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Why Windows 7 is Underwhelming

Why Windows 7 is Underwhelming

Troy Wolverton/San Jose Mercury News

October 20, 2009

And taking a page from the dock in the Mac OS, Windows will now allow you to “pin” icons to the task bar so that you can quickly launch programs and switch between them. This feature even goes a step beyond the one on the Mac. By right clicking on a particular icon – say, the one for Word – you can see documents and files you recently opened with its related program.

But some new features are unnecessary or downright annoying. If you move your mouse pointer to the bottom right of your screen, for example, Windows 7 will show you a glimpse of your desktop. But frustratingly, you can’t interact with your desktop from this view; move your pointer and all the programs you had running reappear.

When using the Alt-Tab shortcut to switch between programs, Windows 7, like Vista, will show you a small screen shot of the particular program, instead of its icon, which I would prefer, because it’s easier to identify a program from its icon.

But Windows 7 takes this feature a step further and makes it even worse. If you hesitate too long on any particular screen shot, Windows 7 will bring that program to the fore – and any other programs you toggle through after that using Alt-Tab. I found it jarring to have multiple programs jumping out at me like that – rather than just the one I wanted to switch to.

I also found that some things didn’t work as well as advertised. Windows 7 is supposed to have a whole new take on organizing your data. Instead of having to remember in which file on which computer you saved a particular picture or Word document, Windows 7 is supposed to automatically group such files from across your network into “libraries” of similar content.

This feature has some promise. When it works, you can look across folders and see pictures arranged by date or songs arranged by artist.

But it didn’t work automatically for me. Windows seemed not to realize that pictures could be stored in places other than the “My Pictures” folder. I had to tell Windows some of my pictures were located in my documents folder instead.

These are mostly quibbles, though. Windows 7 clearly fixes many of Vista’s problems and it has some new features that you’re likely to find useful.

Just don’t expect it to be world changing.

Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-920-5021 or Follow him on online at or on Twitter at

Windows 7"s notable features

Updated task bar: Program icons can be “pinned” to bar for quick launch and fast switching. Libraries: Related files, such as digital songs or Word documents, from across folders and computers on a network are grouped into one easily sorted collection. Touch screen support: Native support added for new touch-screen monitors and multi-touch gestures. Improved networking: Changes make it easier for users on home networks to share files and peripherals and stream media from one computer to another. Improved speed: Faster startup, shutdown and program switching than in Windows Vista.

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