by June 1, 2009 0 comments

The Windows 7 beta that ran till May was one of the biggest OS beta so far
with lots of feedback being received by the Windows team. The Release Candidate
for Windows 7 has now been released and is available for download to the public
as well.
There are a number of changes in this release, the first being the build number
itself – 7100. However, there are other changes that let you work with Windows
in an even better manner. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Alt-Tab Aero Peek
Aero Peek is the new feature by which you can, by simply hovering over a
running app’s thumbnail, “peek” at the actual window’s contents without bringing
it to the forefront. Aero Peek is now also enabled on the Alt-Tab window
switcher. Simply pause for a moment on a window’s icon and that window will
“peek” up from over all the other windows.

Jump List Lengths
Jump Lists allow you to jump to a destination or task directly from an app’s
icon on the Taskbar or Start Menu MFU list. In the RC you can now set the number
of items you want to see in the Jump List which is set to 10 items by default.
This does not include the pinned items or tasks and you can customize the length
as well.

UAC Settings
User Account Control is now completely tweakable. In the RC, to maintain
security of the system, the control panel item as well as any changes in the
settings triggers a UAC prompt which the user has to answer before the setting
is changed. This is to ensure that no malware can change the UAC settings on the

The Alt-Tab now has the Aero Peek built in as well. You can select the number of items to show in the Jump

Thumbnails Overflow
In the beta, when a particular application icon has more windows open than
what can be shown meaningfully as thumbnails, they collapse into a standard menu
list from which the user can select the window to switch to. In the RC, they
appear on hovering and contain the close button next to each tab/window as well.
This means that you can simply go ahead and close each window without having to
right click on each of them.

New & Enhanced Jump Lists
A few more places have got the very useful jump list feature. The Control
Panel, Powershell and Remote Desktop all now have Jump Lists to quickly go to
favorite or recent locations. Windows Media Player now also lists items opened
from Windows Explorer.

Uninstall Windows Components
Certain core Windows Components can now be installed using the Turn Windows
Features On or Off option. This includes items like Windows Media Player,
Internet Explorer 8 and others. This is great news for complying with the EU
restrictions and for those who wish to use 3rd party applications instead of the
built-in ones.

The Thumbnail Overflow now has the close button in it for
faster window management.
You can uninstall core Windows components like Internet
Explorer and Windows Media Player now.

Other enhancements
There are a huge number of other enhancements as well, some of which are
listed below:

  • More options in Multi-Touch: There are many more touch friendly scenarios
    now possible in Windows 7 including a multi-touch aware on screen keyboard and
    picture gallery.
  • Windows Explorer: Small enhancements all around, such as the ability to
    jump to the parent folder with a single click, better reach to context menus,
    ability to create a new folder even when a file is selected and more.
  • Device Stage: Allows the system to recognize and customize working with
    external devices such as media players, cell phones, printers, scanners and
    other devices.
  • Reliability after Resume: When resuming from sleep mode or hibernate, USB
    devices are loaded automatically as well as operations in progress (such as a
    long file copy) continue where they left off and media can continue to play
    from the point they were at.
  • System Settings: A lot of optimization can already be seen in the RC in
    system settings as well. The default System partition size is now 100MB rather
    than the 200MB in the beta. Dual boot partitions are recognized and given a
    drive letter. And the Pagefile size too has been decreased from the beta.

Windows Virtual PC 7 & Windows XP Mode
Probably the biggest feature of all is something called Windows XP Mode.
This is an optional component available in the Professional, Enterprise and
Ultimate SKUs of Windows 7. This gives the user a license for Windows XP
Professional that gets installed as part of the new Windows Virtual PC 7. Once
installed, you can of course boot up the virtual Windows XP and install older
applications on it. However, the best part is that once installed, these
applications will be available from a shortcut in Windows 7 directly and running
them executes them in the Windows XP context. Look for a review of Windows
Virtual PC and XP Mode in this issue.

Overall, the RC is a great upgrade to the beta and brings a ton of new and
enhanced features. The quality of the build is so good that it feels like a
final build. But the RTM is still a while off — December 2009 — as has been just
announced. Till then, get the RC and use it as your main operating system. You
will not regret it.

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