Windows Vista brought a great new feature to the desktop: sidebar gadgets, little programs that offer information, entertainment or just plain eye-candy to a dockable bar to the right of the screen. Now Windows 7, Vista’s successor, has improved it even more: doing away with the sidebar, it lets you reorganize you gadgets however you want, in either small “sidebar” size or full size anywhere on your desktop.
The huge problem with gadgets, though, is finding functional, interesting and good looking ones. The official gadget repository, Windows Live Gallery, is not very useful, as the screenshots have a very low resolution and an incorrect aspect ratio, and ratings are usually unrepresentative of a gadget’s quality. However, after navigating a while through the Live Gallery I’ve found very useful and aesthetic gadgets. To celebrate the upcoming version of Windows, here are my seven favorite. Note: These gadgets are also compatible with Vista.
It’s official: I have replaced Vista as my primary OS with Windows 7 RC, the latest pre-release version of Microsoft’s upcoming operating system. I will post my full review shortly, but I can say that it’s extremely stable, compatible, and usable.
If you want to try out the RC for yourself, it will be available to download from Microsoft through July. The RC will start auto-destructing on March 2010, so you’ve got a good ten months to use it before you need to buy the final version.
So far, almost all software I’ve tried to run under Windows 7 has worked without any problems. Today I installed Google Desktop, and everything was working fine until I added the Gmail gadget. As soon as I clicked the sign in button, Google Desktop became unresponsive and eventually came crashing down.
I got my hands on one of the Windows 7 beta build 7000 copies. I installed 7 and have been testing it for a few hours. Here are my thoughts:
Windows Explorer feels much faster. Opening folders in removable drives, particularly, is considerably faster than is Vista.
Cross that, Windows OVERALL feels much, much faster.
Windows Media Player 12 is much faster and smaller
Installation was very fast and most of the hardware was installed automatically
Aero enhancements for resizing windows work great
The new preview API for the taskbar is awesome. In IE7, all tabs are previewed. In Media Player, playback buttons are added.
Minor graphic enhancements are very welcome and greatly improve functionality and aesthetics.
Very little bundled software apart from IE, Media Player, Media Center, Paint and Wordpad. Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, etc, will be free downloads. This makes the base installation faster and smaller.
Updated versions of Paint and Wordpad are good, but the updated Calc is one of the best calculator apps out there. HEXelon Max is obviously better and always my choice when my TI-84 isn’t at hand, but this Calc PWNS the calculator app bundled with Linux, something the XP and Vista Calcs could only dream of.
Picture slideshows as desktop pictures. I don’t know if this will be exclusive to Ultimate, as it currently is in Vista (the beta is only available in Ultimate edition), but since I’ve always used Vista Home Premium, this is a nice change.
Windows that have progress bars show them in their taskbar item. This is extremely useful, to say the least. This includes IE downloads (although IE’s download system remains considerably crappy, without even a pause option).
Didn’t like (but can be fixed easily, or will be fixed soon):
The new way the taskbar groups windows. Thankfully, this can be disabled and I could go back to the “classic” view where each window has its icon and label, with the cool addition that window labels of the same program are kept next to each other and the window previews are shown at the same time.
The big taskbar icons. Please give me back my real estate. (This can also be changed)
Non-Microsoft programs are not yet compatible with the preview API for the taskbar. So, no all tab previews for Firefox (tried with Shiretoko too). Hopefully, Mozilla and other developers will add this functionality soon.
Selected programs in the taskbar are shown white. Since I enabled labels, the white text on white background combination is very difficult to read.
Some drivers had to be installed manually (graphics card and Bluetooth). Oh, well. I guess we can always expect Windows to always leave some driver-hunting to us. As a sidenote, ALL of my hardware is working perfectly after installing Vista-specific drivers.
My Windows 7 beta installation, after installing Office 2007 and Firefox, takes up 11.4 GB. I’m guessing that Office takes up a little less than a gigabyte, plus 2GB each for the hibarnation file and the page file, would give a core installation of less than 7GB, which is about the same as Vista. Not bad at all.
I seem to have a love-hate relationship with the new taskbar, but I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it. Changes in UI from Vista are considerable, but not nearly as many as from XP to Vista. The control panel, one of the most painful changes I had when I started using Vista, remains virtually unchanged except for some useful and natural minor UI enhancements.
My Veredict: Awesome, best Windows to date. When this finally comes out, hopefully sometime this year, it will be a much-welcomed update to the already very powerful and stable OS Vista is.