May 24

Windows 7 – Months Later – still impressed

The other day I had a moment where I realized how much I enjoyed using Windows 7 .  I remember how I was deeply skeptical of Windows Vista – but heard good things about Windows 7.  With my aging computers it was time to make the plunge and go ahead with Windows 7.  At that time it was a question of could I feel OK with using it: – is it reliable? – is it not too much trouble to support? – will my software work?  From what I had learned I felt confident about being able to move forward.

What I’m realizing now is how much I enjoy using Windows 7.  It’s reliable, fast and efficient.  Given how many tabs I have typically open in Chrome at the same time (along with other program) I appreciate the memory stability of Windows 7 64 bit (on XP I’m often watching the memory usage).  Of course this is on a new laptop – so it moves along quite well – courtesy of an i3 processor.

The parts I enjoy recently are:

  1. I like how the folders are organized now – with the “users” concept instead of just the old “My Documents” concept (in fact the physical folder location of C:\users\myname makes sense now).   I also love how it puts a breadcrumb trail along the top of a folder window.   I find this highly useful when navigating around – as I can click on what level back I want to go to (I’m a geek so I have to have hierarchies of folders!). [See first screenshot above]
  2. I like the visual effects for Windows 7 – not just because they are cool – but because they are useful.  I have an example to the right: if you hover over an item in the taskbar (which is very different than the old XP one) it shows you a preview.  In some cases this simply lets you know if the item is open – if not nothing shows up. But in the case of folders (see example to the right) it’s shows you both folders – with readable labels  - so you can click on the one you want.
  3. Frankly I really like the taskbar overall – as I have dropped in the items I use constantly into that task bar (the downside is that I sometimes accidentally open something).
  4. The other thing I find useful is how – for certain “pinned” items in the taskbar there are shortcuts to recently opened items.  I’ve noticed recently how useful this is – as it saves me from having to open Excel, then navigate to where I saved it (miss this on XP machines now).

So I find it interesting – how much I’m enjoying Windows 7 – not just technically but as a user.  My original focus was on if it would work – more on the negative than on the positive.  Today I can recommend not just from a technical focus – but as an enjoyable operating system to use.

February 7

Select All – where did it go in Windows 7

Here’s a small Windows 7 tip for working with file folders – where the “Select All” went. I was copying some files from one folder to the another and wanted to select all the fields.  I had to think for a second – as I was wondering where that option went.  They key is to click on “Organize” – this has options like “Select All”, “Copy”, etc….

Overall I’m really beginning to like the interface on these folders – especially the “breadcrumb” at the top of the folder – which makes it easy to navigate back (and know which folder you are in – if you have some with the same name – but in different locations).  It’s to the point now when I’m on Windows XP it looks pretty old now…

December 17

Picking a new laptop

Recently I realized that it was time to upgrade my laptop – especially as I needed to upgrade my copy of Dreamweaver (I was using Dreamwear8).  At first I was planning on keeping the laptop for a few years – but when I tried a trial version of Dreamweaver CS5 I couldn’t move between the menus – so that was a clue that it was time to upgrade.  And not being able to charge the battery and missing the esc key was also a clue..

So now it was time to obsess about the next toy – I mean laptop.  One of the primary drivers for me again was Dreamweaver CS5 – to get a computer that runs it well.  So I started testing a trial version on different computers – it ran pretty well on my desktop (that I hardly ever use now) – an athlon dual core.  It also ran pretty well on my wife’s laptop – which was a celeron.  So I know that her laptop was the minimum in terms of performance.

The next thing to consider was the size of the laptop – I had an older laptop where I was running in 1400 x 900 -so I didn’t want to lose my big screen.  So I was tempted to buy a 17″ laptop – as they run at 1600 x 900.  After seeing how much they cost I again looked at my wife’s 15″ laptop which runs at 1366 x 768.  Dreamweaver CS5 seemed to look pretty good on her screen – so I decided that a 15″ was enough.

I knew already that I wanted a lot of memory – as I seem to run many things all at once – which fills it up.  So I wanted 4 gig – or at least the ability to upgrade.  I also was debating on the size and speed of the hard drive.  I was tempted by the 7200 RPM hard drives – but realized that a 5400 RPM might be good enough.

