Monday, December 15, 2008

Features new to Windows 7


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There are many features new to Windows 7, including advancements in touch, speech, and handwriting recognition, support for virtual hard disks, support for multiple file formats, improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot performance, and kernel improvements.

User interface

Windows 7 retains the Windows Aero user interface and visual style first introduced with Windows Vista, but many areas have seen enhancements.


Desktop Slideshow

Windows Explorer also includes a desktop slideshow that changes the desktop background in a designated amount of time.

Windows Explorer


Windows Explorer in Windows 7 presents Libraries for different file types (documents, music, pictures, videos etc). Libraries are virtual folders that aggregate a content from various locations - including shared folders on networked systems - and present them in a unified view. Libraries are accessible from the Start menu, Windows Explorer as well as the Open File and Save File dialogs. Searching in a library automatically federates the query to the remote systems, in addition to searching on the local system, so that files on the remote systems are also scoped by the search. Unlike search folders in Windows Vista, Libraries are backed by a physical location which allows files to be saved in the Libraries. Such files are transparently saved in the backing physical folder.

Federated search

Windows Explorer also supports federating search to external data sources, such as custom databases or web services, that are exposed over the web and described via an OpenSearch definition. The federated location description (called a Search Connector) is provided as a .osdx file. Once installed, the data source becomes queryable directly from Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer features, such as previews and thumbnails, work with the results of a federated search as well.


The Windows Taskbar has seen its most significant revision since its introduction in Windows 95. The taskbar is 10 pixels taller than in Windows Vista to accommodate a new larger default icon size, though a smaller taskbar size is available. Running applications are denoted by a border frame around the icon. Within this border, a color effect (dependent on the colors the icon uses) that follows the mouse also indicates the opened status of the application.

Start button and menu

The start orb introduced in Windows Vista exists entirely inside the taskbar, and has a fade-in highlight effect when the user moves their mouse over it. The start menu itself is largely unchanged from Windows Vista, but does contain new options to provide direct access to Windows Explorer's Libraries, as well as to the new "Devices and Printers" page in the Control Panel. The classic single-column start menu is no longer available.

Pinned applications

The features of the QuickLaunch toolbar have been integrated into the Windows 7 taskbar. The Windows 7 taskbar is more application-oriented than window-oriented. Applications can now be pinned to the taskbar allowing the user instant access to the applications they commonly use. There are a few ways to pin applications to the taskbar. One can drag and drop the icon onto the taskbar. The other way to do so is by right-clicking the application’s icon and pinning the icon to the taskbar.

Windows 7's taskbar shows the user a preview of the window before they click it.

Enhanced preview pane

The preview pane which was introduced in Windows Vista has been expanded to not only preview the windows opened by the application in a small-sized thumbnail view, but to also interact with the preview pane. The user can close any windows opened by clicking the X on the corresponding preview pane. The name of the window is also shown in the preview pane. Another new feature added is the ability to get a "peek" of the window by hovering over the preview pane. Peeking brings up only the window which the mouse hovers within the preview panes and turns any other windows on the desktop into glass. This also works for tabs in Internet Explorer; individual tabs may be peeked at in the preview pane. In addition to these features, the preview pane has decreased the amount of times a user has to click to get to basic features by integrating them into the preview pane themselves. For example, if Windows Media Player is opened and the mouse is hovering on the application icon, the preview pane will allow the user the ability to Play, Stop, and Play Next/Previous track without having to actually open Windows Media Player.

Jump List

These are menu options available from right-clicking any of the icons on the taskbar. Each application will have unique jump lists which will correspond to the features unique to the application whether it be recent files opened or common tasks. For example, a Microsoft Word jump list might display all the recent documents opened. The Windows Media Player jump list, for example, displays recently played tracks and playlists that have been played. Internet Explorer's jump bar displays recent history of websites. Windows Live Messenger's jump list displays select common tasks such as instant messaging, signing off, and changing online status.

Notification area

The notification area has been redesigned; the standard Volume, Network, Battery and Security Center status icons (now renamed "Action") are still present, but no other application icons are shown unless the user has chosen for them to be shown. A new "Notification Area Icons" control panel has been added which replaces the "Customize Notification Icons" dialog box in the "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" window first introduced in Windows XP. In addition to being able to configure whether the application icons are shown, the ability to hide each application's notification balloons has been added. The user can then view the notifications at a later time.
A triangle to the left of the visible notification icons displays the hidden notification icons to the user. Unlike Windows Vista and Windows XP, the hidden icons are displayed in a window above the taskbar, instead of on the taskbar. Icons can be dragged between this window and the notification area.

