Technology as a way of life

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Feb 10, 2009

Windows 7 new features


Aero Desktop (improved)

  • Aero Peek: A specific open window or all open windows can be made transparent
  • Aero Snaps: Open windows can be snapped to screen borders
  • Aero Shake: Desktop items can be minimized or maximized by shaking them
  • Maximize a window by dragging its border to the top of the screen
  • Dragging the bottom border expands the window vertically
  • Dragging two windows to opposite sides will resize them to fill half of the screen

Windows Taskbar (the Superbar) (improved)

  • Graphic thumbnails for open windows
  • Switch between multiple windows by just hovering over the taskbar thumbnail
  • Icons are big enough to be selected easily with the new touch feature
  • Applications can use the taskbar to provide information (a progress bar for example)

Libraries (new)

  • Libraries are containers similar to folders, but their content is based on file properties such as file type, pictures by date taken, or music by genre
  • There are default libraries (documents, music, pictures, etc.) and one can create personalized libraries
  • Libraries can contain files, not network shares, which are indexed by Windows Search

Jump lists (improved)

  • Jump lists are automatically populated links in the Start Menu to frequently accessed sources (apps, documents, etc.)
  • Taskbar items, the Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player will have them too, allowing you to jump directly to a certain task of a program

Windows Sidebar (improved)

  • Is no longer a sidebar
  • Gadgets are now placed on the desktop
  • Gadgets are resizable
  • Aero Peek lets you see gadgets behind open windows

Windows Explorer (improved)

  • New user interface (have to find out more)
  • New copy engine: fewer prompts, shows file names being copied, more reliable

Scenic Ribbon (new)

  • Paint and WordPad now have a ribbon similar to the one in Office 2007
  • Third-party developers can integrate ribbons into their apps

Start Menu Search (improved)

  • Searches in Libraries (also external files)
  • Search results are grouped according to Libraries
  • System administrator can define up to five external search destinations
  • Search will be executed on the server

Windows Search 4 (improved)

  • Input recommendations based on previous searches
  • Dynamic filters to narrow down results
  • New relevance algorithm
  • Word highlighting in results
  • Search Federation: search external resources (servers, Sharepoint, Web sites (OpenSearch))

Tablet PC enhancements (improved)

  • Supposed to have improved handwriting recognition
  • Supports handwritten math expressions
  • Personalized custom dictionaries, and supports new languages

Sticky Notes (improved)

  • Ink support
  • Paste support
  • Note colors
  • Resize possible

Accessibility (improved)

  • Improved speech recognition
  • Magnifier (whole desktop or portion of the screen)
  • Accessibility support tools for developers

Windows Touch (new)

  • Windows 7 can be controlled by touching the screen
  • It also supports multi-touch allowing you to use more than one finger

Other desktop enhancements (improved)

  • More styles
  • Region specific styles
  • Multilingual browsing no longer requires font installation, language-based fonts


Internet Explorer 8 (improved)

windows-7-IE8 I will only discuss the major changes here.

  • IE8 is supposed to be faster and more stable
  • Rendering engine: IE8 will improve compliance with web standards; web sites can opt-in for IE7 mode for backward compatibility
  • InPrivate: Makes sure that the browsing history can’t be tracked
  • Accelerators: Allows you to invoke a web application by selecting an object on a web page (for example for blogging)
  • Web Slices: Users can subscribe to snippets on a web page, which will be updated automatically by the browser
  • SmartScreen Filter: This is the new name for the Phishing Filter. It has a new user interface, is supposed to perform faster, and has new heuristics, anti-malware support, and improved Group Policy support.
  • Automatic Crash Recovery: The browser will reload the pages after a crash

Calculator (improved)


  • New user interface
  • Calculation history
  • Unit conversion
  • Calculation templates
  • Date calculations
  • Controls that are optimized for touch

XPS Viewer (XML Paper Specification) (improved)

  • New user interface
  • Relevancy-ranked XPS searched
  • Thumbnails provide an interactive view of several pages at a time
  • Preview XPS documents in Windows Explorer and Office

HomeGroup (new)


  • Windows 7 computers can connect automatically with each other to share resources (files, printers, etc.)
  • Users can decide what they want to share
  • Support for Libraries
  • Can be configured via Group Policy

MinWin (new)

The most comprehensive source about MinWin, the new mini kernel in Windows 7, is this interview with Mark Russinowich. Robert McLaws translated the main part for non-developers.

  • MinWin is fully bootable
  • Requires 25-40MB of disk space
  • It contains the executive systems, memory management, networking, and optional file system drivers
  • Components only call down the stack, and not up
  • It allows building of less bloated Windows editions that run on netbooks and other computers with limited hardware resources

Ready Boost (improved)

  • Allows you to concurrently use multiple flash drives.

