Engineering Windows 7

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A few more changes from Beta to RC…

A few more changes from Beta to RC…

Hey folks, just wanted to provide another update (building on the recent post on some changes since Beta) on some of the changes you will see in the Release Candidate.  Again, there are many and this is not an exhaustive list.  Of course we continue to gather telemetry from the large number of people running the Beta full time.  Just a reminder, the Beta is the only official build from Microsoft.  Chaitanya compiled this list from a broad set of feature teams focused on visible changes based on feedback that go beyond “bug fixes”, though we included some of the more widely reported bugs on this list as well. –Steven

Desktop Experience

1. Improved taskbar thumbnail overflow

Our customers are enjoying how windows are grouped and revealed on the enhanced taskbar. Some enthusiasts who have a significant number of open windows for a program encounter our scaling mechanism; the thumbnail view turns into a list view. Although this UI is virtually identical to experience in XP and Vista, customers still want to enjoy new functionality of the thumbnail view. Bentronic wrote, “It's nice that there's a little close button on the thumbnail previews--why not have a similar button for when it's showing as a list?  Being able to run down the list clicking the close button instead of right-clicking would be great.” For RC we’ve made the list view architecturally the same as the thumbnail view, just sans thumbnails. Customers will now enjoy close buttons and the menus open on hover (in Beta one had to click to open them).

Fig 1.

List View of running windows appears on hover and supports close

List View of running windows appears on hover and supports close

2. Control Panel Jump List

Right-clicking on the Control Panel icon on the taskbar in Beta revealed a noticeably sparse Jump List. A few people such as Britney told us “Should most recently used items be displayed in the Jump List of the CPL when pinned to the taskbar? Something should be shown and nothing is there right now”. In RC the Control Panel Jump List offers quick access to recently used items.

Fig 2.

The Control Panel Jump List now surfaces recently used items

The Control Panel Jump List now surfaces recently used items

2. PowerShell Jump List

By default PowerShell in Beta launched a streamlined console. Customers could load optional modules via distinct shortcuts in the Start Menu. We heard from you that this was a confusing experience. Additionally, PowerShell did not surface a way to launch related tasks such as the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) from within their console experience. PowerShell now has a robust Jump List that affords a method to load modules, launch the ISE and open documentation.

3. Remote Desktop Jump List

Rajeev made us smile with his comment, “Being able to add my Remote Desktop shortcut to the taskbar—good. Saving settings and showing them in the Recent items section—awesome. Being able to pin the connections in the Jump List, so they always appear—priceless!” Well, Rajeev and others who shared this request, you will be enjoy this functionality in RC.

4. Applying taskbar settings

Have you ever customized the taskbar, only to find your changes were not saved across sessions? Has the taskbar ever inexplicably moved on you after you log in? For a variety of reasons, previous versions of Windows saved taskbar settings only after Explorer exited at the end of a session. However, if the OS is not shutdown properly these settings did not persist. Based on the bugs we saw from Beta, we decided to change our architecture and write these settings within 30 seconds (providing enough time to batch a group of changes) during the session. This means settings will now be more reliable.

Touch

5. Multi-touch zoom

One of the pieces of feedback we heard from the Beta was that customers enjoy the new multi-touch zoom feature, but wish it was supported in Windows Explorer.  In response to this feedback we have added support for the zoom gesture in Windows Explorer.  Using the zoom gesture you can switch between view modes in Explorer such as zooming from Small Icons to Extra Large icons.

Windows Explorer and Libraries

6. Invert Selection

In an effort to make improvements to performance, network bandwidth and memory footprint for various scenarios (e.g. libraries, search and search federation), we rearchitected the implementation of the view code in Windows Explorer. As part of this we did not to port “Invert Selection” since this rarely used feature is pretty complex to implement in the context of virtualized lists.  Despite the small percentage of usage we’ve recorded, those who missed it have been pretty vocal :-)  On one of the blog posts, GGreig summarized what we heard from several of you—“Invert Selection; that's a useful - sometimes absolutely invaluable - little piece of functionality, and I definitely don't want to see it go…Please reinstate Invert Selection.” Given the feedback from enthusiasts, we added back the functionality for RC.