Show Desktop

In past versions of Windows, the taskbar ended with the notification area on the right side. However there is now a shortcut in order to display the desktop which shows the desktop and gadgets by making all windows into glass. This is a replacement of the Show Desktop shortcut in the QuickLaunch bar in previous versions of Windows. This new shortcut exhibits the same features used by the preview pane except this applies it to all windows.

Font management

The user interface for font management has been overhauled. As with Windows Vista, the collection of installed fonts is shown in a Windows Explorer window, but fonts from the same font family appear as "stacks" instead of as individual icons. A user can then double-click on the font stack and see the individual font. A preview of the font is displayed as part of the icon as well. New options for hiding installed fonts are included; a hidden font remains installed, but is not enumerated when an application asks for a list of available fonts. Windows Vista had received considerable criticism from for including the same "Add Font" dialog that had existed as far back as Windows 3.1; this dialog has been removed.

Methods of input

Hilton Locke, who worked on the Tablet PC team at Microsoft, reported on December 11, 2007 that Windows 7 will have new touch features. An overview of the multi-touch capabilities, including a virtual piano program, a mapping and directions program and a touch-aware version of Paint, was demonstrated at the All Things Digital Conference on May 27, 2008. A video demonstrating the multi-touch capabilities was later made available on the web on the same day.

Also, Bill Gates has said that Windows 7 is also "a big step forward" for speech technology and handwriting recognition.

Core operating system

Windows 7 was a major topic of technical sessions at WinHEC 2008 which was held on 4-6 November 2008 in Los Angeles. The following improvements and additions to Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) core operating system components were discussed:

  • WDDM 1.1,
  • Desktop Window Manager uses Direct3D 10.1 runtime, reduces its memory requirements by 50% when using 2D acceleration in WDDM v1.1 drivers
  • Direct2D and DirectWrite, new hardware-accelerated vector graphics APIs built on top of
  • Direct3D 10
  • Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform (WARP), a software rasterizer component for DirectX that provides all of the capabilities of Direct3D 10.0 and 10.1 in software.
  • Direct3D 11
  • NDIS 6.20
  • DirectX Video Acceleration-High Definition (DXVA-HD)
  • AVCHD camera support and Universal Video Class 1.1
  • Protected Broadcast Driver Architecture (PBDA) for TV tuner cards
  • Bluetooth audio stack
  • Support for up to 256 logical processors

Windows 7 will also contain a new FireWire (IEEE 1394) stack that fully supports IEEE 1394b with S800, S1600 and S3200 data rates. It will not, however, ship with USB 3.0 support due to delays in the specification being finalized.

Virtual hard disks

Windows 7 incorporates support for Microsoft Virtual PC's Virtual Hard Disk file format. VHD files can be mounted as drives, created, and booted from.

Boot performance

According to data gathered from the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program, 35% of Vista SP1 installations boot up in 30 seconds or less. The more lengthy boot times on the remainder of the machines are mainly due to some services or programs that are loaded but are not required when the system is first started. Microsoft's Michael Fortin, a Distinguished Engineer on the Windows team, noted in August 2008 that Microsoft has set aside a team to work solely on the issue, and that team aims to "significantly increase the number of systems that experience very good boot times." They "focused very hard on increasing parallelism of driver initialization." Also, it aims to "dramatically reduce" the number of system services, along with their processor, storage, and memory demands.

Multimedia features

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center in Windows 7 has retained much of the design and feel of its predecessor, but with a variety of user interface shortcuts and browsing capabilities.[12] Playback of H.264 video both locally and through a Media Center Extender (including the Xbox 360) is supported.

When browsing the media library, items that don't have "album art" are shown in a range of foreground and background color combinations instead of using white text on a blue background. When the left or right remote control buttons are held down to browse the library quickly, a two-letter prefix of the current album name is prominently shown as a visual aid. The Picture Library includes new slideshow capabilities, and individual pictures can be rated.

For television support, the Windows Media Center "TV Pack" released by Microsoft in 2008 is incorporated into Windows Media Center. This includes support for CableCARD and clear QAM tuners, as well as creating lists of favorite stations.

A Windows Media Center gadget is included as well.

