Windows 7 is out, and it represents the first time I’ve been more than casually interested in an OS release since, well, ever. Part of my interest is because I got a new computer to run it – a Sager NP8662 – but also because I think it’s a great break from the crusty past of Windows XP. XP was (is) not a bad OS per se, but being an outgrowth of the NT/Win2000 tech base with the interface conventions of a latter-day Win98, it always seemed something of a chimera to me.
Windows Vista was rightly criticized for sucking generally, but I think it represented a necessary shift away from XP. Just as Windows 95 broke with the past of Windows 3.1 and introduced Windows users to the Start menu, the taskbar, preemptive multitasking, and many of the GUI conventions we still use today, Vista introduced technologies that are just as different from XP’s. A much better graphical installer, superior enterprise deployment capabilities, better plug-and-play support, and most importantly (IMO), a completely redesigned window manager. XP’s window manager (the part of the OS that draws the windows on your screen) is basically a direct lineal descendant of the one used in Windows 2.0 (!), which means that its capabilities were much more limited than window managers used by other modern OSes, like OS X. Vista brought an all-new window manager, which seems like it’s only good for shiny crap like Aero Glass, but really enables much greater performance (through GPU acceleration), stability (window contents still exist when hidden behind other windows!), and resource efficiency.
Windows 7 refines the new technology introduced in Vista, and does away with the majority of its annoyances. User Access Control (UAC), Vista’s nanny feature extraordinaire (are you sure you want to click that? are you really sure? really really?), is still present, but greatly toned down – it only bugs you when installing software, not every time you open the goddamn Device Manager. Performance is better (I can’t say how much, since I never used Vista at home, only at work, where the massive pile of Army-mandated software turns the fastest computer into an absolute dog), and most of the confusing verbiage of the Vista interface has been cleaned up. I was going to write that they still don’t have a keyboard shortcut for a new folder – my most wanted feature from OS X, by far – but holy shit, they do! My prayers have been answered! (It’s Shift-Ctrl-F, by the way, just like OS X…)
I was going to say a few words about my hatred for Mac evangelism, but that’s a rant best left for its own topic. Suffice it to say, I can stand Macs (even like a few things that they do better than PCs), but I can hardly stand most people who use them.