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Last week I reviewed and benchmarked the HP Mini 1000 in the article: “HP Mini 1000 review and benchmark with HP Mini 110“. I that article I already mentioned that I would follow-up and share my experiences of running Windows 7 on the HP Mini 1000. In this article I will have a look at the new features in Windows 7 and share my practical experiences as well.

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Installation Windows 7

For both Windows 7 beta (build 7000) and Windows 7 RC (build 7100) an ISO-image was provided for download (in 32-bit and 64-bit versions). Unfortunately the Windows 7 RC ISO isn’t available for download anymore, since Windows 7 is released to manufacturing and will hit shopshelves in October 2009.

I have downloaded the Windows 7 RC ISO-file and burned it on a rewritable disc. After that it is a matter of simply connecting my LG Slim External Super-Multi DVD Drive to the HP Mini 1000 and boot from it. That was my approach, but not everyone has an external DVD Drive for his netbook. In that case I would like to recommend two articles.

Joel Evans, Editor in chief on Geek.com, has written an excellent resource “Installing Windows 7 RC straight from the ISO” and furthermore on the Into Windows website a tutorial can be found for a step by step  install from a removable USB flashdrive: “How To: Install Windows 7/Vista From USB Drive” I do think you can’t go wrong with both resources, while you have ben offered different ways to install Windows 7 on your notebook / netbook.

The installation itself went very easy and smooth. Most remarkable fact is that during the installation wireless networks are recognized and during this phase of the installation you simply configure the connection with a wireless (home) network. Another “new” aspect was the so called “Homegroup” configuration, which I will discuss later in the article.

Overall the installation was easy, and all the hardware in the HP Mini 1000 was recognized instantly. So I was very happy, because you don’t need to mess around with driver discs !

Overview of new features in Windows 7

There is already a great deal of information about Windows 7 out there, and you should certainly check out the official Windows 7 product page to find out what’s new and have a look at some cool videos. Furthermore I could also recommend to follow @MSWindows on Twitter, since valuable information is published via that channel as well (e.g. the article: “18 cool things Windows 7 does that Vista doesn’t” ! In this section I would like to have a look at some new features and tell about my perception of these features.

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Improved taskbar

The Windows taskbar has improved in many different ways, and in this paragraph I will try to cover those changes with help of screenshots. The first thing you notice is that the Windows taskbar is bigger compared to Windows Vista or Windows XP.

“In Windows 7 you can pin any program to the taskbar so it’s always just a click away, and you can rearrange the icons on the taskbar just by clicking and dragging.”

Furthermore on the left you see some large icons in the taskbar, which you can pin or unpin. In other words there is not separate quick launch anymore, which you need to activate. When you open a program in Windows Vista, a window is shown in the taskbar as a rectangular “bar”, but in Windows 7 you simply see just the big icon without text. If there are more Windows open from one application these are grouped in a kind of layered overview of icons.

“Hover over the icons and you’ll see thumbnails of every file or window that open in that program, and if you hover over the thumbnail, you’ll see a full-screen preview of that window.”

On the right side next to the date and clock you see a bar, which is the “shortcut” to go to your desktop. It is always on the same place and easy to find, while you needed to activate the quick launch in Windows Vista and Windows XP to get this functionality.

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Left to the battery icon in the Windows 7 taskbar you notice a new icon (a flag), which opens the action center. The action center gives you for example notifications if there is a Windows Update available for download, or that you need to schedule a back-up of your system. From the taskbar icon it is also easy to open the action center, without first opening the control panel and access it via that way.

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Left next to the flag-icon in the taskbar, there is an arrow pointing upwards. When you click on this arrow, it opens a “box” with notification icons. This is a more elegant solution, since in Windows Vista these icons we’re unfolded and collapsed from right to the left, while now it doesn’t influence the “middle space” of the Windows taskbar.

Furthermore choosing the option “customize” makes it very simple to configure the notification icons. It is possible not to show certain icons both in the taskbar and notification “box”, while you can also choose for one of the two options. My personal experience is that it’s a more elegant solution compared to Windows Vista and Windows XP.

The Windows 7 taskbar has some additional functionality embedded, but these parts will be discussed in the paragraphs below.

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Jumplist

Another new feature in Windows 7 is the so-called jumplist, which in essence is a kind of application specific quick menu. While this is an improvement mainly aimed at improving productivity and efficiency, it certainly is one of the features you easily get used to.

“It’s a handy way to quickly reach the files you’ve been working with. To see the files you’ve used recently, just right click on the icon on your taskbar. So right-clicking on the Word icon will show your most recent Word documents. Plus, if there are other files you want to keep handy, you can just pin them to the Jump List so they’ll always appear. Some programs, such as Windows Media Player, can pre-populate their Jump Lists with common tasks.”