After doing some research (i.e. obsession) I was trying to decide what processor I really wanted.  I decided I really wanted an i3 or a i5 in order get the best performance (I compared the “passmark” score of the processors – as this seemed to be the only way these day s to compare).  So I started looking for multiple laptops across the net – including some Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

I finally came back to the place I’ve gone lately – Microcenter.  I found my laptop – an open box, refurbished Toshiba laptop.  I’ve found the refurbished laptops that Microcenter gets are often a great deal (unfortunately for my biz profits this is my 3rd computer this year).  I got a core i3, 4 gig of RAM, 500 gb 7200 RPM hard drive with a 12 cell battery.  It was a far better deal than I can find anywhere else (even including a $60 extended warranty to get a year’s warranty) – so I highly recommend them.

So now it’s time to set up the new laptop.

October 8

Windows 7 – Nifty Quick Calendar

I just noticed a nifty little thing in Windows 7 – a simple calendar.  I was actually scheduling some posts out – but Worpress doesn’t show a calendar – only lets you pick a month and day.  I simply clicked on the date and time in the lower left-hand corner and up popped a nice little calendar.   This was probably in many other version of Windows – but it just seems more usable in Windows 7.  So if you just need a quick look at a calendar without pulling up Outlook, Gmail, etc. – simply click on the date and time.

Again this just hows me how nice the overall UI of Windows 7 is – in that the taskbar just seems better – more usable.   Thank you Microsoft and all the beta testers for getting this right.

September 26

Office 2010 vs. Office 2007

At work we’re transitioning from Office XP to Office 2010 (quite a jump) – but at home I’ve had Office 2007 for some time.  Many people at work have 2007 at home and I find myself describing the difference of Office 2010 vs. Office 2007 much like the difference between Vista and Windows 7.  Windows 7 in many ways is Vista – most of the technology was introduced in Vista – but significantly refined in Windows 7.  Therefore the user experience is much better in Windows 7 vs. Windows Vista.

The difference between Office 2010 and Office 2007 seems to be similar – though not as dramatic.  Again, much of the new technology was introduced in 2007 – the new file formats and the “ribbon” – so none of that is new.  The ribbon is one of the most dramatic differences between Office 2007/2010 and older versions of Office – as we’re initially lost as to where everything went.  Over time though I’ve found it to be pretty useful – in that the functions are available where I need them (for the most part).

One of the biggest differences between 2007 and 2010 is that the hated “Office” button is gone – instead replaced with the trusty old “File” menu.   But this is more than just the old File Menu – it’s actually a pretty nice page to access File related features.

Would I recommend upgrading? Well, that depends on what Office version you are on.  If you are on Office XP (like I was for a long, long time) or 2003 it would be worth it (Office XP goes out of support soon) – but if you are on 2007 it’s probably not worth it.  There’s enough similarity between 2007 and 2010 to not make it worth it (you have the same file format, the ribbon, PDF  exporting, etc.) – but if you are on an older version you’re getting left behind.  One of the important points about Office is that everyone needs to be compatible – so while you can read the newer format in the older versions you can’t easily edit.  The other point is that if you are on an older version you risk support (i.e. security updates) from both Microsoft and those around you.  If your friends or colleagues figure out how to do something in Word or Excel – you many not be able to repeat it – as your version is different.  For an organization it can be very helpful for everyone to be on the same version – so that my be compelling enough reason to upgrade.

August 6

Windows 7 64 bit App Compatibility

One of my concerns of switching to Windows 7 was application compatibility - would my apps and hardware work?  Previously when I checked I had some concerns – especially with my Palm Centro – which didn’t have Windows 7 drivers.

When my desktop broke I was pretty much forced down the Windows 7 path (as most computers today come with it) – also knowing that I needed to understand it.  Many of the hardware concerns had gone away – as it was a new computer and I had a Palm Pre.

I was still concerned about my software – but I had an XP laptop to use for the most part (I use my desktop as more a server than as a PC) to use.  To my pleasant surprise almost all my software – Pinnacle Studio, Dreamweaver, etc. – installed and works.  I wasn’t expecting this – I was only down to one program that really wouldn’t install – Adobe Photoshop Elements.  Probably because I was using Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 – which is kinda old.

So overall I’ve been very impressed with how backward compatible Windows 7 is – in that it just works.   It has some compatibility modes also – which gives you even more options.  Again, Microsoft really did a good job on this one…

July 30

Windows 7 Interface

I thought I’d write a little more about Windows 7 – talking (interesting how I used that word) about the interface.  Windows 7 has this spiffy new Aero interface – which actually is kinda nice.  This spiffy new computer of mine (but no lemon fresh scent) can handle the graphics well enough so it looks nice.

