In pictures: a look at what's new in Windows 7

Microsoft rolls out Windows 7 public beta

  • Windows Media Centre.

  • Everyone’s favourite time waster, Paint, undergoes a facelift in Windows 7, receiving the Ribbon UI treatment made popular (or not) by Microsoft Office 2007.

  • Unfortunately, homegroups are headed for failure if set up is as complex as the public beta suggests. Are you really going to remember that password?

  • The revamped Taskbar is customisable to better differentiate between open and closed applications.

  • The Networking and Sharing Centre has changed slightly, making it easier to retrieve vital information like IP addresses.

  • A small tab in the bottom-right corner allows users to see the Desktop without closing windows.

  • The other side of the Taskbar, the notification area, has also been revamped to include only those icons which are absolutely necessary to the running of the system. Along with Network and Volume information, the notification area also includes the new Action Centre, which displays vital system notifications.

  • The biggest change to Windows 7 networking is the introduction of homegroups, a new way of sharing documents over a local network.

  • Network and Sharing hasn’t changed too much on the surface but the utility is much better overall.

  • Windows Explorer gets rid of physical user-based document folders, and replaces them with Libraries. The folders are virtual, gathering files of relating file formats into the library regardless of where they are on the hard drive. This allows users to organise files as they please while always having a way to easily find the files from a single location.

  • Windows 7 introduces several new methods of dealing with multiple windows. An application’s windows (and in Internet browsers, tabs as well) are automatically grouped together in the Taskbar. Hover over the application in the Taskbar and Windows 7 will give the user easy access to specific windows. The feature is an extension and refinement of previously available windows management features in Windows Vista.

  • For the most part, Window 7’s user interface is an extension of the Aero interface introduced in Windows Vista. There are some key differences, however. The biggest change for the end-user comes in the form of the revamped Taskbar — Microsoft has combined Quick Launch and the general Taskbar so that unopened and opened applications are available in the same area. The idea — often compared to Mac OS X’s Dock — has attracted controversy but has its benefits if configured in the right way.

  • The new interface is very slick, with new slideshow options and an attractive menu.

  • The Windows Media Centre gadget teases users with Internet TV options, though as yet Australian users aren’t allowed to access any of this material. Of course.

  • Windows Media Player 12 separates Library management from the player interface.

  • The Windows Sidebar has been ditched in Windows 7 in favour of Gadgets, which stick to the Desktop without taking up precious window space.

  • The notification area is customisable in a number of ways to meet the user’s needs.

  • Windows Media Centre —sSports fans can gain quick access to the scores for their favourite sports. Provided their taste in sports is limited to something the Americans are good at, of course.

  • Nothing revolutionary to see in Windows Media Player 12, though the application has undergone some weight loss, to create a lighter and easier to use application.

  • Windows Media Centre.

  • Windows Media Centre provides a more user-friendly interface for both tech novices and those who wish to customise the application.

  • Windows Media Player 12.

  • Windows Media Centre.

  • Jump Lists give users quick access to key functions of an application

  • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the availability of Windows 7 Beta 1 to the public at CES. Here's a look at some of the new features designed to remedy the headaches many users experienced with Windows Vista.

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