Archive for the ‘Windows 7 likes’ Category

by Anura Guruge

General availability (GA) for Windows 7 was October 22, 2009. So today is indeed the 2nd anniversary of Windows 7 as the replacement for Vista and XP.

I had pre-ordered a Windows Professional DVD from Newegg.com and if I recall right the DVD arrived on the 22nd — as promised. I started using Windows 7, in anger, a couple of days later — having to wait until I had a new PC built just to run Windows 7.

My early day saga with Windows 7 is accurately chronicled, sometimes in painful detail, in this blog — which I started a few days after I began using Windows 7 Professional just so I could share my experiences with others.

Windows 7 has lived up to expectations.

It is stable, forgiving and fast.

Yes, there are still problems, e.g., automatic backup has never worked. But, indubitably, this is the BEST OS from Microsoft — and that coming from somebody who used to be an expert on IBM’s mainframe OSs.

I got my wife an ASUS laptop (from Amazon) with Windows 7 Home Premium last Christmas. It supplanted a Dell with XP SP2. She, as I expected, loves Windows 7.

So, I am sold.

I have published 4 books using Windows 7 — and by publishing I mean all the writing, the extensive graphics, backups, uploads etc. I can’t complain.

I haven’t even looked at Windows 8, as yet. Not sure I will migrate any time soon. Haven’t heard anything that compelling about Windows 8. I tend to be a very slow and reluctant adopter of new technology! I totally bypassed Vista.

For today I just want to celebrate 2 years of Windows 7 SANS too much drama. That is all I ask from my PC OS. Keep the dramatics to a minimum.

All the best. Cheers.

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The article that claimed that the taskbar was THE best feature of Windows 7, that I wrote about yesterday, got me thinking — on my ‘daily’ run.

So here is my first attempt at a non-facetious top 10 of what I think is cool about Windows 7. In time I will expand upon this and put it alongside my top 10 gripes about Windows 7 — not counting the bugs.

  1. Resilience
  2. Resilience (yes, for the second time. I would even list it again. THIS is THE best feature.)
  3. Reliability
  4. Performance
  5. Action Center
  6. Libraries
  7. Taskbar (with progress display)
  8. Built-in DVD/CD burning
  9. Optimized networking
  10. Calculator

So, what do YOU think? What do YOU like? Yes, the Media Player is cool but I hardly use it. Comments, as ever, welcome.

Thank you. Cheers. Good luck.

Anura Guruge

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As you probably know by now, I check the Web, daily, for Windows 7 information that maybe of use to US.

So yesterday, in Google News, I happened to see this InformationWeek article by a ‘Dave Methvin‘ that seems to sing the praises of the Windows 7 taskbar.

To his credit, Mr. Methvin states right up front that he started LIKING computers again … as of Windows 7 and that computers seem to like him too, of late. Lucky MAN. I hate computers. Have for 30 years. But, I have to use them, 7×12 at a minimum. So I guess that is what separates me from Mr. Methvin. I like red wine. Computers are a necessity. A tool. They are supposed to work.

I get a feeling that Mr. Methvin is not exactly what I would class as a power user. Because, if he was … he MIGHT have discovered, like WE have … that there are a NUMBER of rather serious Windows 7 bugs related to the taskbar.

Let us START with the disappearing taskbar icons. That is a pretty serious problem … a problem that we now know has been in Widows 7 since the Release Candidate. Mr. Methvin does NOT mention this. Lucky MAN. I wish I was that blessed. Taskbar icon problems have plagued me for months.

I won’t even mention the GHOST icons that persist in the taskbar when you have deleted a program. Oh, did I just mention that? Sorry. Old age.

Then remember that SOME taskbar icons perambulate on their own volition and you can’t pin them to the spot YOU would like. That is bloody annoying. Mr. Methvin hasn’t obviously seen that. Lucky man.

Mr. Methvin does RAVE about the taskbar icon displaying file transfer progress. We hit that way back in on Boxing Day … and I even showed you a picture because I can make Windows 7 snipper sit up and beg (and most days I do).

But, Mr. Methvin does NOT mention that Windows 7 still have problems calculating the time remaining to complete a file transfer.