But it’s more than just nice looking – it’s actually pretty useful in the way it works.  I have a shot of my pictures folder – which actually consists of three libraries (a neat concept where multiple folders tie together – in my case I have my main pictures in a separate drive – but I just added that to the Pictures folder).  In this case the images provide a neat preview of the folders – and along the top of the folder if you drill into the folders it shows you your path. I know this can be a useful feature – as sometimes it’s very difficult to know where you are – especially if you have sub folders with the same name.  This will help me understand where I am – and help me to easily go back in the hierarchy – much like the breadcrumbs on a web page. I also just noticed how the search bar is now built in (sometimes that can be fun to find on some types of folders in XP).  What’s cool is that you’re searching from this place – instead of having to navigate again in the search tool.

Another think I liked was how the open windows behave in the task bar (I think they “re-used” some of this look from Apple).  Your taskbar isn’t overwhelming and groups like items together – but unlike XP it’s a lot easier to tell which is which – simply hover over and get a preview of the window – so I know the correct one to pick.  I’m also experimenting with “pin”ing an item to the taskbar – so it’s easy to get to.  I don’t want to have too much stuff here – like on a mac – as I find that overwhelming.  But the apps I use a lot down there could be quite useful – and I can tell if they are open by hovering over the icon (which is bigger and brighter than on XP).

Overall I think the interface is pretty intuitive – windows has come a long way and I’m impressed with Windows 7.  I also just noticed an interesting thing – on the taskbar when I hover the different options it changes the icon at the top – to reflect the different options – for music it shows a note, for documents it shows, well a document.  My wife also just pointed out a cool thing – for Google Chrome at the top of the taskbar is an little arrow to the right.  Click on that and it gives you a list of the documents you most recently accessed, etc.  She uses this for Microsoft word now a lot – making things easier and quicker for her each day.

I think an even better test of Windows 7 is that my non-technical wife (which is good for me!) is starting to like it.  They’ve really done a good job on this one – making it a much more enjoyable experience.   I don’t have any long term test, but what I’ve heard and seen so far is good.

July 27

Windows 7 Hands on – First Impressions

I finally broke down and upgraded my desktop (the old one was acting up and when I tried to re-load windows it decided to endlessly reboot).  Part of that upgrade was converting from Windows XP to Windows 7.  I had been reluctant to consider upgrading to Vista – but heard and saw good things about Windows 7 so I was looking forward to it.

Now I have this spiffy new desktop with Windows 7 on it.. This is actually the 64 bit version of Windows 7 – which most new computers seem to come with (not the 32 bit).  I only have 3 gig of RAM in this computer – but at least with a 64 bit operating system I know I can expand beyond that (more than 3 gig on a 32 bit operating system is somewhat useless).

Overall I’ve been pretty happy with Windows 7 – it seems to flow smoothly, looks nice, behaves nice – a good solid upgrade to the old windows OS.   I felt like I was able to get things up and running pretty quickly – including setting up a network (I also got a new laptop for my wife as I’ve been monopolizing our other laptop).  After a little bit of work I was able to get my XP laptop to connect to the network drive (I use my desktop computer almost more as a server than a personal computer).

So my first impressions are good on my new desktop with nearly a terrabyte of storage (doesn’t that sound crazy)……

April 13

Computerworld white paper about Windows 7 @ Intel sponsored by Dell?

This was strange – I just read a small white paper @ Windows 7 user acceptance – which was researched performed at Intel.  What was strange was that at the sign up for the paper it asked if I wanted to be contacted by Dell to discuss an upgrade.

The paper itself (http://www.cio.com/documents/whitepapers/Intel_Value_of_PC_Refresh_with_Microsoft_Windows_7.pdf) wasn’t surprising -as it said the users liked Windows 7 over Windows XP.  They indicated the ROI was good for them – but of course Intel was talking about using Intel technologies with Windows 7.  So this is not quite an unbiased review – as they’re talking about their own technology. Makes me wonder if this is really advertising for upgrading hardware now that Windows 7 is here…

January 22

Recommendation: Upgrade Vista to Windows 7

I was talking to some people this morning and I recommended they upgrade any Vista Computers they have from Windows Vista to Windows 7.  To me Windows 7 is like Vista the way it was supposed to be.  I don’t have it myself (my computers are still on XP and are not Windows 7 ready) but I from what I’ve seen and heard it’s a good operating system.  So I don’t hesitate to recommend it – especially as it comes on new computers.  If I had a Vista computer I would upgrade it to Windows 7 -as it will work better and has some more features.

Here are some steps I would recommend to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7:

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