7. Going up?

We’ve heard feedback, especially from those on this blog,  that in Windows 7 moving up in the folder hierarchy often requires multiple clicks since longer folder names in the address bar often bump the parent folder into the overflow dropdown.

For RC, we’ve improved the overflow algorithm so that the parent folder’s button will appear in the address bar at all times and therefore going ‘up’ will always be a single click away in a predictable location.  When there isn’t enough room to display the parent folder’s full name, it will appear truncated instead of going into the overflow.  If space is especially tight, then the current folder’s name may appear truncated too, but in all cases the parent folder’s button will remain as a click target in the address bar. 

In addition to making the address bar an even better tool for navigating ‘up’ in Explorer, this change also makes it easier to tell where your are as you navigate around since you can now see at least part of the parent folder’s name.  It also avoids introducing any more redundant buttons to the Explorer frame and hence taking away any more screen space from being able to see your address. Also, it goes without saying that if you navigate into a folder, you can still use the back button to go back up.  And the keyboard shortcut is also available.

Fig 3.

In Beta, a parent folder would collapse into an overflow dropdown

beta parent folder

Fig 4.

In RC, parent folders always remain within single click access

RC parent folder

8. Finding music by artist

We covered several of the improvements to arrangement views in the last post, but one we did not mention is that the “Artist” view in the Music Library now accounts for album artists and compilation albums.  ShadowChaser summarized some feedback we heard from a number of customers in a comment: “The only concern I still have is with the ‘Artist’ view… it groups by ‘Contributing Artist’, not ‘Album Artist.’”  Grouping only by contributing artist results in too many artists showing up and tracks from the same album getting split up in cases where customers didn’t expect.  In RC, the “Artist” view in the Music Library groups together multiple tracks from an album by the common “Album Artist” property when it is available, groups tracks from compilation albums together into a “Various Artists” group and finally resorts to grouping by “Contributing Artist”.  This reduces clutter when browsing music collection by artist, in addition to improving consistency with artist views in other applications and devices.

9. New folder is always available

We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback during Beta about adding a top level “New folder” button in Explorer, freeing customers from digging into submenus.  A common complaint we received, however, was that the button only appeared when nothing is selected.  For RC, we’ve changed this so the “New folder” button will always appear, regardless of selection.

10. Right-click in Windows Explorer

For RC we’ve changed the behavior when right-clicking items in the view to address concerns customers were reporting with the Beta.  We heard feedback that it was too hard to find space and get to the view’s background context menu for items such as New and Paste.  Previously if one right-clicked over any portion of an item she would get the item’s context menu.  We now show the view’s context menu when one clicks on any large white space, including the space between a files name and its properties.

11. Content view for search results

For RC we’ve adjusted the behavior when right-clicking items in the view to address concerns customers were reporting with the Beta.  We heard feedback that it was too hard to find space

Content view is the new view mode we’ve added to Windows Explorer for Windows 7.  It’s especially useful for search results where it surfaces the most relevant properties for each kind of file (e.g. documents, email, pictures and music) as well as a contextual “snippets” of the file content where the search term match occurred.   There are a few changes here in the RC build.  One thing we heard feedback on is that customers want to know exactly which properties were being shown for each item, so all properties now appear with labels.  The text layout and colors have been updated in response to feedback to make each item even easier to parse and to avoid confusion with the colors used for encrypted or compressed files.  We heard loud and clear that many found snippets very useful and wanted to see more of them, so in the RC we’ve allowed longer snippets and we’re using them in more places.  In response to feedback we heard from customers when resizing their Explorer window or toggling the preview pane, we’ve made the transitions smoother as additional columns of information about each item are revealed when you make the view larger.