The screenshot above shows the jumplist in the start menu, which from a look and feel shows a lot of similarities with the start menu in Windows Vista (except for the jumplist-feature). As an example I selected the “Getting Started” item from the start menu (remark there is an arrow pointing to the right), while a kind of quick menu with most used or most common commands is opened.

If you ask my personal opinion, very clever designed and it makes daily life a lot more easy. If you thought that jumplists are only available in the start menu, you are wrong. Also by right clicking on a program icon in the taskbar opens a jumplist, with application specific items. In the screenshot below I right clicked on the Control Panel icon in the taskbar, and the jumplist shows recent items I have visited.

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Overall I experience that you have less need to open up the start menu and browse for an application, or execute a common command.

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Desktop enhancements

I already mentioned button on the right of the taskbar and explained the function as “shortcut to go to your desktop“. That is certainly the core functionality, but it has some additional coolness. If you have multiple Windows open you sometimes need to quickly check your desktop to look at the status of a gadget (widget) or simply look if a file has been downloaded on your desktop.

It would normally require to do some alt+tab work to go through the different Windows, before you end at the desktop view. If you go with your mouse to the button in the right of the taskbar (without clicking on it) the current openend Windows become transparent so you can have a look at your desktop. Remark without clicking to “open” it.

Sometimes I need to compare the specifications of two Windows Phones on te internet. In Windows Vista I need to resize the Windows manually to have them each equally cover the half of the screen. In Windows 7 I can simply move the active Window and “bump” it against the side of the screen (you see a visual effect that the Window “bumps”). The result is great, since the Windows docks on the side and it covers the half of the screen. Very easy to compare two Internet Explorer windows, or compare two Microsoft Word documents.

A final cool feature is about shaking the active Window, resulting in the action of minimizing all other Windows to the taskbar.

Windows search

I don’t want to use many words on this improvement, which has been introduced with Windows Vista and is further improved under Windows 7. On the Windows 7 product page you can read, that Microsoft has created a similar experience where you simply enter a word in a search box and hit enter.

“Just click on the Start button and you’ll see a search box at the bottom of the Start menu. Just enter a word or few letters in the name or file you want, and you’ll get an organized list of results.”

This web-search-experience is brought to your Windows 7 powered notebook in a better structured way and it is easier to find what you are looking for simply through a clever way of providing the search results. Some of the concept behind this is:

“Windows 7 uses libraries to show all content of a particular type in one spot. By collecting things into a single view, libraries make it simpler to find what you’re looking for. They’re even more powerful with Windows Search.”

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Internet Explorer 8

Brandon LeBlanc has written an article on the Windows 7 teamblog:  “Update on Windows 7 in Europe” in which he describes that, at least here in Europe, Internet Explorer 8 might not be pre-loaded as the default Windows 7 browser due to some legislation restrictions by the European Commission. However Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 is my personal default browser on Windows Vista, and this version is also pre-loaded in Windows 7 RC (build 7100).

Joel Evans, editor in chief from Geek.com, has reviewed the first release candidate of Internet Explorer earlier this year in the article: “Review: Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1“. In this article Joel Evans covers the new features:  accelerators, compatibility view, inprivate browsing, webslices, search provider, smart screen filter, tabs, and highlighting domain in URL. Take your time to read this article and check out the new features.

However I would like to cover some Internet Explorer coolness as well. In the screenshot below you can see that there are three tabs open, and there is one file download in progress. In the Windows 7 taskbar there are also three grouped Internet Explorer icons grouped, and you probably notice that one is highlighted grreen. Do you see the similarities with the download progress meter in the active window ? Yes, you can see the download progress in the taskbar as well, very convenient when you start a download and continue with other tasks.

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Remark again the fact that I have opened three tabs in Internet Explorer 8, and minimized all Windows to the taskbar. When you move the mouse over the grouped Internet Explorer icons in the Windows 7 taskbar, a grid with preview Windows is opened. You can select the Window you want to navigate to directly, without opening Internet Explorer first and select the specific tab after that.

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While this preview functionality is also available for other applications as well, it is extremely helpful in Internet Explorer and therefore it is covered in this section of the review.

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Better device management

Better device management is also one of the key features in Windows 7. Although I didn’t connect as many devices and printers as possible I was suprised that every piece of hardware in the HP Mini 1000 was instantly recognized. However also from the device management perspective there are two great improvements:

“With Windows 7, you’ll use a single Devices and Printers screen to connect, manage, and use whatever printers, phones, and other devices you have on-hand.”