All I can say is, IF you really think that the taskbar really is the most compelling feature of Windows 7 … you haven’t lived YET.

Yes, the taskbar is nice. It would be better if it didn’t lose icons, but then again … people will say I am unreasonable in my expectations. << smile >>

Good luck.

Anura Guruge

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At first sight the Windows 7 calculator looks no different to what we had with XP.

But in reality there is a brand new, rather powerful calculator in Windows 7 — albeit with a frustratingly deficient, non-Windows GUI.

The Windows 7 calculator has some really cool features. These are:

  1. Date Calculations: Work out the difference, i.e., time span, between two dates. Check how many days you have been on this earth. Since I am also a papal historian in my spare time, this is real handy for me. I am always having to work out how long a pope reigned, how old he was or how long it took before he held his first consistory.
    I typically use Excel’s =DATEDIF for this. [=DATEDIF is a now undocumented Excel function. I have never found an explanation as to why it is not documented. Just another Ballmer quirk. Google =DATEDIF. Very useful.]
    he Windows 7 date calculation [that you access from the VIEW menu] is nearly as powerful as =DATEDIF. With =DATEDIF you can get the ‘difference’ in years, months or days. The calculator gives you years:months: days and then also days. =DATEDIF only works with dates after 1904 (or thereabouts). The calculator goes back to 1601! I checked. I kind of thought it would stop around there. WHY? The Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory XIII who mandated it) kicked-in in 1582. Ten days got wiped out! Yep. So doing date calculations get messy around that time. For me, as a papal historian, 1601 is pretty recent. [But that covers all of US history … right? << smile >>] By 1601 we had already had 232 of the 266 popes.
    [I, à la one of the Y2K solutions, use ’tiling’ to work with earlier dates. Tiling basically means you shift the age up; so if I am calculating dates between 1218 and 1378, I treat them as 1918 to 2078].
  2. Unit Conversion: Wow. It does temperature, weight, area, length, power etc. etc. Pretty impressive. I have this conversion Web site bookmarked, but now I will use the calculator more and more.
  3. Worksheets: Yes, like a micro-Excel it provides worksheets, again from the VIEW menu, for calculating mortgages, leases and gas mileage! Pretty damned neat. Now you can, with a few keystrokes, work out how much underwater you are with your mortgage.
  4. History: You can access a journal of the calculations you have made previously. Handy.
  5. Digital Grouping: [Get YOUR mind off the gutter.] If you are European like ME, and like to see a COMMA [that is one of ‘,’] between groups of 3 digits … the calculator will do that too. VIEW menu.

Yes, IF you go an STUDY Microsoft’s Windows 7 features, the CALCULATOR is listed as one of the standout features. I will concur.

PIN it to your Task Bar and Bob can then be your uncle [unless Windows 7 loses the icon.]


Anura Guruge

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I am a total slave to my Windows 7 dual-monitor configuration. I have had a dual-monitor system since c. 2001. XP handled dual-monitor well and Windows 7, on the whole, is carrying on that tradition, though there have been a few non-serious oddities.

If you are using dual-monitor with Word, Excel, PPT etc. you may realize that it may be nice to be able to jump between windows on each of the monitors WITHOUT having to select [i.e., click-on] each Window.

I had discovered, Serendipitously, that you can indeed do this with Windows 2007; i.e., jump between two documents, one on each monitor, without Windows 7 or Word making you select which document is the currently active document. In other words << no pun intended >>, Word 2007 allows you to, in effect, have two ACTIVE windows, concurrently, on each monitor.

In case YOU are wondering WHY I am making such a big deal about this … it is because it really boosts your productivity. Having to click on a Window to activate it, slows you down and can disrupt your flow of work (let alone your concentration).

The other day, I also noticed, to my DELIGHT, that you can also flip-flop from Word 2007 on one monitor to Adobe Acrobat 9.3 on the other monitor … with BOTH windows staying active at the same time.

This is what I am talking about, editing a Word document (in this case the index to my book ‘The Next Pope’ on the right-hand monitor) while displaying a Adobe Acrobat PDF on the left-hand monitor.

In this type of Word 2007 cum Adobe Acrobat 9.3 configuration, you can continue to update the Word document [i.e., type] while popping over to the Adobe PDF and using the cursor to look up references.

