The Windows Backup program, which in Vista was essentially worthless, is finally useful. You can now customize your backups by choosing to include or exclude specific drives and folders. Particularly nice is that when you plug in a device that can be used for backup, such as a USB hard drive, a wizard can be launched that walks you through creating a backup. Overall, you'll need fewer clicks to create a backup.
Network administrators will welcome another addition: the PowerShell scripting command line language that helps IT staff to perform system and network administration.
Also notable about Windows 7 is what's missing. Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker -- all solid applications -- are now gone. However, all of them will be available as free downloads from Windows Live.
Also missing are applications that most of us never used and will not miss. Windows Meeting Space, for example, a fairly worthless application for setting up ad hoc networks, is gone, as is the related application People Near Me.
The bottom line
Windows 7 is in pre-beta, so there's no way to come to a definitive, bottom-line conclusion about the operating system. However, it's surprisingly stable, solid, well-done and speedy at this early stage in the development cycle. Some important features of it are still missing -- notably, the new Taskbar.
However, even at this early stage, it's clear that Windows 7 is a real improvement over Windows Vista. It cleans up some of Vista's rough edges, adds useful new capabilities and most likely won't have the same problems with hardware that Vista did. We'll have to wait for further betas to offer a more definitive conclusion.