I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas, and I hope you all have a happy Year.
Now with the seasonal formalities out of the way I will proceed with my article.
I received a new Dell INSPIRON 15 laptop for Christmas, and that’s been what I’ve been doing for the past couple days. My new computer came with Windows 7 Home Premium, 3 GB of RAM, Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and about 230 GB of hard drive space. An upgrade in every way from my older Dell INSPIRON 9300 laptop in almost every way. Now here’s what I wish my new laptop had that my old laptop had:
- My old laptop had three lights at the top by the power button. A light for the Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock. My new laptop doesn’t have these lights, so I don’t know whether or not I have Caps Lock on until I start to type. Something that can be very very annoying.
- The Screen Size. My old laptop had a 17 inch screen, and it was very tall. My new laptop has a 15.3 inch screen size, and is not as deep as my old laptop screen.
- The USB ports. My old laptop had 6 USB ports, arranged with two on the sides, and four in the back. My new laptop has three USB ports. Two on the left side, and one on the right. Because of how the USB ports are arranged, it is difficult to have more than two USB devices attached to my computer at once. To combat this problem I bought a USB extender. Now I have 6 available USB ports.
- The power jack is on the side. I’m not really sure if this should be a plus of a minus. I would say it’s a minus because it requires my laptop to have more space to the left side where the jack is. It would be a plus though because it is much easier to plug my power cord in to my laptop now. Before I had to close the screen and bend over my laptop to find the power jack, not something that’s fun to do. Now all I have to do is plug it in to the side.
- The D-USB port (I believe that is what it is called), the port that connects my laptop to an external monitor, is on the left side by the power jack. I usually have my external monitor on the right side of my computer, so this is pretty inconvenient.
Now here’s what I like about my new laptop:
- Although the screen size is smaller, I do like this because it will be easier to travel with, and also with I’m sitting in my airplane seat it will fit much better.
- The microphone and the headphone jacks are in the front. On my old laptop they were on the left side, and because of its width, this made it difficult in an airplane seat.
- Because my screen is smaller, and because of how my new computer is built, it is much lighter than my old computer.
- The operating system. Sure, Windows XP was fine, but once you’ve used Windows 7 you’ll wonder how you ever made it with Windows XP. I’m not saying that Windows XP is bad, no, I’m just saying that Windows 7 is better. Some of my favorite features of Windows 7 are as follows:
- Aero. I really like the transparency of Windows 7; it makes the operating system look so much cleaner and more advanced.
- Automatic background shuffling. In Windows 7 you can set your background to change after a certain amount of time without the need for a special program.
- When you mouseover a window or group of windows you will be presented with a little larger than normal thumbndails of the pages that that particular program has open. If you were to mouseover one of these windows, it would pop up as if you had clicked to open it. This is just a preview of what it would look like if you were to open it up. You can then click on one of the larger-than-normal-thumbnails to open the window.
- If you grab a window and drag it so that your mouse pointer is to the left side of your screen, a frame of that window will expand to half the screen size. If you were to let your window go there, it would fill half of your screen. You can do this with either side of your screen. This is very helpful if you want to compare two documents or move files between folders. If you were to drag your window so that your mouse pointer was at the top of your screen a frame would expand to fill your whole screen. Letting go of that window would make the window maximize. You can also grab the top or bottom and drag it up or down to the bottom or top of your screen. If you do this then you window will expand to reach the top and bottom of the screen. Handy for reading long documents.
- If you shake a window, all windows but that one will be minimized.
- Windows no longer include the application name along with the icon, but just the icon. This saves a lot of space on my taskbar: I haven’t filled up my taskbar yet!
- Shutting down your computer. If you shut down your computer and you still have a program running, Windows will ask you if you still want to shut down your computer, or if you want to cancel the shutdown.
- Start menu. I love the new start menu! Besides the icon being smaller, and cooler looking, which is a bug plus, the start menu is much improved from previous versions. The front panel is still populated with your most recently used programs, that hasn’t changed, but something about the icons has. Some icons have a small arrow to the right side of them. If you were to click on the arrow for the, say, Microsoft Word icon, you would be presented with your most recent documents from that application.
- You can pin items to your taskbar, as usual, but now if you right-click on them you will be presented with a list of recently opened windows. For example, if I were to right-click the Windows Explorer icon I would be presented with my Recent Folders, a list of folders that I have used recently. This is very, very handy when tracking down a folder.
- The second part of these taskbar icons that I really really like is that you can pin a location to them. If, for example, I used my Downloads folder a lot, then I could pin that location to my Explorer icon. So whenever I right-click the Windows Explorer icon I will be presented with the list of my recently opened folder locations, along with whatever locations I’ve pinned there. Here’s an image to illustrate that point. Notice that the folder ‘downloads’ is under the Pinned section.