12. Intelligent re-indexing after application installation

In RC the Windows Search service now keeps the index up-to-date whenever support for new file types are introduced to the system.  We know that in the past customers have sometimes had difficulties searching for files on their computer after new file handlers are installed. (File handlers govern how content and metadata is made searchable and are typically installed with applications such as Microsoft Office or updates such as the Microsoft Filter Pack).

In Win7 Beta (and previous versions of Windows), customers were required to rebuild their index whenever a new file handler was installed to ensure that any existing files were indexed with the newest functionality.  Few customers knew to do this and it was an unnecessarily time consuming operation.  Windows Search is more efficient in RC by automatically re-indexing the specific files affected by new file handlers. Rest assured that when one installs support for a certain kind of file, she can search for those files without doing any additional work.

Performance

13. Trimming sound schemes to help performance

We know our customers care about performance. We discovered that by just trimming the shutdown and logoff WAV files, we could save up to 400 ms. Every little bit counts.

Device Stage

14. Baseline Device Stage experience

Device Stage continues to enjoy positive reviews. For example, we saw this post on on a blog: “I have to be honest this works very well, it worked with my MP3 player in showing how much charge it had and other details as well is able to display the manual and offer me everything I needed to do with it effortlessly, including having the correct icon and image of the product.” However, we occasionally hear “too bad , my N70 aint supported either :-( …hopefully they are gonna support a ton more device by the time windows 7 get released”.

We took feedback like this to the devices makers and they too would like more integration given the interest from our customers. Several manufacturers are implementing custom experiences, but a large number have also opted to support their older devices in what we call the “baseline” Device Stage experience.

This UX works exactly like full Device Stage; the device image appears on the taskbar whenever it is connected and tasks are exposed in the Jump List. On first connect, the shell Window containing all of the built-in tasks appears automatically and is always just one click away from the desktop icon or device image in the Devices and Printers folder. When the device maker implements a custom Device Stage experience for a device, it gets posted on the Web and the baseline experience gets upgraded when the device is later reconnected. The core functionality is the same, but all of the branding, imaging and vendor-specific tasks are now available automatically in the same convenient UI.

Fig 5.

Baseline Device Stage experience for a mobile phone

Baseline device stage experience

15. Devices and Printers enhancement

PC and laptop makers such as Lenovo, were very interested in doing more than just showing the machine’s icon in Devices and Printers. They told us they wanted to leverage Device Stage to help them better customize the experience for our mutual customers. In RC double-clicking on the PC icon now offers a Device Stage UX. Like the other Device Stage devices, Device Stage for PC will be enabled when the PC maker has chosen to participate with their system.

Fig 6.

Device Stage experience for a PC

Device Stage experience for a PC

Devices and Printers

16. Unified experience for removing devices

One of the tasks customers perform in Devices & Printers is removing devices that are no longer in use. We received feedback that the remove action varied across different device classes. For example, removing a printer only removed the print queue and for Bluetooth devices it only removed the pairing of the device to the PC. We have changed this action to always completely uninstall the device across all device classes – which is the action that most customers expect.

17. Hardware properties

We know enthusiasts use the Device Manager’s property page to check the status of a device. We heard feedback that this wasn’t convenient and so we now also surface the property page directly from the Devices and Printers experience. Simply right-click on the device and one has one less reason to visit Device Manager.

18. Improved eject experience

The Safely Remove hardware functionality enables customers to make sure that their device is ready for removal. During the Windows 7 Beta, customers still had the Safely Remove Hardware functionality available on the taskbar as well as an Eject option on the context menus of applicable devices in Devices and Printers. Based on feedback, we have integrated these two separate pieces of functionality in RC and have changed its name from “Safely Remove” to “Eject”. The tool Notification Area icon still appears, but its context menu now has the option to open Devices and Printers.  Also, we have simplified the options by eliminating the drop-down submenu and made the semantics for eject functionality more consistent across the different kinds of media. For example, ejecting an optical drive now ejects the media instead of the drive and ejecting a USB flash drive ejects the entire device instead of an individual volume.