Battery life (improved)

  • Reduced background activities when the computer is idle
  • Adaptive display brightness: Display brightness is reduced after a period of inactivity
  • Less processing power for DVD playback
  • Wake on Wireless LAN
  • Smart Network Power: Power of the network adapter is turned off when cable is unplugged
  • Better battery life notification
  • A new power config tool

Windows Media Player (improved)


  • Supports more media formats
  • Improved performance
  • Taskbar thumbnail (displays titles, and offers controls)
  • Jump list in the Windows Start Menu and the taskbar
  • Stream media to other PCs at home
  • Stream media to (DLNA) v1.5-compliant digital media renderers

Media Center (improved)


  • New user interface
  • Broader support for global TV standards
  • Share TV shows at home via TV Libraries

Sound (improved)

  • New standard Bluetooth audio driver
  • Automatically streams music or voice calls to the active output device
  • Control volume independently for each device

Process Reflection (new)

  • Crashed processes are cloned in memory
  • Windows 7 tries to recover the cloned process and diagnoses the failure conditions of the original process
  • It should reduce the disruption caused by diagnosis of failed process

Fault tolerant heap (new)

  • The new fault tolerant heap is supposed to reduce the number of crashes significantly.


User Account Control (UAC)

windows-7-uac-settingsWindows 7 has two new UAC settings:

  • Program-based changes only: Don’t notify when the user installs software or changes settings
  • Notify only: The user is only notified through a balloon message, but doesn’t have to confirm a prompt

The first one is the default setting in build 6801. Microsoft also says that the number of system applications and tasks that require elevation has been reduced. Please check out my more detailed article about Windows 7 UAC.

Action Center (new)

  • Consolidates alerts from Security Center - Problem, Reports, and Solutions - Windows Defender - Windows Update - Diagnostics - Network Access Protection - Backup and Restore - Recovery - User Account Control
  • A new icon in the notification area will be displayed whenever one of these apps needs attention
  • Thus, fewer notifications will be displayed on the desktop

AppLocker (new)

  • Restrict program execution on user desktops based on publisher signature
  • Example: Allow all versions greater than 9.0 of the program Acrobat Reader to run if they are signed by the software publisher Adobe

BitLocker (improved)


  • Simplified deployment: Automatic repartitioning if deployed after OS installation
  • Data Recovery Agent (DRA): Single key for the whole organization that can recover data on any BitLocker-encrypted volume

BitLocker To Go (new)


  • Encrypt portable storage devices
  • Make data protection of removable storage devices compulsory, network-wide
  • Require strong passwords or smart card via Group Policy
  • Supports read-only of encrypted devices on Windows Vista and Windows XP

Windows Defender (improved)

  • Now integrated with the new Action Center
  • New user interface
  • Better continuous monitoring

Windows Filtering Platform (improved)

  • Third party firewalls can selectively turn off features of the Windows Firewall
  • Third parties can add custom features to the Windows Firewall
  • Multiple active firewall profiles: Allows a single set of firewall rules for remote clients and for clients physically connected to the corporate network

Support for Fingerprint Readers (new)

  • Logon to Windows 7 using a fingerprint reader

Smart card support (improved)

  • Plug-and-play support
  • Support for ECC-based smart cards

Backup and Restore (improved)

  • Support for backups to network shares

System Restore (improved)

  • Now displays a list of programs that will be removed or added
  • System restore points are available in backups

Auditing (improved)

  • Configuration via Group Policy
  • Audit granted or denied access to specific information
  • Easier monitoring of the changes made by specific people or groups

DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) support (new)

  • Prevents DNS spoofing and other malicious activities


Windows Connect Now (WCN) (improved)

  • WCN supports now Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), an industry standard that simplifies WLAN setup.

Wireless device installation (improved)

  • A new a device wizard allows you to connect wireless devices such as printers or network attached storage
  • Drivers are downloaded automatically if necessary

windows-7-van View Available Network (VAN) (new)

  • One-click access to available networks (Wi-Fi, Mobile Broadband, Dial-up, VPN)

Wireless Device Network (new)

  • Windows 7 PC acts as a wireless access point

Mobile Link (new)

  • Installs wireless data cards without the need of additional software
  • Process is similar to connecting to a wireless network

Direct Access (new)

  • Remote connection to the corporate network is established automatically whenever Internet is available
  • Access to public Web sites is not routed via the corporate network
  • VPN is not required
  • Requires Windows Server 2008 R2 plus IPv6 and IPsec

VPN Reconnect (new)

  • Automatically reestablishes broken VPN connectivity

Offline Files (improved)

  • Offline files are now copied to the Offline Files cache and then synchronized in the background with the server
  • In this way, one doesn’t have to wait for files to be moved to the server after logging on
  • Improved management: More Group Policy settings, configurable time and time intervals for synchronization, maximum stale time, etc.

