Beta vs RC: What's new in the Windows 7 Release Candidate?

We look at some of the changes Microsoft has made to Windows 7 since the Beta's release in January

  • The Windows 7 Release Candidate has an attractive and much more streamlined Control Panel that gives you quick access to system preferences. Though the RC has fewer icons than the Beta, the missing ones are either relevant to the Beta or to computers with specialised equipment like fingerprint readers.

  • If Microsoft's [[xref:|Engineering Windows 7 blog]] is any indication, the makers of the Vista successor have been pedantic about even the tiniest changes to the operating system. The brand-spanking-new taskbar is retooled to combine Quick Launch with the standard applications taskbar any Windows user since Windows 95 will be familiar with. Everything from how an icon acts when it needs attention, to the background colour of an app when open has been tweaked to create a more polished look.

    The biggest change that the taskbar has undergone is the number of icons you can store on it at any one time. When using the RC, you can fit 25 per cent more icons using the large icon option, and 32-39 per cent more icons when using the small icon option, depending on the resolution. Once the maximum number of icons has been reached, it will scroll to a second line.

  • Microsoft has attempted to make Windows much more customisable for the end-user. It has continued to add to the number of themes and other settings users have access to. Both Aero and simplified themes are available, and you have control over the opacity, colour and sound effects.

    For those with a little more technical expertise, the RC will even let you [[xref:|change your Windows 7 login screen|Within Windows: Windows 7 to officially support logon UI background customization]].

  • Microsoft has paid close attention to Windows Media Center during development, and the work shows. The version accompanying the Release Candidate has been tightened and polished. It provides more comprehensive driver support for TV tuners and other devices. Integrated support for playing Quicktime MOV files in Windows Media Player (and hence Windows Media Center) also gives you another reason to switch.

  • Microsoft's other taskbar innovation is the introduction of Jump Lists. Designed to replace right-click context menus in the taskbar and provide tighter integration with applications, Jump Lists were available in the Beta but have been refined in the Release Candidate and given slightly more polish. The Frequent list has also been tweaked so that it only shows the top 10 accessed files and folders.

  • Though Windows Flip still remains in Windows 7, Microsoft has improved on the traditional Alt-Tab method. Not only does the RC include window thumbnails, but Microsoft has also integrated Aero Peek into Alt-Tab to ensure you find the right window. While holding down Alt-Tab, highlight your desired window, and all surrounding windows will fade away — handy, right?

  • Still holding onto the Windows 7 public beta? It's time to switch. Since the Beta was released back in January, Microsoft has refined almost every aspect of the upcoming operating system.

    From the get go, the changes are immediately noticeable. The Action Center no longer bugs you as soon as you start up your PC and the overall look is much sleeker. We installed the Beta and Release Candidate on the same PC, but only the RC was able to use Aero without difficulty — the Beta had constant problems with both its own graphics drivers and official drivers from ATI and NVIDIA.

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