19. USB device reliability on resume

We got feedback from a number of customers that their USB devices (e.g. keyboards, mice and drives) stopped working after a suspend/resume cycle. We worked with a number of customers to get traces and isolated the causes to address them post-beta builds. The work around in Beta was to unplug and replug the device to get it functional again—easy for external devices but not possible for internal devices. This workaround will not be needed on RC builds.

20. FireWire camera support

Some customers informed us they were unable to connected their 1394 HDV camera and stream its contents to their Beta machine. With the help of customers, we were able to identify a fault with our core 1394 stack and we’ve validated the scenario works in RC.  This is another good example of the combination of telemetry and more “manual” follow up on the part of our test team.

Device Installation

21. Add Legacy Hardware functionality restored

The Add Legacy Hardware action was provided in Device Manager on past Windows releases to install non-Plug and Play devices. We removed this functionality for Windows 7 with the belief that this was rarely used. Aaron blogged, “You might have noticed that the old 'Add Legacy Hardware' option seems to be missing. I tend to use this quite a bit whenever I need to add in a Loopback adapter or some piece of hardware that is not quite installing correctly.” As a result, this functionality has been restored to Device Manager for RC to help add non-Plug and Play devices.

22. Increased responsiveness of Add Printer Wizard

There are some situations with legacy network printers in which Plug and Play cannot automatically identify the appropriate driver even when it’s available on Windows Update. For these situations, the Add Printer wizard allows customers to download a list of all the printer drivers available on Windows Update so they can manually select the driver for the specific printer being installed. The process of retrieving the list can take a few minutes and we received beta feedback that many people felt their machine was hung since there was nothing in the UI to let them know that it could take a few minutes.  We have made some UI changes to indicate that process of retrieval can take some time. Additionally, we have also improved the overall performance of retrieving the list from Windows Update.

System

23. Partition size reduction

In Windows Vista, configuring features such as Windows Recovery Environment and Bit Locker required significant customer interaction.  Also, a significant amount of drive space was reserved. The Windows 7 System partition enables features to be configured to work “out of the box” so very little customer interaction is needed to configure and utilize them.  Based on feedback and telemetry data received through the beta, it became clear that we could cut the drive size in half (from 200M to 100M). 

24. Reserved System Partition naming

The system partition is created automatically by Setup when installing on a machine with no existing partitions.  During the Beta the existence of this partition on default installs confused many people and feedback indicated that a label telling them that this is space reserved for the system would be helpful when browsing disk configurations, and further help prevent it’s accidental deletion by enthusiasts. We will now label is “System Reserved”.

25. Dual Boot partition drive letter assignment

For a dual boot configuration for the Beta, the other Windows OS wouldn’t get a drive letter and therefore wouldn’t show up in explorer.  We heard overwhelmingly from Beta customers that the lack of a drive letter was confusing and even caused some to believe that their secondary OS was lost. Assigning the drive letter makes it visible in explorer and aids in navigation across OS installations.

26. Pagefile reduction

Through extensive use of Beta telemetry data, we have determined we can slim down the Windows disk footprint further by reducing the default page file size to be 100% of the available main memory.  It used to be “Memory + 300MB” so on a 1GB RAM system there was an extra third allocated that is no longer required.  The pagefile on some occasions will increase in size if required, but we just pre-allocate less.

Network

27. Improved driver support

Based on telemetry data received from the beta, we identified networking drivers that were not available inbox.  We worked with ecosystem partners to achieve increased inbox driver coverage across wireless and wired with significant coverage for some of the new ATOM-based laptops.

We hope you enjoyed yet another sneak peek into what’s coming in RC.

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 1 and 3 and type the answer here:
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  • I actually jump through hoops to make sure my music collection is sorted by "Contributing Artist" so I hope that there will at least be the option (or a the worst a registry hack) to prioritize as the user sees fit.  Even my Zune allows me to list EVERY artist on my device. Organizing music is a personal choice and hopefully Win7 will allow users to do it how they wish (by default).

