BOOT CAMP 567 (11/03/09)]

Introducing Windows 7, part 4


This week we round off our brief tour of Windows 7 with a look at some of the less glamorous but arguably some of the most important parts of the new operating system. We touched on Libraries in part one and this really is a significant development that promises to make managing and accessing your files a great deal easier.


Those of us who have grown up with Window’s rigid hierarchical file structure will probably wonder what all the fuss is about but cast your mind back to your first encounter with a computer filing system, how long it took you to get to grips with it and the way it forces you to organise your files and folders. Libraries in Windows 7 provide a much less restrictive and a clearer, more coherent view of the files and media on your computer and other PCs connected to your home network.


In common with earlier versions of Widows you are encouraged to group files of a particular type (documents, pictures, music, video etc.) in specialised folders. However, these aren’t like the traditional User folders (My Documents, My Photos, My Music etc.), or even the ‘Virtual’ folders and Saved Searches in Vista. Library folders are highly configurable and can contain content that’s stored in multiple locations on your hard drive, as well as on other computers connected to your ‘Home Group’ network (more on that in a moment). For example, the Music and Video Libraries on your PC can contain tunes and videos stored on your children’s PCs, and accessed as if they were on your PC.


One obvious benefit is that you don’t have to know or even care where anything is stored. It’s a boon for the habitually forgetful and disorganised and the improved Search facility in Windows 7 quickly finds and plays media files or displays pictures simply by typing the name into the Search box on the Start menu, even if they’re on another computer.


Another handy feature of Libraries is that the content is automatically displayed in a way that is appropriate to each file type. Vista and to some extent XP already does this with thumbnails and album covers, for instance, but Windows 7 takes it further with clearer, more helpful and easy to organise displays and layouts.


The Home Group, which I mentioned a moment ago, is part of the new Windows 7 networking facility. It’s actually a repackaging exercise, but it does make it a lot easier to set up and manage a home network. The key feature is the way it brings together all of the things that you and the other members of your network want to share, such as media files, documents, printer and so on. It does this without compromising privacy or security and the Advanced Features options put you, and the other members of the Home Group in complete control of what’s shared, and by whom. Windows 7 also makes it easier to connect to Wi-Fi, Mobile Broadband, and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and for laptop users there’s a nifty facility that lets you set up your machine as a wireless access point.


One of the biggest gripes with Vista is User Account Control or UAC, which generates an annoying popup every time you try to make changes to your system. It’s rather a good idea, though a little heavy-handed, but a lot of Vista users can thank UAC for stopping them doing something daft that could have harmed their system. UAC is still there in Windows 7 and it has 4 settings, including off or ‘Never Notify’, but on the default setting you’re back in control and you’ll only see it when a program or malware seriously threatens system stability. Incidentally the UAC controls are located in a new area called the Action Centre. It’s an extension of the XP and Vista Security Centres, but it goes further by including maintenance monitoring and error reporting features. 


We’ll finish off with a quick look at some familiar applications that have been given a makeover in Windows 7 – see also this week’s TopTip. Sticky Notes, which first appeared in Vista as a Sidebar Gadget becomes a stand-alone application in Windows 7 and there’s the option to resize notes and change their colours. Windows Paint, the image editing program, and WordPad, Windows basic word processor now sport the new ‘Ribbon Interface, which first appeared in Office 2007.


Basically the Ribbon it’s a wide tabbed toolbar-cum-menu that makes the most frequently used options more accessible. From the user’s point of view it really does make life easier, it looks better too and the big icons and buttons look as though they’ve been designed with touch screen operation in mind. Software developers will also benefit as it frees them from the constraints of the traditional Widows menu and toolbar layouts, so expect more of the same on new Windows applications.


Next Week – The Windows Registry





Device that allows computers and other Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to a wireless network and/or the Internet



User Account Control – security and protection measures introduced in Windows Vista, designed to prevent users, programs and malicious software making from critical changes that can affect a system without permission from the computer’s administrator



Virtual Private Network – private computer network connected to other networks or remote sites via the Internet, rather than LAN, WAN or leased lines



At first glance the Windows Calculator looks pretty much like the old one but click the Options menu and there are some interesting extras. These include Unit Conversions (angle, area, energy, power, pressure, temperature, weight/mass, to name just a few), Date Calculation (calculate the difference between two dates) and Templates. The latter is a cut-down spreadsheet with calculators for working out petrol consumption, lease and mortgage ‘estimations’.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2009, 1802


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