Let me explain that further. If you do a SEARCH on Adobe it displays a LIST of search results in a search window (furthest left in the above screen shot). But the page numbers are not displayed. To get the page numbers you need to ‘hover’ above the search entry. Then Adobe pops up the page number.

Well with Windows 7 dual-monitor you can get Adobe to pop up the page numbers WITHOUT deselecting the Word document.

For me this was GRAND. Saved me a LOT of time and aggravation.

Say, I was indexing papabili. I would do an Adobe search for papabili on the left-hand side monitor. Then, I would jump over to the Word document, i.e., the index, and select the entry for papabili. This would activate Word as the ACTIVE Window. But, I could move the cursor across, go to the Adobe search list, get the page number … THEN type it into Word … in one step.

I got quite good at this. I would use the mouse to go through the Adobe search list, while using my left hand to type in the page numbers into Word. It was seamless. I could do as many page numbers as I wanted WITHOUT disrupting the sequence.

Trust me. It saved me hours of work. Again, I do NOT think this is in any way a design feature. Just a fortunate by-product. But do not look a gift horse in the mouth. Exploit it. Enjoy it.


Anura Guruge

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Way back, on November 9th, I had already stated that Windows 7 to XP networking works … but does so mysteriously.

Windows 7 will automatically discover XP machines.

On Christmas eve I fired up, for the first time, a XP Professional SP3 box.

It might have been the SP3 but Windows 7 detected it … ‘immediately.’ I didn’t have to do a network search on the Windows 7 machine or anything. The name of the XP SP3 machine just poped up on my Windows 7 machine. Way to go. I am impressed. I think with SP2 it was not as automated.

Once I set up network sharing on the C-drive of the XP machine … I could read/write folders/files from/to to the XP box without any issue. That was fine with me. Since the machines are basically next to each other I only need bi-directional read/write from one machine. So that works for me. I haven’t got around to enabling sharing on the Windows 7.

Did experience one unexpected ‘glitch.’ Though I had given global networking sharing to the C-drive this does not appear to percolate through to the ‘My Documents’ folders — for the individual users.

You have to go in and do that separately. Not a big deal once you know that you have to do this step.

So, right now, I can transfer stuff at will between the XP SP3 and the Windows 7. No restrictions that I have seen.

I even noticed that the TIME REMAINING for a file transfer seems to work when you are going from Windows 7 to XP.

So, I am happy. I am impressed.


Anura Guruge

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See that … the GREEN filling up some of my ‘Windows Explorer’ Task Bar icon.

You can also notice I have three instances of ‘Windows Explorer’ active. I was burning a DVD using drag-and-drop, from one ‘Windows Explorer’ window to another. So that accounts for two instances. One for the ‘C’ drive and other for the DVD RW ‘E’ drive. I was copying across all of my Web site images. That was just over a gig and was going to take some time to burn. Hence the file transfer progress bar.

Well, since multitasking is my thing, I activated FireFox to start updating this blog. You will also notice I had two FireFox instances. One of each monitor. Actually, I should have mentioned that ‘Windows Explorer’ instances were also spread across the two monitors.

When I activated both FireFox instances the ‘Windows Explorer’ instances were obscured. I happened to glance down at the task bar and noticed the GREEN encroaching on the icon. Clicked on the icon for a preview. The GREEN matched the exact length of the progress bar.

WAY COOL. Way to go Microsoft. I am impressed.

I used PRT SCR with Snipper to capture the above image per the technique I talked about two days ago. It was a snip.


Anura Guruge

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As I had pointed out way back on November 9, with Windows 7 you don’t need any CD/DVD creation software, à la say Nero, to burn a disk. The disk and folder menu for Windows 7 has a BURN option that allows you to do that. But, as I said at the start, the user interface for using that BURN option isn’t straightforward.

Today, I tried to use it. Got me no where.

Then I, using the COMPUTER icon, just displayed my drives … including my DVD RW drive. It showed as an open folder. Dragged a folder to it. Took it straightway. No hassle.

So I tried it again.