While this single screen simplyfies the management of devices and printers Microsoft has gone even a step further with the implementation of a concept called “device stage”:

“Device Stage helps you interact with any compatible device connected to your computer. From Device Stage you can see device status and run common tasks from a single window. There are even pictures of the devices which makes it really easy to see what’s there. Device manufacturers can customize Device Stage.”

On the Windows 7 blog, Brandon LeBlanc has posted an extensive article called “The Device Experience in Windows 7” on behalf of Jack Tao, Program Manager on the Windows 7 Devices & Media Team. In this article both device management and the device stage concept are extensively covered and are certainly interesting to read.

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Homegroup

HomeGroup, a new feature in Windows 7, makes connecting the computers in your home a painless process. HomeGroup is set up automatically when you add the first PC running Windows 7 to your home network. Adding more PCs running Windows 7 to the HomeGroup is an easy process. You can specify exactly what you want to share from each PC with all the PCs in the HomeGroup. Then, sharing files across the various PCs in your home—and many other devices—is as easy as if all your data were on a single hard drive.”

If you ever tried to set-up your home network, you know it requires quite some configuration (and some specific knowledge as well). For techies this probably isn’t a problem, but I think it’s a good move from Microsoft to simplify these configurations and the set-up process.

Although I haven’t looked into detail into this  feature, I added the HP Mini 1000 to a Homegroup, and I directly noticed the Homegroup mode in Internet Explorer 8 as well. I think this an intranet-like concept, and it will be cool to look into during additional “testing” of Windows 7.

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View available network

Nowadays there are many different ways to connect to the internet, wired, wireless or using a mobile data connection for both personal- and work usage-scenario’s. In Windows Vista Microsoft has introduced the Network and Sharing Center, via which you can configure and manage the network connections. However to do different tasks you are always a few clicks away, or you need to switch different Windows.

“Windows 7 makes viewing and connecting to all of your networks simple and consistent. You’ll always have one-click access to available networks, regardless of whether those networks are based on Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, dial-up, or your corporate VPN.”

The screenshot above shows the new one-click implementation in Windows 7, to view and select your available network connections. More and more notebooks hit the market with an embedded HSDPA-modem, so this is one of the features that makes the daily life of a mobile professional easier. Especially integrating the different Windows from the Vista implementation into a one-click solution on the toplevel deserves a compliment to Microsoft.

I hope this section shows a systematic overview of the new Windows 7 main features and gives a little more insight in the new opportunities that Windows 7 provides to the end-users. The features covered in this section are mainly effeciency related and help you to get more things done, but Windows 7 also makes new things possible, for example the improved media center capabilities that I haven’t tested so far. Therefore I would recommend to have a look at the official Windows 7 product page and check the “makes new things possible section” !!

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Windows 7 on the HP Mini 1000 netbook

While the new features really show a great deal of Windows 7 coolness, you might be curious to hear about my practical experiences as well. In this section I will cover some complementary things I found worth mentioning about Windows 7 and some thoughts to consider working on the combination Lenovo X60 tablet – HP Mini 1000 netbook.

One of the core elements of the Windows operating system is the so called Explorer, and in Windows 7 the layout of the Windows Explorer has changed compared to the previous versions in Windows Vista and Windows XP. Let me put forward that the improvements are again productivity and efficiency related, but they are really clever designed. Let’s have a look at the changes with help of the screenshot above:

  1. At the top you start with a list af favorites: shortcut to your Windows Desktop, shortcut to the Downloads folder and a shortcut to your most Recent Places.
  2. Below the favorites there is a list with libraries:  shortcuts to your Documents, your Music files, your Pictures and Video’s.
  3. The new homegroup-feature is also integrated into the Windows Explorer, and helps you to easily share files in the home network. The position between my Libraries and my Computer makes perfectly sense to do.

At first both the Desktop- and Download folders are folders which I use very often, and complemented with the shortcut to recent places the number of times you need to open the Start Menu are really declining. Furthermore the use of the libraries is not only because of a logical structure, but as mentioned in the new features section the libraries are also used for a powerful search experience within Windows 7.

Overall I think the Windows Explorer has got some great improvements, while some of the concepts started in Windows Vista have further improved and are better and deeper integrated into the operating system.

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When I was planning to write this Windows 7 review, I hoped to be approved to the Microsoft Office 2010 Tech Preview, which is a beta program for the upcoming new version of the popular Microsoft Office suite. I covered some of the great Microsoft Exchange 2010 improvements in the article “Microsoft Exchange 2010 updates for Windows Mobile“, and it would have been great to experience and share thoughts on the overall three-screen user experience between Microsoft Exchange 2010, Microsoft Office 2010 on the PC and Windows Mobile 6.5 on a Windows Phone.

