Product: Windows 7 operating system
Features: Several new features, including libraries, taskbar icons instead of tabs, jump lists instead of recent documents, and XP Mode, which allows users to run a virtual version of Windows XP in the background. If you have other Windows 7 computers, you can set up Homegroups to share whatever documents you want between computers without having to move files into public folders.
Price: Upgrades start at $119.99; hits stores Thursday.
Ups: With 7, you can turn on the XP Mode, and it loads an XP desktop environment inside Windows 7. This is ideal for workplaces that use programs not designed to run on Vista or Windows 7. I’m a sucker for the nice visual effects. There’s an easy way to customize desktop themes and have the backgrounds change automatically. You can hover over thumbnails and get a larger preview to help you choose what window you want. Jump lists are the new way of accessing your recent documents. For example, if you opened Microsoft Word recently, right-click the icon of Word on the bottom bar to see a list of recent Word documents. Jump lists also appear for the recently accessed programs in your Start Menu.
Libraries are a new term, but basically it’s an easier way to find your documents. A photo library can show your photos saved in several different locations, but compiled in one list for quick access.
Downs: I experienced no real problems, other than some difficulty connecting to a Netgear wireless router in my home. (You can read more details about this in my blog, but it was resolved after Comcast provided us with a newer model.) If anything, there’s a bit of a learning curve when trying to maneuver through 7 if you’re coming from XP.
When I tried to install a printer I’ve owned for several years, Windows 7 couldn’t read the installation CD. But when I plugged the printer into the computer, it recognized it, but I had to go through a few steps outlined in the help menu to find the driver to make it work. It worked perfectly, but be aware that you might have to take an extra step or two when trying to install something built a few years ago.
Bottom line: If you’ve ever had issues with Vista, go ahead and upgrade. I installed a bunch of stuff on 7 — various hardware and software, old and new — and I was able to get everything to work without a hitch. Even software that was glitchy with Vista seemed to work well on Windows 7.
But if you are an XP user, it’s not worth the upgrade — at least not now. You’re better off buying a new machine with 7 already on it than putting yourself through the hassle of upgrading.