Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What My Wife Loves About Windows 7

My wife Cindi is a typical computer user who knows how to do what she needs and no more. She has no interest in how it all works but she expects her computer to work in a consistent manner. She enjoys learning new features but only if it’s related to her daily activities and/or makes life easier.

When her new ThinkPad came earlier this year I worried that she wouldn’t welcome the changes.  I don’t know about other geek husbands out there but “anything” that doesn’t work right on Cindi’s computer is my fault. :)

So I was nervous when I upgraded Cindi from her Windows XP machine to a brand new Windows 7 interface. To my surprise and delight the conversion was successful and Cindi has been very happy with Windows 7.

Network Discovery
The first new treat she discovered using Windows 7 was the quick detection of our wireless network. In the past, Cindi’s laptop would boot up and while it appeared to be ready it was my fault when she couldn’t get online.win7b  The engineers at Microsoft made this feature a priority and they nailed it.  Cindi can now check for new baby photos on Facebook  before her first sip of coffee.


System Tray Management
While we’re looking at the Windows 7 system tray I can tell you about another new feature that makes her happy.  Note the little up arrow that now contains all the icons that used to mess up  the system tray. win7e This keeps the Windows system tray much neater and more manageable. Considering all the great new features in Windows 7 it seems silly to just talk about system tray issues. Truth is task bar icons have always been a major annoyance to PC users.


Show Desktop
There’s one feature that I use all the time and only writing this article did Cindi finally understand one of the mysteries of Windows 7. win7c In the very bottom right hand corner is a small box doesn’t appear to have a purpose. Under the Windows 7 interface this plain little box is the “Show Desktop” feature. This is a great feature and while it was available under Windows XP, it wasn’t widely used. The implementation as a little square has confused many but once they find out how it works everyone loves it. So, if you’re one of those people who wonder why sometimes all your windows disappear, it’s because your mouse hovered over this little box.

File Search Filter
One of single most important tasks that non-computer experts have dealt with is “Where the heck did I put that file”?  Teaching users how to locate and open a file is the difference between a computer user and someone who uses a computer.

Windows has a standard Open File dialog available to developers and it is used by most applications including Windows Explorer and Word. This provides a fairly consistent interface. Windows 7 Open dialog now includes great enhancements aimed and making finding that file easier.

In my example below Cindi was looking for a document she needed for her work with Scotia Rotary.  Typing in the word “Rotary” instantly displayed a number of recent documents related to Rotary.  In addition, one of the other new Win7 features displays text thumbnails helping her find the exact document she wanted.

Home Group

What’s even nicer about Windows 7 is that Cindi doesn’t need to know which folder her file is located in. Using Windows Home Groups her computer combines her old “My Documents” folder with other folders that have been assigned to her using the Windows 7 Home Groups.  Some of her folders are located on our home network.

Many years ago I listened to Bill Gates discuss how the future of Windows would be a “Document Concentric” system instead of focusing on loading programs. I argued the point strongly but there is the possibility I may have been wrong.  :)

One of the features that makes Cindi happiest is the performance of her new Windows 7 laptop. While having a newer machine doesn’t hurt, her Lenovo ThinkPad is “Windows 7 aware” and takes advantage of its new architecture. I’ve written before how Windows 7 has improved handling of multicore processors. I’m also an advocate of the more expensive solid state hard drives and Windows 7 knows how to make the most utilizing her primary drive which is small but has no moving parts

Power Management
One of the welcome benefits of her new laptop is enhanced battery life. Windows 7 allowed me to configure her laptop for outstanding usage when not plugged. The power management not only saves on batter life Cindi no longer complains that her laptop is burning her legs.



I’ve left out so many other great new Windows features but my point was to show how Windows 7 provides instant improvements to non-computer experts. My biggest surprise is that all these new features are being utilized with a minimal learning curve. I still occasionally get blamed when some applications misbehave but Windows 7 has been a joy.

So obviously, I no longer recommend you order new computers with Windows XP. I also recommend if you’ve been using Vista stop now and order Windows 7 as soon as possible. Your time is important and Windows 7 is a worthwhile investment.

My Pick
Windows 7 Ultimate Upgrade

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Blogger Juanita said...

Sorry, Bill, but I don't share your and your wife's enthusiasm for Windows 7. Part of my dislike is that every time I use a program, I first have to wait until the Windows 7 Police stop and ask me whether I'm sure I want it to run. Never mind that I've run it 100 times before. Yes, I know that it's supposed to enhance my security, but all it does is raise my blood pressure. I should add that I'm not completely opposed to this mechanism. What annoys me is that I apparently have to agree to an all or nothing arrrangement. I can't tell it that I totally trust program X so please stop asking me whether I want to permit it to run, whereas it's fine to ask about program Y. No, apparently the only way to get rid of the Windows 7 Police is to get rid of them for all programs. So far, I've chosen not to do that, but....

As for hiding away all the icons I'm looking for so that I can't find them in the system tray but have to push some arrow and then try to find them in the system tray jail, thanks but no thanks! If I have icons in the system tray, it's because I want them there and look for them there. It's easy enough in Windows XP to designate certain icons to show all the time and others to be hidden away--I don't need to stuff them all by default into some closet that I have to click to get to. Blech.

And I'm not in the least impressed with the show desktop button, since that same functionality has been available for years by pressing Windows-D. I'd much rather use the keyboard and keep unneeded extra icons off my screen.

As for searching for files, I find that the breathtaking speed of the freeware program Search Everything makes any other way of searching for file or folder names unnecessary.

I have no idea what Home Groups are, so I can't comment on that, but since I rarely like the way Windows tries to arrange things, I have my doubts that I'm missing anything.

Yes, I know, I sound like a curmudgeon. I guess when it comes to Windows 7, I plead guilty. However, when it comes to WinPatrol Plus, I'm a great fan!

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than open the desktop to find a shortcut, I use (as I have for many years) Snadboy's free TopDesk, which puts all desktop icons in an immediately available alphabetized list.

I've used it since Windows 95, and it still works with XP; I don't know about W7 but would expect it to be OK.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thing Cindi is not a photographer keeping all her photos for slide shows on her laptop or she would be so fed up with win7 auto arrange that she would be making your life miserable. She would be writing letters to MS and emailing campaigns to anybody who would listen about how a company so large can be so blind.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Actually, Cindi regularly accesses my tens of thousands of photo.
I have Picasso installed on her computer and she likes that.


2:04 PM  

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