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Windows 7 fence sitters: don’t be shy, make the leap!

May 28, 2010

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I just made the leap to Windows 7 in the last week or so…and I’m really glad I did it!

A little background in how I triggered the upgrade involves a quick story about Vista, Windows 7’s clunky predecessor.

Lately I’ve been performing the majority of my work off a laptop computer that’s two years old, an HP Pavilion dv6000 that has held up really well–especially in light of the fact that I’ve overloaded it with nearly every conceivable program to humankind, and then some.

The only down side was that it came with Windows Vista…which at the time of the computer purchase in 2008 had only been out a handful of months and was already being ripped apart as a horribly slow, memory-sucking, problematic OS.  From what I recall, Vista did a face plant in the mud a whole minute before the gates even opened up, remained face-down immobilized, and was disqualified–due mainly to technical sluggishness and glitches with its core design.

Despite the shortcomings with Vista, I was still excited about all the new eye candy it offered, along with new features such as the snipping tool.  I learned to work around its sluggish nature; things like turning on the computer and going in to take a shower while it warmed up and “got itself together” to be up and running by the time I returned with a cup of coffee in hand, ready to work.

I soldiered through the sluggish nature of Vista and some of its other quirks, mishaps, and glitches for an entire two-year stretch…I feel like I should earn a gold medal, or better yet a Golden Turkey (that’s, um, indexer humor…see the prior post about that award).

It all ended when I stopped by Best Buy a little over a week ago.

I decided I’d had enough, and heard enough positive things about Windows 7 that I did the plunge.  Since I was upgrading from Vista, all I needed was the upgrade version of Win 7…I didn’t need the full installation.

As standard protocol, I backed up my data and anticipated that it would be necessary to reinstall the numerous programs on my laptop…however, much to my satisfaction, none of that was necessary.  Win 7 integrated seamlessly with my Vista OS.  I commenced the upgrade in the evening before I went to bed, got up maybe once to check on it at about 3am (an unplanned visit), and by morning it was fully integrated.  I may have gone through 2-3 restarts over who knows what during my first cup o’ joe, but it wasn’t anything unanticipated…just a little protocol stuff.

So then there they all were…all my programs were waiting for me, appearing the same as they did with Vista…desktop background preserved and all.  Voila!

Windows 7 brings you essentially the same eye candy as Vista, and is sleeker and faster than its predecessor.  Here’s a quick synopsis–keep in mind the bare basics–of what you can expect:

What’s new

  • New task bar…much like the one seen on Apple computers.  Larger icons and more intuitive menus.
  • New window treatments…the Show Desktop button is a nice advancement from that file shuffling feature in Vista, and is much easier to work with.
  • Jump lists…which are another nice task bar feature…and highlight a bigger advancement, in how there’s more usage now with the right-click on the mouse.  I’d always wondered when Microsoft would figure that out and run with it.  The right click is now the new power in the palm of your hand.
  • Libraries…a new folder concept that helps to keep project folders together.
  • Better networking…much easier now for the non-techie with the HomeGroups feature.
  • Music sharing…you can listen to music from one PC while seated at another.
  • Improved plug-and-play…it’s more driver-savvy with a slick new Device Stage window.
  • Multitouch features…like the new apps on those iPhones.

Downsides

  • Upgrading from XP…you’ll need to do a clean install…but with a little patience it will be worth it.
  • Which version to choose…Home Premium?  Professional?  Ultimate? (for $20 extra over professional I took a stab at the Ultimate since I have a business already, and figured I’d try out the BitLocker feature).  Oh, and it doesn’t end there…you can choose between 32-bit vs. 64-bit, and then N and K editions if you’re overseas.
  • Missing apps…no Windows Mail, no Movie Maker, Calendar, Contacts, or Photo Gallery…but never fear!  You can get these freebies online as Windows Live Essentials…it just didn’t come with the OS since Microsoft probably realized that not everyone uses them anymore if they have other more robust programs at their disposal.

In the end, this is a must-upgrade if you’re currently working on Vista.  Get rid of that slug.  It’s beyond seamless and easy, and you’ll be glad you did.  For XP users, it’s not quite so seamless, and you’ll need some time to orient yourself to the new OS layout and features…but know this: while quite a bit has gone on while you’ve been away, you’ll never ever have to deal with the headaches of Vista.  It’s as if you came back from being away to find a sweet new addition to the house, and while you need to get your bearings you had the pleasure of missing out on the weeks of construction inconveniences.

The Missing Manual series, Windows 7 edition (2010)

Just be ready to make some adjustments and invest a little time, and you’ll get a big payoff on the back-end.  Oh, and of course every new tool needs a handy companion to help with the transition and learning curve…so I a recommend a guide to help you take advantage of all the features Windows 7 has to offer.  My personal preference is The Missing Manual series.  I’ve read through many user manuals for programs, from the Dummies series to the Microsoft Inside/Out and Step by Step series, as well as Real World, Classroom in a Book, the Adobe How-Tos, and Teach Yourself Visually series.

