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Windows 7 - Features Guide

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/31/2009

We look at the best features of Windows 7, giving you a run-down that will help you get more out of your system. If you're ready, there's much more information inside.

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    Living in the Past?

    If you’ve managed to score a copy of Windows 7 RC1, you probably wish the thing came with a reference guide to help you out in using some of the new features. As usual, Microsoft did not include one, however, we’ve written one up just for you. Are you ready to explore your OS and get knee deep in some of the best work Microsoft’s done since XP?

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    Superbar

    Every other feature in Windows 7 pales in comparison to what they’ve done with the aptly blog-christened “Superbar." This bar, which replaces the traditional launch-bar at the bottom of your screen is now capable of some neat stuff. Drag a folder to the bar, and you have instant access to it. Want a program always available? Drag it to the bar and it’ll always be there for you to use.

    Much like an iPhone, you can click the icons at any time and drag them around to your heart’s content. Raise it, lower it, the bar bends to your will in ways no other launch-bar ever has. The ability to click an icon and have it stay in the bar is pretty great. Running a program you want on the taskbar? It’s as simple as right-clicking it and selecting “pin to taskbar".

    Another great feature is that if you are running a compatible program, like IE8, you should be able to get more options out of right-clicking the program on the super-bar. For example, if you right-click IE8, you’ll be able to get a partial history of your web browsing. Select one of these history entries to be able to quick launch directly into that web page.

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    Startup Menu

    The startup menu has also undergone a bit of an overhaul.

    Now, rather than suffering through a groan-inducing search in the start menu that often led nowhere in Windows Vista, Windows 7 uses an advanced search bar feature that will 9 times out of 10 find what you’re looking for in your PC in a matter of seconds.

    The shutdown button is no longer confined to the obscurest corners of the start menu. Rather, it is now up front and center and easily clickable.

    Everything in the start menu was always customizable, but with specialized “jump lists," you can access your data even faster than before. Folders in the Start menu launch faster and everything has a snappier feel to it.

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    “Coverflow"

    “Coverflow" is what I call it, but Windows has branded it as something else. I refer, of course, to the feature that allows you to swipe your mouse to search between open windows. It works almost exactly like Apple’s coverflow feature for the iPod, but rather than songs, you’re just flipping through open programs.

    This is an underused and underappreciated feature. If you’re working with large amounts of open windows, it’s to your benefit to use this feature to quickly scroll between them. This feature allows you to see the open window and then select it based on what is currently opened in it.
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    Networking and Tools

    Windows 7 has completely revamped and retooled the networking side of Windows, and this time, it was definitely for the better.

    The new networking center provides unprecedented tools to get you up and running on a network. Having a problem? Right click on the internet icon and select “troubleshoot" to get a good version of what was delivered in Vista, but never worked.

    Want to connect to a wireless network? They now pop up over the internet icon in the taskbar. Just select the one you want and type in the password. It’s as easy as any Mac could make it for you. This feature is also useful for quickly seeing what Wi-Fi networks are nearby.

    The addition of the homegroup to the fold has will change the way your home network shares music, movies and documents. Like never before, you can literally install Windows and already be able to share with your other networked computers.

    Combine the networking, superbar, coverflow, and search features, and it looks like Windows 7 is poised to bring Microsoft back from the hole it dug itself with Windows Vista.