    And +1 to bringing back (or at least making it an option) the animated network icon.

  • Some really useful improvements again. Like others here I am really excited about the RC.

    One question, will we be able to update to the RC or will it be a clean install?

    Another: I am not sure if this is a bug or by design, I use the Links bar a lot in IE, I have all my favourites in subfolders of the Links bar so that in the browser interface I have a row of folders that if I click, then I get a drop down of the favourites that are in that folder.

    This allows me to have instantly accessible favourites grouped into common topics.  I also have the Links folder as a Toolbar on my taskbar, I scrunch it up so it just says "Links" and I get a vertical menu showing each of the topic folders and then I have a nice little menu I can call up from the task bar.

    I can use this to take me directly to a page rather than going to my home page first and then going to the page I want. This saves me time and a bit of internet bandwidth is saved.

    I have noticed that after I have visited a page these links show the site's FavIcon, but if I visit it again sometime later the favicon has gone??

    Other than that I think you have a great OS on your hands!

  • "8. Finding music by artist"

    Part of the problem is that in v11 of WMP, new behaviour was introduced to give the appearance of an Album Artist by pretending the first Contributing Artist listed on the first album track is that Album Artist. The UI would _show_ an Album Artist but the corresponding metadata field would still be empty.

    The trouble is that there are lots of side effects of that behaviour such as albums are not being grouped by a true Album Artist, or that typing in an Album Artist will overwrite ALL the Contributing Artist fields in every track - even if they are all different like in a compilation album. (NB Album Artist may be set to Various Artists, or Original Soundtrack etc to handle different compilation types - that already worked prior to v11).

    Up until v12, the Advanced Tag Editor built into WMP gave you a way to inspect and correct that data. In v11 some of its functionality was deprecated and in v12 it was removed completely. Using Windows Explorer as an alternative does not work as you can't do any inline editing of most of the metadata, and in some cases WE shows different values of the metadata than WMP (eg track length).

    A secondary problem is that there is so much junk metadata that comes down from Windowsmedia's databases where either the artist information is missing or simply wrong. Users have no way to signal this back to Microsoft, and certainly no way of specifying an alternate source for the metadata (e.g. one that is more rigorously checked).

  • Wow, this is great news. Improvements like 7 and 10 ("Going up?" and "Right-click in Windows Explorer") are very valuable to me.

    I'm looking forward to the next build.

    There isn't much going on on MS Connect right now. No status changes on my bugreports, no answers... Does anyone know why?

  • I think the best way to describe this is, AWESOME! I'm really glad to see that the beta feedback is really making impactful changes. I can't wait for RC!

  • Thank you for all your responsiveness - but especially for reinstating "Invert Selection" and giving me a name-check! ;-)

  • Many of the design decisions in the beta still mystify me, buy I am overjoyed to see that the devs are finally listening to the masses (and hardware designers).  The addition of the fixed "parent folder" breadcrumb and re-enabling file inversion are the kind of common sense revisions we [b]desperately[/b] want more of (and I still dream of the Up One Level button returning! Disabled by default, even, but available).  I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of "date modified" being a default detail column.  I also have to say that I don't understand how these basic, common-sense UI elements represent horribly complex coding tasks: tiny freeware file managers routinely have more functionality than Explorer.  But..this is still a good move in the right direction.  Kudos!

    P.S.: still dying for fully expandable file system from start menu.

  • Wow. Some of these are MAJOR usability improvements. Especially making the parent directory always visible in the breadcrumb bar. This is something that has bugged me for a long time. THANK YOU Microsoft!

    Any word yet on whether we'll be able to pin the Recycle Bin to the taskbar? Many people want this.

