Windows 7 Beta Experience

Like a few million others I’ve put the Windows 7 Beta through its paces recently. Keen to get it up and running with as little fuss as possible I initially installed it on a VM using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. It installed flawlessly but the experience was terrible. No Aero-glass of course, but disk access was slow, screen redraws were torturous – everything seemed so “laggy”. Much more so than a Windows Vista or XP virtual machine.

Disappointed with my initial attempt I left it at that for a while. Then a few nights back I decided to install the 64bit version of Windows 7 as a dual boot on my main development machine. The install was again flawless – which was quite a surprise since the installs for the Windows Vista Betas were the worst of any OS I’ve installed. Once the machine rebooted, Windows 7 came up complete with the full Aero-glass. This time the experience was the complete opposite of the initial VM installation. Everything was just so damn fast. It really makes Vista (32bit on the same box) seem so slow. The window animations and effects are beautifully smooth.

Playing with it further I was also pleasantly surprised by a number of other improvements:

  • Libraries – finally!!! These rock – its what the “My XXX” folders should have always been.
  • Search – I added a significant quantity of files (22,000 photos, 2,000 documents, 3,000 videos) to my document libraries and they were indexed within minutes. The search results were then displayed neatly, clearly showing how each file was matched – including showing the content around the text match for documents. This is how search in Vista should have worked!
  • Windows docking – use the Windows key with the cursor keys to minimize, maximize, move to left/right monitor etc. These seem to work really nicely.
  • Task bar – I really didn’t think too much of this from the video demos I’d seen. Now having used it for a few hours it feels painful to go back to Vista.
  • File Dialogs and Explorer Windows – great use of the libraries in all dialogs and explorer. The folder tree is much better than Vista – smaller icons and sensible groupings.
  • Less obnoxious UAC