May 18 - 24, 2009

In 2000, Microsoft was planning to follow up Windows XP and its server counterpart Windows Server 2003 with a major new release of Windows that was code named Blackcomb (both codenames refer to the Whistler-Blackcomb resort). This new version was at that time scheduled for a 2005 release.

As major feature work on Windows Vista wound down in early 2006, Blackcomb was renamed Vienna. However, following the release of Windows Vista, it was confirmed by Microsoft on July 20, 2007 that "the internal name for the next version of the Windows Client OS" was Windows 7, a name that had been reported by some sources months before. On October 13, 2008, it was announced that Windows 7 would also be the official name of the operating system. The decision to use the name Windows 7 is about simplicity. Simply put, this is the seventh release of Windows, so therefore Windows 7 just makes sense. Coming up with an all-new aspiring name does not do justice to what Microsoft is trying to achieve, which is to stay firmly rooted in our aspirations for Windows Vista, while evolving and refining the substantial investments in platform technology in Windows Vista into the next generation of Windows.

Windows 7 includes a number of new features, such as advances in touch, speech, and handwriting recognition, support for virtual hard disks, improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot performance, and kernel improvements. Windows 7 adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors, a new version of Windows Media Center, a Gadget for Windows Media Center, improved media features, the XPS Essentials Pack and Windows PowerShell being included, and a redesigned Calculator with multiline capabilities including Programmer and Statistics modes along with unit conversion. Many new items have been added to the Control Panel, including ClearType Text Tuner, Display Color Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Recovery, Troubleshooting, Workspaces Center, Location and Other Sensors, Credential Manager, Biometric Devices, System Icons, and Display. Windows Security Center has been renamed to Windows Action Center (Windows Health Center and Windows Solution Center in earlier builds) which encompasses both security and maintenance of the computer.

While Windows 7 contains many new features, a number of capabilities and certain programs that were a part of Windows Vista are no longer present or have changed, resulting in the removal of certain functionality.

Windows 7 also comes with seven new tips and tricks to make life easier while using the computer.

Tip 1: Put a "Pin Up" of the Folders You Use Most. WindowsĂ 7 allows you to "pin up" the folders you use most on your taskbar. Simply hold your mouse over the favorite folder, right click, and drag it onto the taskbar. Windows 7 automatically pins itself to the Explorer Jump List.

Tip 2: Double-Up Your Windows. Double-Up Your Windows. When working within an application, sometimes you just want more of a good thing. To open another window of the same application (assuming the app can run more than one instance), simply hold Shift and click the taskbar icon. You can also middle-click your third mouse button for the same result.

Tip 3: Clear, Crisp Display-it's In Your Control. Windows 7 makes it easy for you to adjust your display settings, making text and images easier to view in all the various locations where you work on your computer. Your laptop display may look fine at work but a little dark at home. Adjust the text and image settings easily with two snappy applets: ClearType Text Tuning and Display Color Calibration. Run cttune.exe and dccw.exe, or look them up in the Control Panel.

Tip 4: Order and Reason for Your Taskbar. You can decide the order that your icons show up in your taskbar by simply dragging them to the order you desire. And for the first five icons, you can launch them with a simple keystroke: Any of the first

Tip 5: Taskbar Traversing. Your machine will make its active screen your taskbar menu, and you can use the arrow keys to select the application you're interested in. Just hit Enter to launch it. Naturally, to exit this trick, press Esc.

Tip 6: BitLocker to Go Protection. BitLockerĂ has become a saving grace when it comes to increased laptop security. Windows 7 has taken security even farther with its BitLocker To GoTM feature, which allows you to encrypt removable USB devices and external disks.

Tip 7: Your Own Personal Help Desk: Windows Troubleshooting Platform. Windows 7 can save you from having to bite the bullet and call the help desk for every problem that comes up, thanks to the new Windows Troubleshooting Platform. It's easily accessed by typing "fix" or "Troubleshoot" in the Start Menu.

For developers, Windows 7 includes a new networking API with support for building SOAP based web services in native code (as opposed to .NET based WCF web services), new features to shorten application install times, reduced UAC prompts, simplified development of installation packages, and improved globalization support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API.

At WinHEC 2008 Microsoft announced that color depths of 30-bit and 48-bit would be supported in Windows 7 along with the wide color gamut scRGB (which for HDMI 1.3 can be converted and output as xvYCC). The video modes supported in Windows 7 are 16-bit sRGB, 24-bit sRGB, 30-bit sRGB, 30-bit with extended color gamut sRGB, and 48-bit scRGB. Microsoft is also investigating better support for Solid State Drives and Windows 7 will be able to identify a Solid State Drive uniquely.

Many Microsoft solution providers say their customers are planning to skip Windows Vista and migrate directly from Windows XP to Windows 7. But that move will be far more complicated that it may seem today, according to a recent Gartner report. If the new PCs are coming in 2011, then Windows 7 may not be mature enough and Windows XP will be too old, thus Vista will be required to be deployed during that PC refresh.

Windows 7 simplifies how you work with the windows on your desktop. You'll have more intuitive ways to open, close, resize, and arrange them. You can drag open windows to screen borders, so you'll no longer have to click on tiny objects in the corner of a window to make it do what you want. Maximize a window by dragging its border to the top of the screen, and return the window to its original size by dragging it away from the top of the screen. Drag the bottom border of a window to expand it vertically. It's easy to copy files or compare the contents of two windows by dragging the windows to opposite sides of the screen. As your cursor touches the edge, the window will resize to fill that half of the screen. To see all your desktop gadgets, just drag your mouse to the lower right corner of your desktop. That'll make all the open Windows transparent-making your desktop and the gadgets on it, immediately visible. Want to minimize all your windows? One click and it's done.

Zafar-ul-Islam is a Technology Specialist at Microsoft Pakistan and can be reached at.