Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First Impressions of Windows 7

My first impression of the OS is overwhelmingly positive. I have been using it for a full day (just installed it last night), and I haven't seen a glitch or a slowdown yet. After using Vista for a couple of years, it's a welcome change.

I used the machine all day for software development at work. This was something of a pain, since I did a clean install and had to add a lot of my tools back in. The upshot to this is that I installed a pile of software and found that it all worked without a lot of tweaking required.

A few of the things that stood out as positives:
  • The redesigned taskbar. I like the fact that it consists of both running and "favorite" applications. The window management it drives simply rocks (see the link for a more detailed review & comparison to the Mac Dock).
  • Everything has been cleaned up in the interface. From the taskbar to the start button to control panel and all of the little utilities I have tried, everything is easy to grok and use.
  • The Aero UI components are reasonably fast. A very refreshing change from Vista.
  • The themes are visually appealing, and easy to change. The one you see in the screen shot above was downloaded by clicking "get more themes", but the built-in ones are really nice too.
  • Sleep means sleep. The machine didn't wake up in the middle of the night (and kill the battery) for no apparent reason. This is still something to watch, but since I haven't heard the fan running nonstop yet, I suspect that whatever the problem was is gone now. (Yes, I did look for processes running when they shouldn't. No, I never found one.)

The negatives are pretty minor, but here they are:

  • Some browser plugins (like Flash!) simply don't work in the native browser. This is a function of my installing the 64-bit version of Windows 7 - not all of the plugin vendors offer a 64-bit version of their software yet. I got around it by installing Flash inside of the 32-bit Google Chrome browser, but this will probably be annoying in the future.
  • Firefox doesn't have a 64-bit version. I'm using a one-off called "Minefield" right now. It appears to be misnamed, though - works just fine, and noticably faster than the 32-bit version. So far, all of my plugins (except Flash) work just fine.

Although there are no major negatives, so far. There are a few things I'm going to watch for, based on my experiences with Vista:

  • Search service and indexing performance: so far it hasn't been a noticable drag on performance. It sucked in Vista, even after installing Windows Search 4.
  • "Security Essentials". I decided to uninstall the copy of AVG I initially installed and try out Microsoft's free anti-virus and anti-spyware software. The word is, it isn't a drag on system resources and integrates nicely into the OS.

My overall impression is that this comes close to what OS X has been doing for the past few years. I am not a heavy user of Macs, but much of what attracts me to the OS (simplicity, ease-of-use, depth of functionality when you need it) seems to me to be present in Windows 7.

I had been thinking that "come hell or high water, I'm going to buy a MacBook Pro some time in the next year." Now I'm not so sure. A high-end PC laptop with this OS may give me everything I expect from a Mac. Well, I've got some time to compare the two (another member of the household has a Mac) and figure out if my first impression holds up.