Most of us want something that hits right in the middle and can give us a level of detail beyond just the basics.  Unlike the Dummies books (which tend to cater to beginners or first-timers), and the Microsoft published manuals (which tend to have a bias by not revealing shortcomings and tiger traps, the lion’s share of which are horribly written by techie non-writers)

The Missing Manual series is aimed more at the advanced-beginner to intermediate user, but within each chapter there are beginner and advanced user text boxes to accommodate a wider audience and address newbie needs for a particular feature when it arises (and it will).  In addition, The Missing Manual is the type of publication that doesn’t rush to get their product out there at the drop of a new program, as the 2010 copyright will indicate.  They’ve taken some time to get familiar with this new OS and dig through its guts a bit, and it shows in its analysis.

Whatever manual you choose, I swear by the idea of getting something…it might be an extra $20 investment, but it will help to maximize your facility of any new program.  With what Windows 7 has to offer, that’s worth it!

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2 Comments
  1. May 29, 2010 7:02 am

    I’m still on XP, never having upgraded to Vista. (It’s been my practice to wait 6-12 months after a new Windows release comes out to have it gamma-tested by the public and I have always profited as a result.) I understand that Win7 is an actual good release but I keep thinking about the following things and saying “Not yet.”
    * It’s not been out long enough. Historically, MS comes out with a major service pack to fix all the little things that they overlooked within a year of the release. Think of WinXP, which has 3 SPs. Or the 2nd version of Win 98. Or Windows for Workgroups 3.11. It’s better to wait a while.
    * I don’t want to upgrade my hardware. MS never writes for the hardware you HAVE, they write for the HARDWARE YOU NEED TO BUY. Again, this has been a problem all the way back to Windows 1.0. I remember arguing with one senior MS developer about how slow a just-released version of Windows was and he said “What are you running it on?” and when I told him, he replied (with the finger waving in the air; they always do that) “THERE’S your problem, YOU need to buy faster hardware!” “No,” I replied, “I’d love it if MS built software for the current version of hardware so we didn’t have to upgrade just to get the same speed we did before we upgraded.” He didn’t like that.
    Another example of this policy is the Mach 5 and Mach 10 cards. These were cards you’d drop into your IBM AT so they’d run Windows 3.0 cleanly. They cost about $500 in 1986 (and ATs were running around, uh, $4000 or so). This was being touted as a “solution.” I pointed out that you could spend $500 to buy a card that would do nothing more than repair the damage to your system caused by installing a $50 Windows OS.
    * It’s a new look-and-feel. If I wanted to buy a Mac, I’d have bought a Mac. I’m sure the new look-and-feel has much to recommend it, but so does the ribbon bar introduced in Office 2007. We can all agree that the ribbon bar is a much improved UI for many reasons, but I hate it completely. After decades of using whatever the menu structure was arbitrarily changed to with each new version of Office, this is just too much. I’m sticking with Office 2003 and will for quite a while still.
    * The new features sound pretty “meh!” The Show Desktop button? I have that right here in XP. Nice to see that MS is figuring out the right mouse button at last. I remember talking to developers about that when I was there in the early 90s and hearing all about why they “couldn’t.” Libraries sound VERY cool, admittedly. (Can you yet color-tag directory folders for sorting?) Better networking would be good, but I’m thinking that the tools I need are more net-sniffer like. Plug-and-Play has been around for ages and it still only works maybe 2/3 of the time.

    I think the biggest thing for me is that WinXP ~works~. I am not seeing any overweaning reason to upgrade. I’m sure that I will end up on Windows 7 in a few years, but it’s nothing I’m going to worry about now. Lead the charge on this one, please, and let me know how it works out for you. I’ll be there eventually.

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    • May 30, 2010 10:10 pm

      Hey John…thanks for stopping by and weighing in with your experience on this. Much of what you’re saying is dead on…and it looks like your current needs still work within the XP OS.

      The updating of equipment certainly can be annoying, and it’s a hassle in how we always seem to be opening our wallets to keep up with the advances between software and hardware; they’re in a continuum of perpetual leapfrogging, and the Microsofts, HP’s, and Adobes of the world keep rolling in the cash. Our needs (and wallets) are at their mercy in many ways.

      In the past, I tended to be more in your camp…I liked the idea of holding out as long as I could before making any advancements in equipment or updating to a new OS — as it’s quite a jump for some from XP to Win 7, going from Office 2003 to 2007, or Adobe CS3 to what…they have CS5 out now? From CS4 to CS5 within less than two years? LOL…you definitely have a point on that complaint.

      However in my current situation, I’m a tech writer and need to work with an OS that’s not only FAST and can handle all my programs, but I also need an OS that safeguards my system. Win 7 features protections that XP doesn’t provide…so for my time and money, the upgrade is a no-brainer.

      I think it all goes back to whatever your needs are…if an upgrade isn’t necessary for your needs or the work you do, don’t do it. As my buddy over my shoulder said just now, wait until you know you’re absolutely going to need to use something before you pay for it.

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