Windows 7 Is Looking Good

Unless you follow tech news, it may come as a surprise to you that the next version of Windows is almost ready for prime time.  All signs point to a mid to late 2009 release, which makes perfect sense when you realize that Microsoft has been working on Windows 7 ever since Vista was released over two years ago.  And for once I think they've gotten it right from the start.  Windows 7 is the best version of Windows yet.  Yes, that means that it's better than XP.  For real.  Those of you that have been buying new PCs and begging for copies of XP (you know who you are) can officially look forward to upgrading now. (pq)

Over the years, I've used Beta versions of Windows off-and-on from Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and now Windows 7.  There's a lot to like about this new Windows, and it's obvious that Microsoft has put a lot of care and research into this version, while listening to the feedback provided to them by customers who were early to adopt Windows Vista.  Many of the items that caused headaches for that group have been specifically addressed in Windows 7, helping to ensure that your transition will be a smooth experience.

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So what's the big deal, you may ask?  What makes this version special?  Here are a few of my favorite new features:

  • Improved Taskbar - No longer are there separate areas for program shortcuts and running programs.  Windows 7 simplifies the process by combining them into a single dock along the bottom of the screen where you can pin shortcuts to your favorite programs.  When you launch them, the icon lights up to let you know.  If you have multiple windows from the same program open, they stack naturally behind the same icon.
  • Active Thumbnails - When you have more than one window open from the same program (like your MLS and county assessor sites open in Internet Explorer for example), Windows 7 will stack them together until you hover your mouse over the icon.  At that point, it will show you a large thumbnail of each of the open pages and when you hover over one of those, all other windows go transparent.  This makes it easy to find the window in question.  If you want to go to that window, just click it.
  • Libraries - In the Windows Explorer, the addition of "Libraries" makes organizing large amounts of files from several locations simple.  Simply add each physical location from your hard drive into the "Library" and you can access all of them from a single view.  You can create your own libraries to organize appraisal files, photos, other documents, etc... 
  • Smaller kernel - This one sounds technical, but what it really means is that Windows 7 runs better, is faster, and more reliable on lower end hardware than previous versions of Windows.  I've installed it on a few of my older PCs and it runs every bit as well as Windows XP did on them.  I'm pleasantly surprised.

There's more, of course...  Too much to list here, in fact.  If you'd like to learn more and see what else is new in Windows 7, I encourage you to point your browser to www.Microsoft.com/Windows7

The good news is that while Microsoft has spent a lot of time and effort to improve and enhance the features that people see and use every day, the underlying file system remains virtually unchanged on the back end.  That means that programs written to be compatible on Windows Vista will run just fine on Windows 7.  And indeed, both WinTOTAL Aurora and WinTOTAL Armstrong will run on Windows 7 without any special configuration or settings.  As Microsoft announces the certification program details, we'll be sure to get on board and get Armstrong certified not only for Windows Vista (as it is now), but Windows 7 as well.

But when should you upgrade?  Well, that depends on how adventurous you are, and on your PC.  Typically, I don't recommend doing an upgrade to any new version of Windows on the same PC.  It's just more hassle than most small business owners need.  Remember the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!".  Generally, the best advice is just to wait until you have to replace hardware and get the new version of Windows that comes with it.  Whether that's Vista, or 7 later this year...  you'll be getting a fine operating system.  Don't be afraid.  Come on in, the water's fine.

Windows is better today than ever.  You're going to like it.