So here is the bottom line. To burn a CD/DVD just put a write-ready disk into your RW drive. Using the COMPUTER icon select that drive and click on it. Open up the drive as a folder. THEN just drag-and-drop the folders or files you want burned into that open disk folder. You can drop multiple files/folders at once. When you are finished just right click and say EJECT. Might take a few minutes for it to ‘finalize’ the disk. It will then eject it.

I was even able to effortlessly add folders to a DVD R disk that I had previously burned. Didn’t ask me anything. Just continued to add.

It really is easy and painless. Try it. You will like it.


Anura Guruge

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I am not sure whether anybody, including Microsoft, knows the exact figures, but I assume that today, Christmas day, tens of thousands of brand new PCs, with Windows 7 preloaded, were fired up around the Globe. Many won’t bother to activate Windows 7 today. Plus, there is the totally out-of-control pirating of Windows 7. Hence, if I TRY to factor in India, China and Vietnam, probably 40% of the copies of Windows 7 that were fired up today, for the first time, were probably pirated. The number maybe higher. I doubt whether it is lower. Despite Microsoft’s inexplicable, inexcusable and irresponsible claim that it would provide updates and support for pirated copies of Windows 7, unstinted, I am sure that quite a few users of pirated Windows 7 will refrain from hitting the Microsoft site. Hence my belief that we will never know how many folks got Windows 7 for Christmas. But I am sure it was a LOT.

So today Windows 7 comes of age. At any other time I would have said that it would be the day of reckoning.

But I have to admit, however grudgingly, that Microsoft DID GOOD with Windows 7. Yes, Microsoft, take a bow. And that coming from me is akin to Newt Gringrich parising Obama’s health care bill! Until Windows 7 I have never, for valid reasons, been a great fan of Microsoft. But, I have always been willing to give credit when credit was due.

Yes, as I myself have found there are BUGS in Windows 7. Just check the ‘Windows 7 Problems’ category here. Yes, these bugs indicate that Windows 7 was not adequately tested. But, by and large, Windows 7 is amazingly resilient and responsive. Consequently, I do not think that there will be too many people today, Christmas day, unhappy with their Windows 7 experience. That is good.

All that said, I still expect that we will see a TON of ‘open box’ Windows 7 machines for sale at places like Best Buy, TigerDirect etc. within the next few days. But that would not be because Windows 7 was a pig. I think today’s economy will be a factor. There will be some buyer’s remorse. “Do I really need a new laptop in the current climate?” So check out the deals. I plan to snap up at least one decent Windows 7 rig to serve as a backup.

Talking of backups … the refurbished Dell … with Windows XP Professional I got from TigerDirect arrived Christmas eve. I fired it up the night of Christmas eve when nothing in the house was stirring. WOW. TigerDirect did me proud. Great machine. Fast and clean. As promised. I installed all that I wanted on it. Best $169 I have spent in a long time … maybe my entire life. THANK YOU TigerDirect.

Happy Christmas.

Anura Guruge

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From what I can deduce, right now, Word 2007 allows you to scroll seamlessly across two documents, one on each monitor, without having to ‘click/select’ on either of the documents.

This is extremely handy. Thank YOU, Microsoft — though I do not think this was an explicit design feature. [I think it is an accidental, but providential, ‘oversight in the code. I could, as ever, however, be wrong. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Exploit it. Enjoy it.]

What does this mean. You can continually hop from one document to the other and scroll the document you are currently on WITHOUT having to make it the active Window.

Get it? It sounds more involved than what it is in practice.

OK. Let me give you a specific example. I am indexing my latest book. So I have one Word document called ‘Index’. Rather than using printed, hard copy I display the body of the book, i.e., the various chapters, as Word documents on my LEFT HAND side monitor.

So I read chapter content on the LEFT HAND side monitor while creating index entries on the RIGHT HAND side monitor.

I can mouse over from one document to the other and just start scrolling, as soon as I get to the other document, WITHOUT having to do a mouse CLICK on it — to activate it [i.e., to select it as the active document].

So my RIGHT HAND document, the index, REMAINS the active document even when I am scrolling the other document. So when I come back to the index I don’t have to re-select either. Just carry on typing. It really is COOL.

Thank you, Microsoft. This actually does translate into palpable productivity gain. Way to go.

I will keep you posted as I discover these ‘tricks.’


Anura Guruge,

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