The same goes for iTunes. If I play a song from iTunes, it gets added to the Recently Played list which I can view by right-clicking the iTunes icon. I can also pin songs to that menu so that whenever I right-click iTunes I will have the option to play that song.
Here’s an image of what this would look like:
And if I were to mouseover one of these song names a small push-pin would appear to the right of the song name. Clicking that push-pin would pin that sond permanently to the right-click menu for the iTunes shortcut.
- In Max OS X if you move your mouse to the right side of the screen your desktop will appear. Or at least, I think that’s how it works. Anyway, somehow you can have a shortcut to get to your desktop. Windows 7 also has two features like this. The first one, and my favorite, is when using the Alt+Tab shortcut to switch between windows, an option to view the desktop is included. Here’s a picture to see what that looks like:
- The other shortcut to the desktop is to move your mouse over to the lower right hand side of your screen. There is a small unlabeled button there. If you hover your mouse over it, a preview of your desktop will appear. If you click it, all windows will be minimized and the desktop will show. Here’s a picture showing this:
Note, this is a picture of what it looks like when I mouseover the button, not when I click it. The frames on the page are outlines of my active windows.
- Another thing I really like about Windows 7, as I have mentioned before, is the start menu. But not only the start menu, but the search/run dialog box. In windows this button didn’t do much. It ran some programs, and opened a folder location if it was feeling up to it. Otherwise, nothing. Windows 7’s version is so much better. I can type something in to the box, and it immediately starts searching for something matching that name, whether it be file, folder or program. You can also type commands into this box and it will run. For example, I can either type in MSCONFIG and then find the application in the search results, or I can just run it as I would in Windows XP.
- The new Disk Cleanup utility makes it much much easier to clean out old system files. In Windows XP you would have had to navigate through sub-menus and multiple tabs, but here all you have to do is click ‘Clean System Files’ and Disk Cleanup will add those files to the list of files to be cleaned.
- In Windows XP when you click All Programs, or mouseover it, a very wide of very long menu expands with a list of all your programs, and some extra folders. In Windows 7 this is not so. In Windows 7 when you click All Programs, the start menu doesn’t get bigger, nor does it get smaller. All that changes is the spot where the most used programs were sitting. Now that spot is populated with a list of folders. That’s it. This makes it much quicker, more aesthetically pleasing, and more functional.
- Another thing I like about Windows 7 is the games. In previous versions of Windows there wasn’t much in the way of Games. Windows 7 includes all the old games, and adds of few of its own. Including Chess ad Mahjong.
- This next one is a major like of mine. Probably one of my favorite new features of Windows 7 is the audio mixer. In Windows XP you could change the Wave, Volume, CD, blah blah blah – all unimportant settings. In Windows 7 this is taken to the next level. Take a look at a snapshot of this:
With Windows 7’s mixer I can change the sound levels from different applications. So if I’m playing a game in Firefox with a stupid soundtrack, I can mute Firefox’s sound and only listen to the sound coming from iTunes. It’s a great little feature, also very helpful when playing games that require a lot of attention.
- Sticky Notes. This was a big deal in BumpTop, and now Windows 7 has it. Check out this screen capture:
If you expand this image you can see that I made a few example notes on my desktop. Very handy for quick things that you want to remember.
- Connecting to a projector. In Windows XP if you wanted to have a second screen attached to your computer you would have to go to right-click on your desktop and navigate to Properties>Settings and then enable a second screen, and then place it wherever it was located. On my new computer all I have to do is push the screen button (which doubles as F1) and a box will pop up with a few options. Here’s a snapshot:
Note that I get the option to have my screen set as Computer Only, Duplicate my screen over to my second screen, Extend my screen to my second monitor/projector, or just use the projector/screen only.
- Paint. In Windows XP Paint is a pretty basic picture editor, and that hasn’t changed too much in Windows 7, so if you’re lo0king for a substitute to Photoshop or GIMP then look elsewhere. Paint for Windows 7 is actually pretty decent. It looks like they stripped down Word and took Paint and put it in there. Here’s what it looks like:
Paint has always been a great light-weight picture editor, and now even more so with its overhaul.
Those are my favorite features of Windows 7 and my new computer. When I find some more I will be sure to post them. Unfortunately I will be putting off the computer maintainince article for awhile while I finish my review of Windows 7, and I have a new post in the works titles Recent Happenings Revision 3. It’s going to be a good article you can look forward to.