It’s been a while since I last reviewed a Windows version, but I couldn’t resist reviewing Windows 7. Microsoft’s latest is surely their greatest. It has a much more comfortable, user-friendly interface. Its task bar supports previews with the ability to apply some small edits (e.g. to photos), and the 64-bit Enterprise edition comes with all the power you expect from an enterprise desktop client.
Windows 7’s interface is very user-friendly. For example, dragging a window to the screen side will immediately snap the window in place. You can do this with two windows. The benefit? You can drag and drop files between two folders quicker this way, or compare two documents side-by-side. Shaking a window with the mouse will minimise the others instantly. Shaking again will get all them back to their original size. Gadgets are small applets that you can place anywhere on your desktop — I had a CPU meter showing the stress for my machine, but I could also have had a clock, calendar and even games showing (this feature will not be liked by enterprise bosses, I guess).
Under the hood, Windows 7 uses Microsoft’s open source XPS file format for displaying and printing documents. A XPS file weighs in at approximately half of the same file in PDF format, so you save bandwidth if you have to transmit a lot of documents over a network.
I have had Windows 7 running for over a month now and it never showed a glitch. When programs don’t behave well, the system won’t go with it, and everything keeps running smoothly. Windows 7 comes in several versions or flavours.
With Windows 7 Professional — and I wouldn’t buy anything less because it has many very interesting features — you’ll be able to run many Windows XP productivity programs natively in Windows 7 or by using Windows XP Mode, and recover data easily with automatic backups to your home or business network.
The Professional version also allows you to connect to company networks easily and more securely. In addition to the features in Windows 7 Home Premium, you’ll also get functionality that makes working with networks more comfortable, such as Domain Join, which gives the ability to join a managed Windows Server network, an advanced backup and restore functionality to help you back up an entire system to a home or business network, and an Encrypted File System to help protect your data
You can even use something that is called Location Aware Printing, which helps you set different default printers for your home and work networks.
The Ultimate and Enterprise versions also have more robust features that will appeal to larger enterprises:
- Microsoft’s BitLocker and BitLocker To Go drive encryption and data protection on internal and external drives and storage devices
- DirectAccess, which helps give you a more secure connection to your corporate network over the Internet
- Microsoft BranchCache, which helps provide faster access to content from remote file and Web servers at branch locations
- Microsoft AppLocker, which helps prevent unauthorized software from running on workers’ PCs
- Enterprise Search Scopes, which make it easy to discover and search content on intranet portals
- Multilingual user interface packs, which let you work in any of 35 languages
Printers and publishers with more than just a small group of PCs should in my opinion opt for the Ultimate or Enterprise editions, because of these features. For example, AppLocker can make managing security a much easier task than it was ever before.
What struck me the most during my month of playing with Windows 7 — apart from its nice interface and its rich media capabilities out-of-the-box — was the far easier network management. With Windows XP Professional I could set up a network but I had to take it step-by-step in order not to miss anything. Windows 7 is much more targeted to users who do not regularly set up networks. There’s now even a full network map that you can examine.
Security has always been an issue with Windows. Microsoft seems to have gone to great lengths in order to strike a balance between security and discomfort (as in the system asking you for a password). Windows 7 also supports multiple active firewall settings for different computing environments, as well as smart card authentication. On the Internet side of things, Windows 7 has support for DNS security extensions. The Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise flavours have extensive management features that make deploying Windows throughout a company a much easier task than with Windows XP.
In many publishing and printing environments, Microsoft’s .Net and other platforms will be used that run only on Windows. All of these applications run on Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise. For business use, Windows 7 probably is the best bet, even when economy is giving businesses a hard time. The reason: users may become more productive and the computing environment more secure. Those two combined make Windows 7 a must-have.