higher resolutions it can support more icons.  This table comes from Microsoft's MSDN page:

Maximum taskbar button capacity before scrolling


Large Icons

Small Icons

% Increase from Beta (large/small icons)




25% / 36%




25% / 38%




25% / 32%




24% / 39%

Another little tweak is that when scrolling through thumbnails after clicking an item in a taskbar, the item now stays highlighted with its "Color Hot-Track" visual.  This will help the user remember which program the thumbnails are associated with.  One more nice tweak is that after installing new programs, Microsoft now temporarily adds the program to the bottom of the Start Menu to allow for easier pinning and making the program easier to find.

Microsoft has also tweaked its jump lists.  Some people had complained about its lists being too long, so Microsoft, based on its data, decided to limit the list to 10 items.  Enthusiast still can lengthen this maximum length via an easy setting.  Files of non-registered types (i.e. an .html file with Notepad) can be pinned to the program's jump list, now.  When clicking that item in the jump list, it will continue to open the file with that program, if possible.

Rounding out the list of interface changes, the user can now right click on the desktop to hide all icons or to hide all gadgets, allowing the users to easily interact with just gadgets or just icons, in the case of a cluttered desktop.

There's lots more changes, but that's all for the interface update!

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RE: about time
By mtnmanak on 3/2/2009 2:25:59 AM , Rating: 2
We’ve been using Vista Ultimate or Business on a number of machines for the better part of last year and, overall, don’t have many issues. The ones we do have tend to be frustrating. Here are a couple that seem to plague our machines across the board:

Relatively poor network file transfer speeds on a Windows Server 2003 active directory domain. We have not tested it on a workgroup or in a Server 2008 environment, but in a Server 2003 environment (with a gigabit network), XP pretty much blows Vista out of the water on file transfer speed (once again, this is on our network). We have implemented all the service packs and tweaks, but still can’t get XP-like speeds on network file transfers.

Likewise, USB file transfer speeds are also inferior to Windows XP. They were vastly improved with SP1, but still fall short across the board. I have personally benchmarked our external drives (both hard drives and flash media) and found that in all cases XP provided faster file transfers.

We have also encountered weird USB connectivity issues. I realize these were often present in XP, but, for example, we have some Verbatim flash media readers that connect via USB. Overtime, they just stop connecting to the Vista machines. They never have problems with XP – even on dual-boot XP/Vista machines where the reader won’t work in the Vista install. Haven’t found a solution for this one yet.

Some of our hardware just hasn’t been supported and some business software still hasn’t quite made the leap to true Vista compatibility – especially 64-bit. We use Quickbooks, for example, and we haven’t upgraded to 2009 yet, but, under advice from our accountants, we keep our Quickbooks machines loaded with XP.

All-in-all, Vista is fine and it definitely has a lot of improvements, but these critical business tasks sometimes make us wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Hopefully Windows 7 fixes these issues.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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