Roaming user profiles (improved)

  • Automatically synchronize users’ profiles with the server while users are still logged on
  • Users can roam from one PC to another while remaining logged in to both PCs and still have the same consistent environment

BrancheCache (new)

  • Caches content from remote file and Web servers on a server in a branch location
  • The cache can also be distributed across user PCs
  • Requires Windows Server 2008 R2

windows-7-rdp-audio RDP features (improved)

  • Automatic link integration into the Start Menu to RemoteApp apps and desktops on Windows Server 2008 R2 servers
  • Remote Desktop & Application feed: Allows end users to launch remote applications from a central location.
  • Multi-monitor support for virtual desktops
  • Support for bidirectional audio: Enables use of microphones for VOIP
  • Use of local printer driver possible
  • Multimedia redirection
  • Aero Glass support


VHD image management and deployment

  • Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) files can be deployed using Windows Deployment Services
  • VHD files can be managed using DISM (see below)
  • Boot from a VHD file: This feature allows the reuse of the same master image for virtual desktops (VDI) and physical desktops

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool

  • A command line tool that combines functionality of International Settings Configuration (IntlCfg.exe), PEImg, and Package Manager (PkgMgr.exe). It allows you to update operating system images (drivers, language packs, features, updates)
  • Vista image management tools still work for Windows 7
  • DISM can also be used for Vista

Dynamic Driver Provisioning

  • Drivers can be stored centrally on a server, separate from images
  • They are installed dynamically based on Plug and Play IDs or BIOS information
  • Reduces the number of drivers on an individual machine and potential driver conflicts
  • Reduces size and number of system images
  • Speeds up installation

Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer

  • Broadcast image data to multiple clients simultaneously
  • Group clients with similar bandwidth capabilities into network streams
  • Define minimum performance thresholds to automatically remove slower computers from a multicast group

User State Migration Tool (USMT)

  • Hardlink migration: Files are not moved on the hard disk but redirected to improve performance; discovers user documents at runtime
  • Support for volume shadow copy: Migrate files that are being used by an application


  • Windows 7 will be delivered with PowerShell 2.0
  • PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE)
  • PowerShell Remoting: Run scripts remotely on a single or multiple PCs
  • Script Internationalization: Localized messages
  • PowerShell Restricted Shell: Only certain commands and parameters are available
  • Automating Group Policy: Use scripting to manage Group Policy Objects
  • Support for logon, startup, and shutdown PowerShell scripts

Management of external machines

  • PCs connected via Direct Access can be managed via Group Policy
  • Can be accessed via Remote Assistance
  • Can be updated via enterprise management tools

Group Policy (improved)

  • New policies and preferences: BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, auditing, power management, task scheduling
  • Custom Group Policy preferences
  • Starter Group Policy Objects: Preconfigured administrative templates for recommended policies
  • URL-Based Quality of Service: Prioritize network traffic based on URL via Group Policy

Windows Troubleshooting (improved)

windows-7-check-for-solutionsWindows 7 has built-in troubleshooters for performance, programs, devices, networking, printing, display, sound, and power efficiency. (I have to find out what is really new here. Do you have any idea?)

Startup Repair (improved)

  • Startup Repair is now installed automatically
  • After an unsuccessful boot, Windows 7 will load Startup Repair and try to automatically repair the installation

Troubleshooting and support (improved)

  • Problem Steps Recorder: End users can record their experience with an application failure with each step recorded as a screen shot along with accompanying logs and software configuration data
  • Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) enhancement: Windows 7 automatically installs Windows RE into the operating system partition by default
  • Windows Troubleshooting Packs: Collections of PowerShell scripts and related information that can be deployed via CAB files and executed remotely from the command line or through Group Policy; Troubleshooting Packs are built with the Windows Troubleshooting Toolkit, a GUI that is part of the Windows 7 Software Development Kit (SDK)
  • Unified Tracing: A tool that collects network-related event logs and captures packets across all network layers
  • Remote access to reliability data: Access data of the Reliability Monitor through Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

Device Management (improved)

  • Device Stage: A new central location for all external devices that provides information about the device status and lets you run common tasks; the device manufacturers provide the contents for their devices; examples for common tasks: media synchronization with portable media players, PIM synchronization, ringtone editor.
  • Drivers of new devices are automatically downloaded
  • Location Aware Printing: Windows 7 changes the default printer depending on the connected network (home, work, etc.)
  • Support for Bluetooth 2.1: simpler device pairing, better security, better power savings, Group policy support
  • Support for wireless alternatives to USB: Ultra Wideband (UWB), Wireless USB (WUSB), Wireless Host Controller Interface (WHCI), Device Wire Adapter (DWA)
  • Blue-ray Disc write support
  • Sensor and Location Platform: Support for devices such as ambient light sensor, GPS, temperature gauge, etc.
  • Display Color Calibration: Helps adjust an LCD display to be as close as possible to the sRGB standard color space
  • High DPI support: enlarge text display when using high resolutions (This is already possible now, not sure what is new here.)
  • ClearType tuner: (Not sure what is new; do you know?)
  • Improved support for external displays: Windows key + P to toggle between your laptop screen and an external display


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