Windows 7: First Impressions

by JL Beeken on 10-17-2010

WindowsOn the 55th day the replacement computer arrived. A DELL (quad-core with 6GB RAM) running Windows 7. I was so used to not having my desktop I stared dumbfounded at the delivery man. You want to leave that box here?

First for the phenomenal news. My mind map did survive. It was a complex map and I wouldn’t have been able to recreate it so I’m really grateful that it was saved.

By now I’ve finished copying all my data from the old drive to the new one, as well as my temporary backup folder from the laptop, set up new profiles in Syncback and backed everything up. That feels really good to have done.

Now for the other news. This could go on for days so I’ll just hit a few first impressions.

DELL i580

DELL first. The system has a high-pitched whine that’s simply a deal-breaker. It makes me want to run screaming naked into the woods. It’s a little known fact that my family name is really Stradivari. Once in awhile the sound recedes enough to give me a short rest but I live in fear. The DVD-drive started out by rattling but seems to have settled down today. The hard-drive clatters and bangs periodically and I jump out of my skin.

Windows 7

I expected to like Windows 7 so I was surprised when I immediately hated it. The first thing I noticed was the navigation. I couldn’t find anything. Anything I could find was only after a major hunting expedition. For an entire day and into the next I kept looking and looking for something that made sense because I was sure there had to be something somewhere. This is Microsoft so maybe not.

Your big deal choice here (as seen in TV ads) is to pin programs to the taskbar. Open programs also show up there and you won’t know if an icon represents an open program or one that’s ‘pinned’. If you slide your cursor across the icons little thumbnails pop up to tell you what’s open but you have to have time to be razzle-dazzled by fairly slow-moving pop-up thumbnails.

There’s not enough room for many large icons so pinning popular programs there really doesn’t work unless you’ve only got a couple. After struggling and struggling to make sense of it I decided to only use it for open programs. And that’s an improvement over XP because it’s only icons instead of the whole program name so there’s more room.

You can also minimize open programs to the System Tray or you can choose to have them spread out. So, you can have a mix of large and teeny icons. Or you can choose to make the large ones teeny too.

Windows 7 Taskbar

Windows 7 Taskbar

All the programs are hidden behind the Start button. Since Windows 7 will not allow me to arrange dual monitors to have the navigation on the right-hand monitor, (oh, please tell me it will) I have to move my right-handed mouse all the way over to the left side of the left-hand monitor to click on the Start button. Then I have to type in what I’m looking for. You literally have to search for your programs using a search bar! Since I commonly have more than 150 programs (not including the portables) installed I don’t even know what’s on my computer unless I can see it so how would I know what to search for?

The handy Quick Launch menu in XP is gone. On XP you could drag a folder onto a window edge and create your own menu. Gone.

A way to actually see your programs is to make shortcuts to every single one of them on your desktop. If you like having program icons from one end of your desktop to the other this is the operating system for you! Sometimes on a reboot, Windows 7 will throw all your icons back against the wall, so if you’ve spent any time at all arranging them strategically you’re in for some major frustration.

Here’s the cure. Put all your program shortcuts into a folder somewhere. Well, not all. Only as many as will fit vertically on your monitor or as many as you’re comfortable scrolling through. Then right-click on the taskbar and, under Toolbars, click New toolbar. Then browse to the location of your shortcuts and Select Folder. You’ve now made your own Quick Launch menu. As seen above. (QL)

Windows 7 will not allow you to pin My Documents to the taskbar. You can pin it to the Windows Explorer icon instead and get to it by right-clicking. Since My Music, My Pictures and My Video are now separate from My Documents, I put shortcuts to them as well. In this case, if all the folders have been previously opened, the pop-up thumbnails work pretty well. Or you can make more Quick Launch menus for them.

Windows 7 Explorer

Windows 7 Explorer

Now, if I can just find a way to move the navigation to my right-hand monitor, it will almost feel like home. I’ve finally found my ‘stuff’ so I’ve moved on from hate to faint hope. Well, more than that. I’m starting to like it. It’s smooth and fast and after two months with an 8-year old laptop it’s like driving a Ferrari.

Save As

When you go to save something, a screenshot, a text file, whatever, using the ever-popular ‘Save As’ command you will, sometimes, no longer have My Documents as one of the quick menu options that you’re used to seeing in XP. You’ll get this instead:

Windows 7 Save As

Windows 7 Save As

I’m a homing pigeon. My radarscope is looking for My Documents. If I scroll down under “JL” far enough I will eventually come to it. Or if I click on Desktop I might find it 2 or 3 clicks after that. Who’s got the time to scroll and dig to find My Documents? It’s do-able but I’m old and easily confused.

Or you might come to a similar window where ‘My Documents’ has been replaced by ‘Libraries’. Libraries are kind of the same thing as My Documents. Sort of. Not exactly.

Move To/Copy To

I really really miss the Move To/Copy To/Delete icons. I used them constantly. Move To/Copy To is still under the Edit menu but it’s a long way away.

Safely Remove Hardware

“Safely remove hardware’ does not work. It says it does by throwing up a box saying, “This device can be safely removed.” But if you heed that assurance you will disconnect a drive while it’s still spinning. I may have toasted a $200 Samsung already. The only safe way to disconnect drives is by shutting down your system first and waiting 10 seconds.

UAC

UAC (User Account Control) will drive you crazy in about five minutes. Every time you click to open a program it will ask you for permission. Just in case there’s something wrong with your program. In years of running XP I had one virus and one trojan that were snatched out of thin air by my anti-virus software before they hit the ground. Security was not a raging concern. Thankfully, the UAC has a ‘never ask me’ option. I hope this isn’t all there is to the ‘new and improved’ security features but I really don’t know.

Downloading from the Internet

I’ve downloaded several programs that have immediately disappeared from my Inbox. I don’t know where they went. They’re just gone.

Fonts

The default system font is really really small. There’s an option to increase it by 25% or 50% or customize the size and that will improve some things. You might also get a mix of tiny and larger fonts in some places. Default web browser font size, for instance, is 16 but it won’t work here.

My Keyboard

At random my keyboard stalls and sits frozen for 5-10 minutes.

Bloatware & The Registry

Of course there’s various bloatware, advertising for Microsoft Office 2010 and Roxio 10. Since this OS came through DELL there’s DELL bloatware as well. No backup disks except Drivers & Utilities. No backup disk for the operating system, but something else called DELL DataBackup that makes backup disks of the factory default. While running, it blinds you with flashing ads to upgrade. Of course, using it for restore would bring all the bloatware and advertising back with it.

After uninstalling DELL Dock (a badly designed taskbar that sits at the top of the desktop) and the advertising for MS Office, I ran TuneUp Utilities. It found over 250 registry errors and said the system was in a critical state of disarray. I thought that was interesting. How does a brand new system have over 250 registry errors?

I haven’t tried anything dramatic yet like hooking up my scanner or installing most of my software.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fred Schwilk 10-18-2010 at 9:35 AM

I found that Everything utility was a great help.
Fred
San Jose, California

Reply

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