Windows 7 first look: A big fix for Vista

Pre-beta Windows 7 addresses many Vista complaints -- and introduces a slew of changes

Paint app now uses ribbon

Paint app now uses ribbon

Applications in the Cloud and on Your System

As previously reported, Microsoft won't be shipping Windows 7 with all of the bundled applications that the company has historically installed by default with the OS. Instead, it will deliver e-mail, photo gallery features, and video-editing capabilities as downloadable applications, collectively called Windows Live Essentials. Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Windows Live Movie Maker have been available in beta form for some time (at download.live.com).

There you can also find beta versions of Windows Live Writer (a blogging tool), Windows Family Safety (parental control tools), Microsoft Office Outlook Connector (software for using Outlook 2003/2007 as a front end to Hotmail) and Windows Live Toolbar (to make other live apps easily accessible from Internet Explorer).

Windows Live Essentials should not be (but probably will be) confused with Windows Live services, which may be associated with desktop apps but require nothing more than a browser to run. For example, Windows Live Hotmail is an e-mail client accessible only in a browser, whereas Windows Live Mail runs on the desktop.

In discussing Windows Live, Microsoft's Brian Hall noted that Microsoft has yet to offer applications that relate to social networking and user-generated content (with ratings), but he hinted that such apps may be coming. Other Microsoft officials said that new Windows Live services will be announced November 12.

Not all traditional accessories have been eliminated; some old standbys remain, with face lifts. Windows Paint's basic image-editing features are now exposed via a Scenic Ribbon a  la Office 2007. The ribbon also appears in Windows 7's WordPad, and the OS's APIs will make the ribbon available to third-party developers who believe that it will benefit their applications. Though some users didn't appreciate having to learn new locations for many features in complicated Office apps, the ribbon works well for the relatively few and simple tools in Paint and WordPad.

Also in the future OS: a refresh of Calculator, and a Sticky Notes feature that supports ink (as well as text) and permits resizing of notes.

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