Windows 7 RC1, according to descriptions by Microsoft, is shaping up to be very impressive. Microsoft has fixed close to 2,000 bugs based on user feedback in preparation for what may be the best Windows release to date. In our first special, we took a peek at the Windows 7 RC1 interface changes. In the second, we took a look at hardware changes and more. Now we revisit RC1 one more time to look at a few more changes Microsoft has announced, and we also follow with the release dates for the RC versions.
First up in the latest batch of RC1 changes are some more interface tweaks. When using the thumbnail overflow menus, accessed when clicking on a thumbnail of a program with multiple instances, close buttons have added. Also, when hovering the mouse, a menu for that item appears. Another tweak is that the control panel icon, when pinned to the taskbar, now displays a list of your most recently used control panel utilities. For users looking to make use of a console, the Powershell has been greatly improved with jump lists adding a method to load modules, launch the ISE, and open documentation.
Remote desktop connections are now able to be pinned to the taskbar as well as viewed in Recent Items. Taskbar changes are also now written 30 seconds after being set, an important change, as past versions of Windows didn't write them until Explorer exited meaning that if an error condition occurred the work was lost.
In the touch realm, you can now use multizoom in Windows Explorer to zoom in and out on icons, switching from small and large icons. Speaking of Windows Explorer, invert selection has been reinstated in the RC1. Parent folders, even with long names, stay in the path in the Windows Explorer bar allowing single-click return. Another improvement is that when searching for music, the confusing "Contributing Artist" attribute which often splits up albums has been replaced by a more logical "Album Artist" attribute which only splits up compilation albums.
Rounding out the interface changes, the New Folder button now always appears in Windows Explorer. Right clicking the background has also been made easier. When searching, longer snippets of contextual text are also now available. The RC1 now automatically re-indexes the specific files affected by new file handlers, taking this time-consuming hassle found in the beta off the user's hands.
For a small performance boost, Microsoft has cut log off and shutdown times by 400 ms by trimming the shutdown and logoff WAV files.
In the realm of hardware, Microsoft is pressuring device makers to implement at least a “baseline” experience for Windows 7's popular new feature, Device Stage. Based on feedback from Lenovo and others, Device Stage has also been better interfaced with Devices and Printers. Ejecting devices is now more convenient as the entire device (i.e. the entire USB drive, rather than a volume) is ejected when this command is selected. USB reliability has now been improved so that problems are no longer encountered after hibernate/resume. Streaming video from Firewire cameras -- partially broken in the beta -- now works as well.
Add Legacy Hardware has been reinstated for adding non-Plug-and-Play devices, like a Loopback adapter. Retrieving lists of printer drivers has also been improved.
One of the biggest changes is that the partition for the Windows 7 System partition has been cut in half from 200 MB to 100 MB. The partition is now marked "System Reserved" to prevent confusion or accidental deletions. On a dual boot system (e.g. Windows XP/Windows 7), the second OS can now be navigated as well. Another major performance improvement is the reduction of the page file size, which has been cut from "Memory + 300MB" to just a file the size of a current memory. On systems like netbooks, this can save a lot of space, and for high end systems the page file can still increase as needed. Speaking of netbooks, the last change mentioned is that driver support for new Atom-based laptops has been improved.
If all these changes have you a little excited, you'll be happy to know that the Microsoft plans to soon release the RC1 build to the public. News site Neowin says they expect it to be released on April 10, but a Russian site Wzor places the release to testers at the fourth week of April and the release to the public near the start of May.
The same Russian source projects Office 14 will be released as a beta in early July and will not be available for public testing. A second beta will follow in November and the RTM release will come early March 2010. The source also says that Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 will see an RTM release in early October 2009. Wzor uses information provided by Microsoft to its Technology Adoption Program (TAP) partners as a source.