Format support

In addition to media support in Vista, Windows 7 will add playback of media in MP4, MOV, 3GP, AVCHD, ADTS, M4A, and WTV multimedia containers, with native codecs for H.264, MPEG4-SP, ASP/DivX/Xvid, MJPEG, DV, AAC-LC, LPCM, AAC-HE.

Transcoding is integrated in the Windows Shell — the necessary conversion will happen automatically when a media file is dragged and dropped on the device icon.[citation needed] A new inbox video encoder will support encoding to H.264 1-pass CBR Baseline profile up to 1.5 Mbit/s, 640x480pixels at 30 frame/s. Audio encoder will support Low complexity AAC stereo at 44.1 or 48 kHz sample rate and 96, 128, 160 or 192 kbit/s bit rate.

New color depths/gamuts

At WinHEC 2008 Microsoft announced that color depths of 30-bit and 48-bit would be supported in Windows 7 along with the wide color gamut scRGB (which for HDMI 1.3 can be converted and output as xvYCC). The video modes supported in Windows 7 are 16-bit sRGB, 24-bit sRGB, 30-bit sRGB, 30-bit with extended color gamut sRGB, and 48-bit scRGB.

Security and safety features

The new user account control settings in Windows 7

The new user account control settings in Windows 7

The Windows Security Center has been renamed the Windows Solution Center (Windows Health Center in earlier builds) which encompass both security and maintenance of the computer.

A new User Account Control user interface has been introduced, which provides the ability to select four different levels of notifications. Geo-tracking will also be available in Windows 7. The feature will be disabled by default. When enabled the user will only have limited control as to which applications can track their location.

In Windows Vista, the Protected User-Mode Audio (PUMA) content protection facilities are only available to applications that are running in a Protected Media Path environment. Because only the Media Foundation application programming interface could interact with this environment, a media player application had to be designed to use Media Foundation. In Windows 7, this restriction is lifted. PUMA also incorporates stricter enforcement of "Copy Never" bits when using Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) copy protection over a S/PDIF connection, as well as with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) over HDMI connections.

Management features

According to a Computerworld article, new Windows 7 management features include:

  • DirectAccess, a VPN tunnel technology based on IPv6 and IPsec
  • BranchCache, a branch-office cache system for files stored on central file servers
  • BitLocker to Go, which brings BitLocker encryption support to removable disks such as
  • USB drives
  • AppLocker, a set of Group Policy settings to restrict which applications can run on a corporate network, including the ability to restrict based on the application's version number
  • Support for Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC)

According to Jeffrey Snover, Windows Management Partner Architect, Windows 7 will also contain new technologies and features based on Windows PowerShell 2.0:[21]

  • Windows Troubleshooting Platform
  • Windows PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment
  • PowerShell Remoting

Other features

According to reports sent to TG Daily, the Milestone 1 build of Windows 7 adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors. New features in Milestone 1 also reportedly include Gadgets being integrated into Windows Explorer, the XPS Essentials Pack being integrated, and a multiline Calculator featuring Programmer and Statistics modes along with unit conversion.

Reports indicate that a feedback tool included in Milestone 1 lists some coming features: the ability to store Internet Explorer settings on a Windows Live account and a 10-minute install process. In addition, improved network connection tools might be included.

Many new items have been added to Control Panel including: Accelerators, ClearType Text Tuner, Display Color Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Infrared, Recovery, Troubleshooting, Workspaces Center, Location and Other Sensors, Credential Manager, Biometric Devices, System Icons, Windows Solution Center, and Display.

According to released PDC 2008 (taking place in October 27-30, 2008) session information, Windows 7 discussions will cover "enhancements to the taskbar, Start Menu, thumbnails and their desktop elements", a new networking API with support for building SOAP based web services in native code (as opposed to .NET based WCF web services), new features to shorten application install times, reduced UAC prompts, simplified development of installation packages, and improved globalization support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API. A tool to burn ISO images to discs is included for the first time.

At PDC 2008, Microsoft announced Instant On, a feature that will reduce the startup time to 15 seconds. This feature is likely to appear in Windows 7 Beta 1.

In addition, a new font, "Gabriola", is included. There is also Office Open XML and ODF support in WordPad.

Microsoft is introducing a new feature called Device Stage which allows hardware developers to put all device information into a single window based off XML. Device Stage will allow users to manage their devices. It will display various information on devices such as battery charge, available storage space, the time and date of a last sync, links to online manuals, and other features unique to the device that is connected.


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Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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