Microsoft is using the data it has collected from the hundreds of thousands of beta users to improve the metrics of common windows processes. To give on example of Microsoft's impressive attention to detail, in the beta only 85 percent of the time did the start menu open in the desired time of 50 ms (top). This has been upped to 92 percent of the time in Release Candidate 1, and the amount of critical failures has dropped to almost nothing.  (Source: Microsoft)
We delve deeper into the new features that Microsoft has in store for the Windows 7 Release Candidate based on user feedback

In the last installment of DailyTech's inspection of the Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) changes, we discussed the changes to the OS's interface.  Microsoft has incorporated literally thousands of user suggestions into the RC1 build.  These changes affect many aspects of the OS from the interface to Windows software, hardware, and networking.  Today we'll look at a few more of these changes.

First up, the multi-touch functionality in the OS has been overhauled with several improvements.  When scrolling your finger across the taskbar, the OS now offers Aero Peek previews of programs for touch users.  The Show Desktop button also now offers a preview when pressed and held.  Clicking causes its usual functionality.  On websites with vertical and horizontal scroll, touch users can now user their fingers to select text, something not possible in the beta. 

Most important are the right click and touch keyboard updates.  Microsoft has invented a way to effectively right click using multi-touch, based on user criticism of its earlier single-finger implementation.  The new implementation right clicks an item when you touch it with one finger and click it with another  The touch keyboard also has received a significant update, as it can now support multi-touch, allow for key combinations like SHIFT + letter to be typed, something not possible in the beta.

Microsoft has also made some key changes to the Control Panel.  The User Account Control, as previously discussed, now supports warnings before having its settings changed, for security reasons.  In the beta, locking machines was only possible when a screensaver had been set -- the release candidate now supports screensaver-less locking.  A new power options fly-out menu now can also be enabled, which allow faster switching between standard and high performance power modes, an attractive feature for laptop users.  A tweak to themes rounds out the Control Panel changes, making it clearer whether a theme has been saved or not.

Windows Media Player (WMP) has been the target for numerous RC1 improvements.  One set of tweaks improve the reliability and resiliency of streaming internet radio.  Thanks to other improvements WMP can now seek within AVCHD videos from camcorders and has added support for .MOV video files from digital cameras for the first time. 

Microsoft has cleaned up the “Now Playing” view and made it lighter and more compact, based on user suggestions.  Also, non-compatible content like Apple’s lossless .M4A or .H263 MPEG-4 content will no longer show up in the library, and thus won't confuse users.  Resume from sleep has also been added and the jump lists have been improved.  Also, the users will receive less annoying messages as the USB sync prompts have disappeared.  The user now has to manually select to sync. Access to advanced options has also been improved.

In the realm of hardware, Microsoft has put a great deal of work into improving its promising Device Stage feature.  Microsoft is working harder to try to get more IHV and OEM partners to add compatibility for the feature, and Microsoft is adding extra support to make it easier for these partners to do this.  Microsoft also fixed a hardware bug involving audio streams not correctly switching from the default speakers to the headphones when the headphones are selected in the audio applet.  Another key hardware change is comes in response to complaints of beta installs without any audio support.  Microsoft has made changes to ensure at least base-level audio support is provided, and it is working to populate Windows Update with additional audio drivers.

Performance-wise, Microsoft has a few tricks up its sleeve with the release candidate as well.  Microsoft has stopped short of giving a lot of technical details, but it says that it has been using its data gathered from the traces on common Windows processes in the beta installs to speed the processes up.  What does this mean? Microsoft gives the example of the time it takes for the start menu to pop up after clicking the Windows icon.  Based on examination of the traces optimizations were made, which bring the total of acceptable results -- the pane opening within 50 ms -- from 85 percent to 92 percent.

For developers, Microsoft has added new headers to its libraries that will reveal subfolders in a library.  It also removed the drag and drop to create a new library feature.  This is now available from menu options, but Microsoft is avoiding drag and drop due to complaints that confused users were deleting their libraries, thinking that they were copied.  Microsoft also reintroduced Vista's familiar entry points, accessible via the Win+E key.  Microsoft has added library support for non-removable FAT32 and NTFS hard disk drives.  It has also made even more efforts to enhance its popular arrangement viewing system.

To wrap up this two part summary of Windows 7 RC1, it suffices to say that Microsoft has delivered a lot of impressive changes and appears to be working hard to fulfill the promise of Windows 7.  Look for these changes in the final versions of the OS, which will hit stores later this year.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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