Windows 7: Usability & Applications

Publish Date: Nov 29, 2018 | 7 Ratings | 4.43 out of 5 | Print


Microsoft Windows 7, the next Microsoft Windows OS, is scheduled for release in 2009 or early 2010.

This article is Part 4 of a four-part series on Windows 7 that explores some of the most notable new features and improvements of the OS with a focus on the needs of engineers and scientists. Read this article to learn more about the new and improved user experience features built into Windows 7 as well as some of the improved applications that Microsoft is shipping with it.


1. Usability

This section examines some of the time-saving features in Windows 7 designed to improve the user’s experience with everyday tasks.

New Improved Taskbar

The new taskbar in Windows 7 now performs double duty for both quickly choosing and switching between open applications as well as opening new applications.

The Quick Launch bar has been replaced by the ability to quickly pin any application to the taskbar itself and then click on the taskbar icon to open the application.

Multiple instances of the same application are now tabbed on the taskbar, and you can bring up live thumbnails of the instances by hovering over the taskbar entry. Hovering over a single thumbnail shows a full-size preview of that particular instance.

The new Jump Lists feature, accessible by right-clicking on an application on the taskbar, is basically a convenient shortcut to the most common tasks for that application.

Demonstration 1. Navigating the New Taskbar

Application developers and programmers who have multiple windows of NI LabVIEW software open may find the live thumbnails in the tabbed taskbar helpful. By hovering over the different tabs, a developer or programmer can quickly locate a desired VI. Once found you can utilize Aero Shake and “wiggle” the title bar of the VI’s window to minimize all other open windows.

Demonstration 2. Cutting through the Clutter: Finding Your VI

Devices & Printers

In contrast to previous versions of Windows, where you had to configure every class of device and access it from separate windows, you can use Windows 7 to interact with all of the devices connected to the computer, including cameras, phones, and printers, from a single window.

Windows 7 also introduces Device Stage. Device stage compatible devices improve device interaction within Windows by allowing users to access basic tasks of the device through a single window in the task bar. For example, a camera compatible with Device Stage would generate a window on the task bar and a jump task of that window could include tasks from downloading pictures to reading the device user manual.

Figure 1. Devices and Printers

Working with Windows

Windows 7 also makes it easier to implement certain common tasks with your open windows just by dragging the windows to specific portions of the screen. For instance, dragging the title bar of a window to the top of the screen maximizes it while dragging the title bar of a window to the side of the screen vertically tiles the window to take up half the screen so you can easily compare the contents of the two windows side-by-side.

Demonstration 3. Working with Windows

New Keyboard Shortcuts

Brandon from the Microsoft Explorer Group has put together a handy cheat sheet of some of the new keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7:
Brandon Live!: Windows 7 hotkey cheat sheet.

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2. Applications

Microsoft also has improved some of the applications it is shipping with Windows 7.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft is shipping Windows 7 with the newest version of Microsoft's Internet browser, Internet Explorer 8, which offers two new, notable features: Web Slices and Suggested Sites.

Web Slices let you monitor portions of your favorite Web sites and receive automatic notifications when changes are made to the Web site. For example, you can easily keep tabs on an eBay auction or get a notification when your discussion forum post on has been answered.

Suggested Sites links you to a list of sites that are similar to the Web site you are currently browsing.

Figure 2. Web Slices

Figure 3. Suggested Sites

Paint and Wordpad

Microsoft has given some of the standard Windows applications that ship and install with Windows a much-needed face-lift.

New and improved versions of Paint and WordPad now have the Microsoft Office-like ribbon along with added functionality. You can even add customized versions of the ribbon to the applications you write.

Figure 4. Paint

Figure 5. WordPad


The new Calculator application features additional modes including scientific, programmer, and statistical modes. It also incorporates tools such as a unit converter, a date calculator, and several estimators.

The new programmer mode is particularly useful and shows you the binary representation for any value you enter and lets you quickly perform bitwise operations on numbers.

Demonstration 4. Calculator


Gadgets, which were introduced in Windows Vista, are now better integrated into Windows 7. You no longer have to “dock” gadgets to the sidebar and you can place them anywhere on the desktop.

Figure 6. Gadgets

Snipping Tool

Windows 7 also has Snipping Tool to capture a screen shot, or snip, of any object on your screen, and then modify and save the image. Simply use a mouse or tablet pen to capture any of the following types of snips. A Free-form Snip, that draws a an irregular line, such as a circle or a triangle, around an object. A Rectangular Snip, that draws a precise line by dragging the cursor around an object to form a rectangular. You can also capture a Window Snip or a Full-screen Snip. After you capture a snip, it's automatically copied to the mark-up window, where you can modify and save the image.

Demonstration 5. Snipping Tool

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