“Microsoft® Office 2010 gives you powerful new tools to express your ideas and work together, wherever your life takes you.”

On the Microsoft Office 2010 product page you can find a detailed description and complementary video for each Microsoft Office 2010 Application. In addition Paul Thurrott, from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows, has written an extensive review -consisting of 7 parts- on the Microsoft Office 2010 Tech Preview, which is certainly recommended to read.

Unfortunately, and dont get me wrong I do understand the dynamics of limited capacity, I haven’t been approved yet so I installed Microsoft Office 2007 on the HP Mini 1000 running Windows 7 RC. The installation went very easy and even the resource intesive Microsoft Outlook 2007 runs smooth. However configuring the Microsoft Hosted Exchange account with Sherweb, was a little different. The Microsoft Social forums however provided me with the right answer to set-up the account.

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Another not Windows 7 specific challenge is the ability to keep your documents in sync, while you work on two different machines (in my situation the Lenovo X60 tablet and the HP Mini 1000 netbook). I use a set of different solutions:  (1) Microsoft Live Mesh, (2) Microsoft Office Live Workspace, and (3) Gladinet Cloud Desktop. Microsoft Live Mesh perfectly integrates with Windows Explorer (you can see the blue folders on the right in the screenshot above), while Microsoft Office Live Workspace integrates with Microsoft Office 2007. Also very convenient is the tool Gladinet Cloud Desktop, which I reviewed not that long ago, which gives you the ability to mount cloud storage as a (local) harddrive.

With the design of Windows 7, Microsoft has really thought well about the ability to run on different machines and different screen sizes and according resolutions. The screenshot below for example shows the icon grid of the control panel, with the option “View by Small Icons” selected and the result of no need to scroll. Perfect everything on one single overview. Furthermore I haven’t used any additional driver CD, nor have I downloaded a single driver. It was just a matter of “basic” installing Windows 7 and Windows Update took care of everything else.

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Overall conclusions on Windows 7

Let me start the overall conclusions by a quick comparison between Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) and Windows 7 RC (build 7100). Joel Evans, Editor in chief on Geek.com, concluded some first impressions on the differences in the article “Installing Windows 7 RC straight from the ISO“:

  • “The hard drive doesn’t spin as often;
  • The experience of navigating the UI is much speedier;
  • Wireless connectivity seems to be much more stable. I’ve been connected without interruption for over three hours now. Windows 7 used to randomly disconnect and reconnect from my router;
  • No more popping noise! Previously on the HP Mini 1000 running Windows 7 I would hear a strange popping noise. I figured it was a bug and thankfully it has been fixed in Windows 7 RC.”

I have to admit the there is a huge difference between Windows 7 Beta and Windows 7 RC, since the latter feels not only speedier but also much more solid and stable. In other words it felt much more mature, and I couldn’t get it cause a blue screen in the time that I’m using it (which is since the first day of availability of Windows 7 RC).

You might be curious on the differences betwee Windows 7 RC (build 7100) and Windows 7 RTM? Paul Miller, Editor on Engadget.com, has written an extensive- and highly recommended review with lots of visual material about the Windows 7 release to manufacturing (RTM) version. Furthermore people who have a TechNet or MSDN subscription have the possibility to download the Windows 7 RTM version as well, while the rest of us have to wait for another few weeks.

You hear some people describe Windows 7 as: “The stability of Windows XP combined with the Interface of Windows Vista”, but honestly Microsoft has takes Windows 7 even some steps further. A lot of attention is spend on productivity- and efficiency improvements. Therefore I’m really curious to test the integrated package of Microsoft Exchange server 2010, Microsoft Office 2010, Windows 7 and last but not least Windows Mobile 6.5.

Windows Mobile 6.5 and its additional services will hit the market on October 6th, and I received word over twitter that Sherweb will be implementing Microsof Exchange 2010, while Windows 7 is on the shopshelves by the end of October. That means I only need to wait for Microsoft Office 2010 to experience the total experience.

Finally I must compliment Microsoft with an excellent, rock solid operating system, that has a lot of new features, productivity and cleverness build in. While I played a little with Windows 7 Beta on a HP Touch Smart during CNTRSTG earlier this year, I can’t wait for the Windows 7 final version to hit the storeshelves so I can install it on my Lenovo X60 tablet, and experience what changes have been made in Windows 7 for tablet computing !!

 
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