Republished: Windows 7: the Verdict

Originally published on 25 October 2009

Windows 7 has been released for all the world to use and abuse, so what do we think of it? You may recall that I wrote a review of the Windows 7 RC back in May I never got quite as far as writing a review of the RTM, which is a pity because there were a number of changes.

However, the final 'polished' version has now been released. So let's see what the final judgement is.

It's better than Vista

Seems an obvious and easy target, but Windows 7 is Much better than Vista.

However, I still don't think it compares to the Windows XP experience. New interfaces take time to learn, so this may be an extraneous variable.

It's still lacking functionality

Most of the competing Operating Systems have had extra features such as Virtual Desktops for quite some time. There's quite a few extra features I would like to see in Windows 7. Some of these features will probably appear in the form of freeware, but if you have to trust the security of your PC to an unknown third party purely to get the functionality you want, something is wrong. However I am a Linux user, and used to actually being able to customise my system, so we'll let this point slide.

Improved Install Process

For the avergae user, installing Windows has always seemed more than a little challenging. To be fair, it's a long time since it was that difficult, but with 7, if a user can actually get the balls to try, they should find it a breeze. Most of 7's users will probably never see the install screen, and will continue to buy PC's with Windows preloaded. However, it is nice to see that even this area has been looked at.

Dummification of the OS

This is an issue that bothers me, and some will label it elitist. With every release of the OS, Microsoft seem to be trying to make things simpler. Even the latest advert describes it as simple to use. This on its own is not a bad thing, it's the wider ranging effects. Although a valid business goal for the vendor, the last thing the rest of the world needs is for idiots to be able to use computers (which is what MS are aiming for). We need PC users to realise and understand that they actually have to maintain their PC's. Otherwise they become easy targets for malware etc. I'm not advocating a Computer driving license, more saying that complacency should not be encouraged. Don't make things too simple

Network Copying

When Vista was released, copying large files took an age. This was eventually fixed, however now that 7 is released there's a similar issue. Copying a file of more than half a gig across the network seems to slow everything down. It's a major pain, but one that I'm sure will be fixed quite quickly. Stole my background

In the RC and the RTM there was a rather nice Background of a fish. This appears to have been removed from the Retail version. Not a major issue I suppose, but it was a pretty good picture!

Renaming of files

This is a nice feature, on XP I often had users complaining that they couldn't open a file. It usually turned out that they had deleted the filename extension, and so Windows wasn't too sure what to open it with. In 7 when you click to rename a file, rather than highlighting the whole filename, it only highlights up to the dot. It's quite a nifty little feature, although it doesn't really go far enough. Why Microsoft haven't ended their reliance on filename extensions I don't know, do what everyone else does and take a quick peek at the MIME type. Still, this feature will at least save some heartache!

Overall Interface

This largely comes down to personal choice but, when I reviewed the RC I stated that I didn't like the look of the icons. Guess what, they still haven't grown on me. The whole interface is reminiscent of those childrens 'laptops' you can buy from Toys 'R' Us. It looks like a cartoonist puked over my desktop.
You can change the look, but I can't find the option to take my Start Menu, Taskbar back to how I like it. No-one else seems to have reported the location of this function, so it looks like users will have to learn to love the new interface. It does bring some improvements, but overall I don't consider it a winner.

XP Compatability Mode

God what a farce! Users with XP Compatability mode running will find that they need to install a second set of Anti-virus, and maintain the XP instance seperately. How many will realise that they have in essence, XP running on a second PC with Windows 7? How many will be willing to find the time to maintain both instances? Not many I'd assume. It's possible to run something similar in Apple's latest and greatest, so why have MS bundled the extra work?

I'm guessing the long and short is that MS do not want you running XP apps, they want you to upgrade to the native version. I imagine it's a tactic that may well pay off as well!

Control Panel

The Control Panel still sucks. I read a comment elsewhere on the ent that most of the new names for areas of the control panel looked like they had been chosen by a committee. This hits the nail right on the head, why 'Network Settings' wasn't deemed clear enough is beyond the understanding of any sane person! Given that most users won't venture too deep into the Control Panel (and will presumably continue to refuse to do so), could MS not have left this area alone? (or at least refrained from trying to apply Management Speak to everything.)

Overall View

As with the RC, I'm reasonably impressed with 7. I wouldn't choose to use it as my main OS, but I wouldn't object as strongly as with Vista, XP etc. It still lacks a lot of what I consider essential functions, but this is more to do with what I'm used to than anything. For those diehard Windows users out there, you've probably got the best featureset you've ever seen. For those who have stepped outside the Microsoft circle, it's an improvement, but it's still not quite there.

There's a few teething issues still, and I for one greatly resent the theft of the fish desktop. Most of these issues will no doubt be resolved in future updates (though I doubt the fish will be returned!), but for me 7 just still doesn't cut it. Perhaps Windows 8 will be the point when Windows offers the features I need and use?