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5 Things I Love and 3 Things I Hate About Windows 7

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

The new Windows is actually very good. Some of the new features are huge time savers and make work faster and more efficient than ever. Here are a few:

Things I Love about Windows 7

Program search

Navigating through a series of menus, no matter how well organized causes a delay in launching programs. For the stuff you use the most, you can just make desktop or taskbar shortcuts, but every now and then you want to run a program you haven't used in a while (and may not remember where it is).

Click in the white text box and type what you want

Using the program search feature of the start menu, you can click the windows button, type a few letters in the search box and up come any matches. Using it, I can find my programs much faster than hunting around in the start menu. It's even better when using someone else's computer where there may be little to no organization to the programs at all!

Matching program names or menu items will appear.

Alt+Tab

The Alt+Tab menu in Windows XP

One problem with having many windows open at once in XP is when you hit Alt+Tab to scroll through the open programs, you only see the program icon which isn't very helpful if you have many browser windows open.

Improved Alt+Tab function in Windows 7

Windows 7 fixes that by using thumbnails of the windows making it far easier to tell WHICH browser window is the one you want. You can very easily see which one you want visually particularly ones that are animated, games, or movies. The thumbnails for these types of windows will be animated too instead of just static images!

Note! If a movie/game is minimized, the thumbnail will not be animated.

Win+Tab

This is a completely new feature from Windows XP, but if you press the windows key and tab, you'll get a scrollable series of large thumbnails. While still holding the windows key, continue to press tab and they'll file forward similar to flipping through a roladex.

The main difference between this and Alt+Tab is that it looks way cooler and the "thumbnail" is actually about half the size of the screen making it even easier to identify the window you want.

Bonus: Both Alt+Tab and Win+Tab include the desktop as one of your windows.

Grouped Taskbar Icons

This is actually a feature I really hated in XP. When it grouped my windows on the taskbar, it made it impossible to quickly click from window to window since I'd have to find the group and then figure out which in that group was the one I wanted.

With Windows 7, all windows for the same program (multiple Explorer windows or Firefox windows etc) will be next to each other on the taskbar. The default is to group them if the taskbar gets full (just like XP), but now, when you hover over a grouping, it shows you a series of thumbnails. When you see the one you want, you can just click it to open that window.

Instead of reading each title, you can tell in an instant which one you want. Even better, the function still works even if you turn grouping off. Just hover over any Firefox window for example and you'll still get a thumbnail list for all open Firefox windows.

Windows Explorer Thumbnail Size Control

Click this on the upper right...
... and you get this menu

For someone who uses images a lot in graphic and web design not even counting the thousands of family photos lying around, I often found myself using the old hack to increase the size of thumbnails in explorer.

Now, thumbnail size is built right into the view options of Windows explorer. You can select medium, large, and extra large (there are some other options, but they don't produce thumbnails):

Medium Thumbnails
Large Thumbnails
Extra Large Thumbnails

Things I Hate About Windows 7

And while there are some great new things about Windows 7, there were certainly bound to be a few things that aren't as good. Here are a few:

User Access Control

Ok, granted this doesn't bother you near as much as it used to in Vista and that's a HUGE improvement. BUT! Why, oh why, is it necessary to be prompted EVERY time a program opens? Firewalls have had a "remember my choice" function since they were created so, what? Microsoft hasn't noticed? They didn't think perhaps I don't want to be asked every single time!?

I'm sure the Microsoft programmers are smart enough to have been able to put a "always allow" and "always deny" option on their UAC prompts. I mean, seriously What excuse do they have for making this kind of mistake after all this time?

Driver Signature Enforcement

In the 64 bit versions of Windows 7, certain programs and hardware will no longer work because they can't afford to purchase Microsoft certification. Either that or it's an old program of yours that you really love, but isn't being actively developed. Because of this restriction, you have to say goodbye… or do you?

Fortunately, there's a workaround for this so if you can't figure out why your hardware is unresponsive or certain programs won't work while others do, try this trick.

Folders Refuse to Expand in Windows Explorer

While browsing around in Windows Explorer, you may have noticed an unpleasant change. It used to be that if you click a subfolder, the folder listing on the left would auto-expand all folders at the same level.

This is the kind of thing that you either notice becuase it bothers you as much as it does me or you don't notice at all because you don't use Explorer the same way. If so, no worries, but if you hate it like I do, here's a simple fix to make it work like it used to.

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Make Windows7 Expand Folders Like XP

Have you noticed something odd about the way you navigate folders in Windows 7? It's not your imagination. Folders don't expand as you navigate like they did in XP!

If you, like me, depend on folders to auto-expand so you can quickly move files from subfolder to subfolder without having to open them all manually each time, here's the simple fix that you need.

Step 1. Click "Organize"

In the upper left area near the blue "BACK" button, you'll see the Organize button that opens the following menu:

Windows Explorer Organize Menu

Step 2. Click "Folder and search options"

In that menu, you see the option for "Folder and search options"? That's the one you want so click it. Now you get the Folder Options dialog:

Windows Folder Options - General Tab

Step 3. Click "Automatically expand to current folder"

And as easy as easy can be, there's a checkbox for "Show all Folders" and another for "Automatically expand to current folder". It's the second one you want, but it probably wouldn't hurt to click the first one too (if it isn't checked already).

Tada! Now relish your new expanding-folder-ness!

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Force Windows 7 To Install No Matter What Kind of Key You Have

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

If you lose or break your original installation CD for Windows 7, you're going to have a tough time. Maybe your neighbor has a copy, but it's the home edition and you have the pro. What can you do? Right now, a Windows 7 installation key is specific to the type of disk. However, all is not lost thanks to the Ei.cfg removal utility.

Although your Windows installation disc may say "Home Premium Edition," it still contains the other versions (such as Pro or Ultimate) on the disc—it just has a very small file called ei.cfg that tells the disc what version to install. The ei.cfg Removal Utility creates a new ISO of your install disc that ignores this file, thus letting you choose what edition you want when you start the installer.

It won't let you upgrade for free since your key will still have to match the version installed, but at least if you and your neighbor have a matching bit version (32 or 64) of Windows 7, you can use their disk for your reinstallation regardless of which package they purchased. Also, for people who routinely help friends with their computers, having a generic disk that can install any version of Windows easily is a huge help and cost savings.

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