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 2 and 6 and type the answer here:
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  • "13. Trimming sound schemes to help performance

    Another sound event that would be great to see (or is that hear?) trimmed is the Start Navigation sound. Something that fires everytime you navigate to a new folder must require some CPU time.

  • Yannick

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

    Use the context key on your keyboard. It has a picture of a menu on it. This displays the right-click menu where you can select New Folder.

  • > MJMatthew

    Yeah of course you can always achieve this with the context menu, but I think (and I am not the one around me) that always need to create some directories and it is really slower to use contexte menu than to press 4/5 times a shortcut and then F2 to rename them.

    Am i the only windows user to wonder if it would be possible to achieve this ?

  • I don't think Microsoft should make it a habit to remove features just because many people don't use it.

    But I do appreciate bringing back the invert selection feature.

  • From what I know, safely remove hardware would check a USB flash drive to see if any data still needs to be written or if there are open files.

    What if this was known ahead of time? If all my files are up-to-date on my flash drive, it would be VERY useful if the icon mentioned it somehow so I could just pull the drive. If there was more than 1 drive, when you hover your mouse over the icon, i could show you all of your devices and their status.

  • @ dotnet@sivill.com thanks for the feedback.  Out of curiosity, is there a reason you use the collapsed Links toolbar on the taskbar and not IE's Jump List?  

  • This is looking set to become the most polished version of Windows ever, and as we should expect, I have a couple of immediate ideas which come to mind.

    All Icons need to be brought inline with the new Icon style which seems to be abandoning the Angled perspective, for a front on view, which makes sense with the taskbar, and it seems there is a clearer and crisper style for the 16x16 versions.

    On an aethetic level again, there seems to be a disconnect from the UI style of the the Scenic Ribbon, which is pale blue and yellow/orange, which doesn't degrade into classic view like the rest of Aero, and the blue and grey colours of Aero, which has limited use of the yellow accent.

    Also one final point, all legacy dialogs and message boxes etc, shold be brought into line with the Task dialog boxes, and the new Aero text and layout designs.

    Anyway enough of my pedanticism and more of the praise, RC is looking great, and it seems a shame to think that once 7 is out, 8 will be following on behind, because 7 has the ability to go on as long as XP did...

  • I bet you still haven't fixed the schizophrenic font situation, have you?  MS Sans Serif, Tahoma, Segoe UI: all over the place, without consistency, rhyme or reason.

  • Great changes! Fantastic job so far, team. One enhancement to the taskbar thumbnail overflow. Would it be possible to add the regular Aero Peek to the overflow when you hold the cursor over an item in the list? Just have it pop out to the right (or left if you have enough taskbar items).

    Again, great job, looking forward to RC and RTM!

  • @mattvogt the list view already supports Aero Peek.  Simply hover over an item, just like you do when a thumbnail is present, and you'll see the corresponding window on the desktop.

  • @mdtauk, your post really made me register and say what I feel. No OS can get as long as XP. Windows XP was the best ever of a decade, an era, XP was the pinnacle of computing, sure it's fallen behind in lots of areas but still triumphs over Vista and 7's usability and UI, if not features. Computer users of today who say 7 is the best ever don't really understand the classic desktop computing paradigm, UI designs of the 90s. Just my two cents. The awesome Windows 2000 really laid the foundation for the exceptional XP. Microsoft has fallen behind and will succeed to a limited extent with Windows 7 because it changed the UI and features of XP too much, they simply did'nt add features to make it feel like Windows, they changed everything around to make it as good as an entirely different OS with Windows compatibility. 7 has been overwhelmingly well received because users the world over love Windows and the media has played its part in showering praise on Windows 7 in the aftermath of Vista. The people who themselves created OSes like Windows 2000 and XP have forgotten some things. 7 isn't much different from Vista, and Vista is totally different from the eXPerience. Microsoft is once again successful in winning over the ones who were all lost and really followed the media in bashing Vista. It'll all show when XP remains dominant even years after 7's launch. Longtime Windows people refuse to support their apps on Vista or anything later than it. Windows 7 is not a bad OS, it'll be successful, but not overwhelming and unanimously as the success previous Windows versions saw.

  • @ URGENT

    Although what you request should solve this accounting problem in particular cases. But it is not a complete solution.

    Two simple counter examples I can think of are when your modem or w/e device is not synced. You still get outbound traffic. Secondly, if you are running virtual machines which share the network connection, their traffic does not show in task manager at all.

    What you need is an even lower level solution for book keeping, something which can plug in networking stack like Windows Firewall.

  • Good post, good comments so far.

    I agree with hdw - removing features is hardly a good move to make things easier.  I understand the need to not confuse first-time users, but for instance, removing an entry from a drop-down menu (that by default you must push "Alt" to get to in the first place) is really pushing it.  Some of the "obscure" features are often the favorites of long-time Windows users.  As for it not appearing on your metrics; do keep in mind the potential for correlation between people keeping the "Experience Improvement Program" turned off, and those who use these off-the-beaten-path features.

    #10 - Mixed feelings.  It is very hard to drag-and-drop, say, a file to a folder full of other folders, if the view is "details" and the detail fills the window.  While still performing the drag operation, I sometimes need to find a 2 pixel tall region at the bottom before letting go of the mouse button.  More whitespace for "dropping" is needed.  However I'm not sure if opening up all the whitespace between columns is the right approach (if I am to understand this correctly) since it then becomes necessary to be more precise in clicking/highlighting items.  Enforcing a mandatory "header/footer" (a footer of 10-20px of white in every folder even) or "far-right margin" might be a better solution.  Your improvement is definitely a good step though.

  • I completely agree with Mike Williams: WMP12's behavior is currently broken. When you edit the Album Artist Field, the Contributing Artist field gets automatically overwritten. We can't do it properly with Advanced Tag editor, because that's now gone. We could do it in Windows Explorer, but I don't want to back and forth between WMP and Windows Explorer because my music details get out of sync (if WMP is using the Library, why not save edits directly to the file?)

    -------

    Please please please, let us index network shares. My photos and documents and such are on a NAS, and even if I do some hackery to get those folders to show up in Library, they're slow. Please, even just for home users!

    --------

    The keyboard shortcuts added for switching on the taskbar are very good, but sometimes we're only using a mouse. We can switch to an app window with a single click, so please allow us to do the same if that app has a group of windows (currently a click just brings up the preview thumbnails, which is already a hover action). Focus can be given to the last used window, but bring all windows of that app forward when I click the taskbar icon. That, or cycle through the app's windows with repeated clicks.

  • @MJMatthew: Yes I agree, creating new folders with a keyboard shortcut would be great.

    And PLEASE I'd like to see one tiny little feature. Make the environment variable dialog resizable!

    That dialog has annoyed me so many times...

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