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Computer Care: Windows 7 is a big step up from Vista
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Windows 7 will be out in a couple of weeks and unlike its predecessor, it is something to look forward to.

Although its release isn’t officially until Oct. 22, I have a prerelease version installed on my computer and I like it. I took advantage of Microsoft’s offer back in June to try it free for a year. It’s installed on my laptop alongside Vista; I can’t remember the last time I booted into Vista.

It’s not a totally new interface like the difference between Win 98 and XP, but it beats Vista by leaps and bounds.

Win 7 seems to have added what XP left out and repaired what Vista messed up. Some things are new, others polished. Gone are the constant nags of permission to access something on your own computer. They called it security; I called it a nuisance.

Vista initially had issues with many peripherals that XP handled with ease. Win 7 is ready. Vista couldn’t run on the new tiny netbooks where XP could. So could Win 7.

I think Vista must have been a huge a huge disappointment, if not an embarrassment to Microsoft. It ended up being nothing like its older brother, XP. Whether it was released prematurely or what, we’ll never know. It was kind of like Win ME, the Millennium Edition. The turn of the century is here and we’d better have something to sell, ready or not. I used mine as a coaster on my desk.

A nice addition to Win 7 is not so many additions. Instead of cramming a bunch of add-on programs and utilities to the operating system, some that may never be used, Microsoft decided this time around to offer them as optional, free downloads on its Web site. Many add-ons are in Windows Live Essentials. That’s where you’ll find Window’s Mail and Messenger now as well as the new Writer and some others. Go to http://down to see what’s there.

I added Photo Gallery to my installation. Aside from being a nice photo viewer and sufficient editor, it has a panoramic feature. If you’re on the beach or mountain top and want to remember the expansive panoramic view, now you can, and Photo Gallery does it effortlessly.

You can also make slideshows or movies in Photo Gallery, and when done, you can upload your finished products directly to You Tube, Flickr or Facebook for publication. A new addition to image-viewing is the slider in each folder that lets you adjust the size of the thumbnails.

The taskbar is perhaps the most noticeable change to the operating system’s interface. The start button is still there; it just doesn’t tell you what it is. Instead of pinning programs to the start menu or the Quicklaunch bar, you can now pin them to the taskbar.

All you do is hover the mouse over a taskbar item and it reveals a readable thumbnail. Then you click on either the item or the thumbnail to open it. The thumbnail offers a list of what each app recently had open. Word for example, will show a list of documents, and Firefox, a list of sites.

If you have multiple windows opened and want to view them in equal sizes, simply right-click on the taskbar. You will have a choice to cascade them, view them side by side or stacked. Personally, I like the side-by option. It’s like having my research book adjacent to the paper I’m writing. I can Google something and keep writing.

If you double-click anywhere on a window’s title bar, it will show in full screen. Alternatively, you can just drag it to the top of the screen and goes to full size automatically, with the new snap feature.

I have deleted the recycle bin more than once instead of emptying it. That option to delete is thankfully no longer there.

Having never been a fan of Internet Explorer, the new version has not changed that. My advice is to go to and download the latest version of Firefox. It is far more versatile and customizable than IE ever was.

What is versatile in the new OS is the redesigned Media Center that handles not just photos and music, but videos and TV. It asks what you want to configure and takes it from there.

Windows 7 installed on my laptop in an hour and booted in less than a minute. I found a huge collection of themes to download from Microsoft as well as add-ons as mentioned. It goes to sleep in seconds and wakes up almost as fast.

I found this OS more helpful than its predecessors. It connects to wireless much easier, finding local connection quickly.

Whenever you run into a problem, a troubleshooter is there in the form of a wizard to assist you. It asks just enough proper questions to help get you going again.

Libraries are something new. They are like what My Pictures was to My Documents in XP — on steroids. They are lists accessible across the OS. Using tags or keywords with libraries, files are easier to index and find from anywhere.

If you bought a new computer recently, chances are it came with a coupon or a link to get a free upgrade to Windows 7. I’d say go for it.

Even if you don’t have a coupon, the pricing is affordable. According to Microsoft’s Web site, the upgrade version for the Home Premium edition is $119.99, and $219.99 for the Ultimate Upgrade.

It may be just the operating system you’ve been looking for. Worst case scenario: it’s better than the one you’ve been itching to get away from.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.