updated 03:05 pm EDT, Tue October 28, 2008
Windows 7 First Details
Microsoft at its Professional Developer Conference today provided a first look at Windows 7, the company's successor to Vista. The operating system is based heavily on the underlying framework of Vista but focuses heavily on redesigning the interface. The Windows taskbar and the general interface has been improved to speed up common tasks: running apps are simplified to icons and now include Jump Lists that provide shortcuts to common tasks for running apps, such as queuing up playlists in Windows Media Player. Pointing at each item on the taskbar also lets users "peek" at the contents of a running app without having to select the window.
An extra feature known as Libraries also creates directory-independent file organization. Users can browse their picture libraries sorted into groups by their metadata, for example, rather than having to manually create regular or smart folders.
The "ribbon" interface from Office 2007 has now spread into core operating system apps such as Paint and changes the toolbar's buttons based on context, exposing more features without having to search menus.
The software firm has also addressed some complaints with Vista and earlier versions of Windows. The system tray no longer automatically shows third-party icons by default and lets users choose which ones to show. The gadget sidebar has been scrapped in favor of a place-anywhere design that lets users personalize the desktop.
Performance has also improved significantly, the company says. While Windows Vista was previously kept off netbooks due to its sluggish performance on low requirements, Windows 7 should run smoothly on systems using Intel Atom processors and other low-performance systems. Windows engineering senior VP Steven Sinofsky has run a complete smooth demonstration of the new operating system on a test system with just a 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.
Other additions echo previous last-minute leaks and include Device Stage, a central hub for synchronizing and managing cameras, media players and other devices; a new animation framework; and much more advanced hardware feature support, including very high DPI displays, built-in Bluetooth file transfers and multi-touch input.
Microsoft doesn't say when it expects to release Windows 7 but notes in its presentation that there will be one main beta followed by a feedback stage, a late customer experience beta, and a release to manufacturing, suggesting that the company may skip its more traditional multi-beta and release candidate stages for outside users. Previously, the company has said it hoped to release Windows 7 in early 2010 and may need to start shipping the OS in late 2009 for this to take place. [images via Ars Technica]