  • Yet another great update. I relayed some feedback on the "Get Printer Drivers from Windows Update makes my computer feel hung" bug, so I'm glad to see that one, specifically. :)

    Everything here looks like a great improvement; I eagerly await the RC.

  • Wow, thanks for listening to users - almost all new features are 'I wouldn't have thought of it, but now that I see it, I like it very much'!

  • Before you get to build 7077 RTM :-) could you see if anyone can program in -- Windows Task Manager -> Networking - Show Cumulative Data -- to save the data to a log file or something.  This is the only accurate net data up/down ref. mobile users have, but is lost on cut-off or shut down.  ISP's are charging HUGE $$$ amounts for exceeding your net data quota, but not providing accurate measurement software.  (Your Network & Sharing Center solves the problem Vista had with connections - now if there was just some way to measure the data.)

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Vodafone Mobile Connect

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why does the Usage view not match my bill?

    Various factors, including other programs running on your computer (e.g. automatic updates or compression software) may cause differences between the amount of data shown as transferred in the Usage view, and the transfer actually recorded by mobile networks. These differences may sometimes be large.

    You are strongly advised that your monthly bill is the only final, accurate record of usage.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    -->> Just keep getting pop-up warnings - think I got a drive-by virus - poss from FF block top bar click to allow.

    avast! Warning

    A Virus Was Found!

    http://install.8800.org/files/chinappi.exe

    Win32:Trojan-gen {Other}

    Virus/Worm

    VPS ver. 090312-0, 12/03/2009

    processing - abort connection

  • 10. Right-click in Windows Explorer

    Too bad. I preferred the Beta behavior. On Vista I find myself constantly getting the wrong context menu becuase I right click on the mouseover highlight thinking I'll get a menu for that item. With XP and earlier I didn't have this problem because the highlight only extends across the filename.

    Frankly I'd be happiest if I could turn off the full row higlighting (and the mouseover effect).

  • parent folder? aka "The up arrow."  That's cool.  Whats next icons for the power bar?  Sorry I've always been a sarcastic little (edited for content) Now if you would only add the option of adding "Programs" to the right hand pane of the start orb, why for the same reason you placed the parent folder, you have to use numerous clicks to go to the program file as appose to a fly out menu you just move the mouse. This is possible now by just pointing towards the program file under C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

    and adding it as an option to say the video folder. I just don't understand why you just will not make the option official.  It would appease a lot of the classic menu people out there,   It might be deemed a little redundant because you have two ways to show the program menu, but I think the benefits and good will it would create would far outweigh the detriment's Actually I can not even think of one detriment, I'm being honest I can't see how it would hurt Windows in any way, except for some egos, but that's not a real good reason for a denial.   Come on Steve, would that option really Hurt?    

  • With the new Windows 7 taskbar layout, especially the new application icons, it is far more prudent to move the taskbar to the left or right side of the screen. Many users with widescreen displays would prefer this for, when a user browses the internet, more height is preferred over width on these screens.

    Yet, when the taskbar is on the left or right side of the screen and when the Windows Orb is clicked, the start menu pops up over the taskbar under the Orb. I do not know the design semantics of the Orb and start menu.

    But I think the only logical design of the Orb and start menu would be for the start menu to dock onto the rim of the taskbar and to the edge of the screen where the Orb is located, just as it would when the taskbar is at it's default position.

    Is the way it works in the Beta right now a conscious decision? Would you not agree that it breaks with what users have come to expect esthetically? Is this going to change in the RC or the RTM?

    If this is not going to be changed by default  I stronlgy suggest to make an easily changeable setting out of this or an optional update.

    Peace.

  • Maybe I'm wrong,

    but despite my years of user experience under Windows, I never found a keyboard shortcut to create a folder via the keyboard.

    Scenario :

    Windows+E to open Explorer, select the HDD with arrow keys, press enter

    Under c:\ hit a shortcut to create a folder without having to use the mouse !

    I never found a way to achieve this 100% keyboard from w95 to Vista...

    Maybe seven will fill this gap :)

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