Microsoft Windows 7 RC1

Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) is a polished piece of work, ready for prime time

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Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
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Pros

  • Early beta tests suggest that the OS will be quicker than Vista

Cons

  • Too soon to make a proper assessment of the operating system

Bottom Line

It's way too early to make a proper assessment of Windows 7, but Microsoft has made its intentions clear: Windows 7 is intended to right the wrongs Vista wrought, but retain that operating system's good points. And at this point, we can't argue with that. Our early beta tests suggest that the OS will be quicker than Vista, which can only be a good thing. We'll be updating this review as we get more information on and time with Windows 7, so be sure to bookmark this page.

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Windows 7: desktop gadgets

Microsoft has also introduced a couple of easy-to-use window management features that users may find helpful. If you want to work in two windows side-by-side, dragging the second window to either side of the screen snaps them both into place so that each takes up half the screen. If you drag a window to the top of your display, it snaps to the top, taking up the width of the screen. UAC: let's try that again

Windows XP's reputation for shaky security stemmed in part from the scary possibility of hackers worming their way into your PC and launching applications or changing settings at will. In Vista, Microsoft responded with User Account Control, a safeguard which tries to protect you by asking, in effect, "Are you sure?" before executing a wide variety of system actions.

The problem was that those actions are intentionally initiated by the user in the vast majority of instances. Telling Vista that you know what you're doing gets old quickly. But Vista's UAC essentially has only two settings: on and off.

Windows 7 still lets you opt for full-tilt UAC or no UAC at all. It adds two useful intermediate settings though: one notifies you to attempts to install software or change settings without making you click to continue, and the other notifies you only when a program tries to change settings. Both of these options provide a happy medium — you'll be alerted when potentially dangerous actions transpire on your PC, but your work won't grind to a halt nearly as often as it does with Vista's version of UAC.

The UAC settings reside in a Control Panel section called Windows Solution Center, which replaces Vista's Security Center. It's home to a bunch of features for adjusting security settings, using Windows Update, and backing up data. And it also lets you turn off various Windows notifications, such as the ones that warn you about security settings. Turn off every nagging notice that Windows 7 lets you disable, and you could wind up with the least intrusive edition of the OS in a long time.

Did we say that Windows 7 is longer on substance than style? For most part, it's true. But the new features for applying Themes to the Windows interface are nicely done. As before, they let you choose collections of wallpaper, colour schemes, sounds, and screen savers that provide Windows with an instant makeover. Windows 7's version lets you see a full-screen preview of a Theme's effect on the OS with one click, however, and it's easier to create and save your own Themes than with Vista's antediluvian Theme controls.

(Microsoft, incidentally, says that Themes will be renamed Styles before Windows 7 ships: that's a classic example of the company renaming a familiar feature without any clear purpose.)

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