Microsoft Windows 7 RC1

Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) is a polished piece of work, ready for prime time

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Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 RC1

Pros

  • Early beta tests suggest that the OS will be quicker than Vista

Cons

  • Too soon to make a proper assessment of the operating system

Bottom Line

It's way too early to make a proper assessment of Windows 7, but Microsoft has made its intentions clear: Windows 7 is intended to right the wrongs Vista wrought, but retain that operating system's good points. And at this point, we can't argue with that. Our early beta tests suggest that the OS will be quicker than Vista, which can only be a good thing. We'll be updating this review as we get more information on and time with Windows 7, so be sure to bookmark this page.

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Windows 7 RC1: Speeding things up

I installed Windows 7 RC1 on a Dell Inspiron E1505 notebook with 1GB of RAM and a 1.83GHz dual-core processor. Even at that configuration, the operating system was surprisingly fast, seemingly even faster than the beta, which represented a significant performance improvement over Windows Vista.

However, I did run into one installation issue: Windows 7 didn't properly recognise my video card and used a default, generic video driver, which would not allow Aero to run and could not use the notebook's highest resolutions.

When I asked Windows to rescan my hardware, it was still unable to properly recognise the card. I had to manually download and install the Windows Vista video driver. After that, the laptop worked like a charm.

On the other hand, when I previously tested the Windows 7 beta build, I had problems getting Aero to work, even though Windows recognised the video card, and I had problems with wireless networking as well. Those problems were solved in RC1. Windows 7 RC1: Overall interface improvements

Windows 7 RC1 includes a host of subtle user-interface changes that, taken together, represent an improvement over the beta.

For example, Windows 7 RC1's task bar is the most visible improvement over Windows Vista. In the beta, the task bar was already impressive; in RC1, it has been tweaked to become even more useful.

If you frequently open many files in a single application, you'll welcome the new feature Microsoft calls "task bar thumbnail overflow".

As with the Windows 7 beta, when you have many files open in an application and hover your mouse over its icon on the task bar, you'll see a list of files open, rather than their individual thumbnails, because that many thumbnails simply can't fit on your screen.

In Windows 7 RC1, this list view has been juiced up, and it works more like the thumbnail view. Highlight any file on the list, and you'll "peek" at the highlighted window, just as you can do in thumbnail view. In addition, you can close any window by clicking a small "X" in the same way as you can in thumbnail view.

Keyboard junkies will appreciate a new keyboard shortcut for the task bar that makes it easier to jump to an individual window in an application without having to use the mouse.

As with the beta version of Windows 7, you can still use the keyboard to launch any application that has been pinned to the task bar. For example, if Microsoft Word is the second item pinned to the task bar, press Windows Key-2, and you'll launch Word.

With Windows 7 RC1, though, you can now cycle through individual windows within any application on the task bar. For example, if Word is the second icon on the task bar, and it has several windows open, hold down the Windows key, then press 2 repeatedly; each time you press the 2 key, you'll cycle through a new open window in Word.

The task bar has gotten several other new features as well. It can display more pinned icons than previously, so that if you have many of them pinned, you no longer have to scroll through them.

For example, at a resolution of 1024 by 768, you'll be able to see 15 rather than the previous 12 icons if you use large icons, and 22 rather than 16 if you use small icons.

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