After a browser struggle and some website issues I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of Windows 7 Beta. I repartitioned my hard drive to create a new 20 gigabyte volume using the latest Gparted Live CD and burned off the Windows 7 DVD ISO I had just downloaded.
Easy Pretty Install
The installation was quick and painless. After a prompt to press any key to boot the DVD a graphical installer started loading. After about two minutes I was presented with a pretty blue screen and a typical Windows dialog asking for my language, time and keyboard layouts. I kept with the defaults and choose Install Now and was then asked to upgrade my existing installation or start a new one. I choose new, selected my newly created partition from a menu and proceeded to install.
After some time I was asked for my user name and computer name and then my product registration code. I thought I was in trouble as I had not print out the number from the text file I saved but much to my chagrin I found you could skip this dialog. I put in my timezone information and configured my wireless network. It then asked about Homegroups which is apparently the new way to share files and resources. I skipped this section for later.
That was it for the install. I was greeted with a pretty fish background and a somewhat familiar start menu.
Vista with Polish
If your coming from Vista then it won’t seem like such a big difference. It would seem with Windows 7 you are stuck with certain features such as the new start menu. I haven’t found an option to turn off the various window animations.
It actually seems less bloated then Vista and certainly no more bloated. The sidebar is gone although gadgets are still around and there were no welcome centers or msn portals to greet me. This may be a side effect of the beta status but I hope the slimmed down mindset is here to stay.
Paint, Wordpad and Calculator have had a facelift and there are new applications such as Sticky Note and the Snipping Tool which appears to help with screenshots.
New Taskbar and Windows Features
One of the first things you’ll notice as you start up a few programs is the newly designed taskbar. Gone are quick launch Icons and instead you can pin programs to the start menu giving them permanent residence. You can finally rearrange icons on the taskbar!
When you hover over a particular item a screenshot is shown of its contents.
Some of this can be shut off if you right click and choose properties. However it looks like your stuck with parts of it.
There is also a new Show Desktop pane on the right and hovering over it will make your windows transparent. Hovering over a thumbnail also makes everything transparent but that item.
Overall everything is polished and much slicker then Vista. This was the UI we should have gotten.
I still have more to play with. I’m slowly copying over my applications from my Vista partition. That was one strange thing. My Vista partition did not show up at all in Windows 7. To activate it I had to click on the start menu, right click computer and choose Manage. From there I added the drive in the Disk Management section.