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.


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.


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.


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.


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 7 and type the answer here:
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  • Please, please give us more options with multiple monitors.  We should be able to set different wallpapers for each monitor, and extend the taskbar to other monitors without third-party applications that may or may not work properly.    

    Also, when restarting a machine after disconnecting a monitor, anything you moved around between windows will be forgotten the next time you reconnect.  Which is fine, except Windows will think a monitor has been disconnected when it is only turned off--so if a monitor goes to sleep, all your different monitors' content will get squished into one window.  That's a big hassle to come back to in the morning or after lunch.

    One last thing--shouldn't it also be possible to allow a program to maximize across all monitors, assuming you have the same resolution across them?  I'm not saying it should be the default behavior, but it seems like this would make a multi-monitor setup more usable.  

    Right now it feels like Windows only marginally acknowledges that multiple-monitor setups exist, and I'm not sure why that's the case.

  • Nice to see some improvement, but there is still things to be worked.

    As I already said in the official forums, I miss the old behavior of the status bar in windows xp, where I can easiy see the size of the files in the folder I´m currently in.

    For me, Windows Explorer in vista, and now, in Windows 7, is a step back from what we had in XP, where the bar was customizable, and I had easy acess to the file sizes and partition free space in just one single line, the statusbar.

    Now, we have a huge Details Pane, with 2 lines default, and it only show: "x items". Why do I have to select all the files, click in "more information" just to se the sizes? Why can´t we have a option to put it in the Pane, or in the status bar, and have it always visible?

    I agree if I select one single file the botton panel info is amazing, but I really miss the total file size info in the bar. There is no way to work with large amount of data if I always need to select all files just to check if they will, lets say, fit in a removable midia, or in another partition, or so on. The file size is so basic information, takes so little space and is so useful, that I can´t even imagine WHY it was left out of the bar! Its not asking much, to, at least, put a selection, avaible by right click, like "Show file sizes".

    Besides, the info in the Details Pane is still inconsistent, let me explain:

    Lets say I select one image. Windows explorer collect lots of info, and display it to me in Details Pane. INCLUDING file size. The file size FOR IMAGES is displayed as the last info in the upper right of the Details Pane. Ok.

    Now, I select one movie file. Again, Explorer collects the info, and shows it to me. But.. wait. Movies have different attributes than images, so, now, the file size is displayed in the second column, in the botton line.

    Then, I select one document file. It, again, have different info, ant this time, its file size is displayed in a column right in the middle of my screen.


    In windows 7, I can´t even work with explorer in list mode. There is a fixed column size, and if I want to work with a large named file, I cant neither see its full name, neither its size, nor the free space I have in the partition. Is this improvement?

    Another thing that need to be worked is the image importer.

    In windows xp, I plug my digi cam, a window comes asking me to import my pictures, and I start the process. There is a really nice and useful little importer. I can select all I the pictures I want, name it and save it.

    NOW? What to I have? A nothing useful importer, who just ask a tag, and imports ALL pictures. Is it that hard to just don´t broke what is perfect? Why can´t I select what I WANT and DON´t WANT to import, anymore?

    Try leaving home by morning, taking pictures of ONE event... going to another one in the afternoon, and a third one in the night. Now, I go back home, with 2 gb of pictures, and I want to organize it... I CANT! windows just mix all the pictures. Sure I can organize it by time taken, and arrange it... but.. if I just want 10 pictures of that day? Do I REALLY need to download the entire collection of pictures in the cam, just to work with a few ones I could easily select in windows xp?

    Other than that, putting this apart, Windows 7 is amazing, I loved various concepts, like the progress bar showing the actual progress in the superbar (but I really wanted to have a option to change its color, I dont like that green, dont fit with the blue visual of seven).

  • Keyboard shortcut for 'New Folder' would be great


  • Good job, I'm sure Windows 7 will be a nice release.

    But there are a few things I find very annoying:

    1. Middle (wheel) click and drag doesn't work anymore in some programs (Notepad, Total Commander). The strange thing is that it seems I'm the only one complaining.

    2. Sometimes Windows 7 likes to start from hibernation just to run some scheduled tasks (at 4 AM? great!). This might not be a bug, but it's a change of behavior from Windows XP that I didn't see anyone talking about.

    3. #10 might not be such a good idea. Also, it reminds me of a bug that appeared in Vista: sometimes dragging a file (or icon) draws a selection rectangle, even if the click point was over the file name (or the icon).

    4. Double-clicking the vertical border of a window should expand it horizontally.

  • I've been using Windows 7 for quite a while now, before I was stuck with Vista (not out of choice - my laptop didn't have XP drivers). I had a problem with Vista which I'm not sure is in 7, but I can't have a FireWire network connection. I used to use it loads in XP, but I was gutted when Microsoft didn't identify a "need" for it in Vista. Please reimplement this.

  • "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."

    Speaking of every little bit counting. How needed are the 16 color and 256 color versions of the icons? If they aren't needed then why not get rid of these versions and compress the 32px and 48px versions of the 32-bit png icons? That should cut down the amount of hardrive space that icons take up by about half shouldn't it?

  • Sorry to post again but I forgot to mention this in my last post.

    I'm really enjoying WMP12's Now Playing mode but I really dislike that if I'm in the Library view and I try to play a video it goes into Now Playing mode. I sort of consider the Library view to be the Advanced View and the Now Playing View to be the Basic view so it's sort of wierd that the Now Playing view as functionality that the Library view doesn't. Please allow Pictures and Video to be viewed in the Library view as well. I know my brother, another Beta tester, wants this, too.

  • I think you guys are doing an amazing job.

    I just have one humble suggestion concerning the folder icon. I believe the current look is outdated and boring compared to the rest of the UI. Maybe change that terrible yellow, make it glassy or just some improvement in general. thanks for listening and I can't wait for the release

  • Speaking of important things to add to jump lists - you forgot to mention:

    1) recent solution files and projects for visual studio (along with the option to open a solution as administrator)

    2) notebooks / recent sections within OneNote

    3) new emails, tasks, appointments, etc. for Outlook.

    There's no need to make us wait for VS2010/Office14 - you can add them.  Pleeeeeeeeeease

  • Thanks for posting these sorts of updates, they are very useful.

    Has the issue been address in W7, where in Vista's Windows Explorer, it will randomly and arbitrarily change your view?

    For example, my C:\ drive is always getting reset to a media view, so it tries to show artists, and stars and such, which is ridiculous.

    No matter how much I reset it to detail, normal view, it resets itself constantly.

    This happens everywhere throughout the file system while using Windows Explorer, and appears random and arbitrary.  

    For example, in a folder with nothing but java source code files, it will periodically (but not all the time) change it to a media view, or change it to Large Icons view.

    The changes appear to be random and arbitrary, and the system does _not_ remember your settings.

    This was one of the worst mis-features in Vista, and hopefully it was looked at for W7.



  • I'm really happy to see all these active changes.

    I really hope something is done to the start button so that it stands out a bit more, it really looks out of place, I'm speaking more in respect to it's normal state, the hover/active state is stunning, keep it that way, something needs to be done to the actual normal state to make it stand out rather than looking like a pinned program, if you pin Media Center to the taskbar, it will look a bit like having two start buttons but only different colours.

    Keep up the good work!

  • I fully support the multi-monitor comment above, as I use dual monitors at work and at home.

    Today I had dozens and dozens of IE tabs open, in several different IE windows. When I clicked on the jump list I just saw a huge listing of all the tabs. They did not appear to be grouped by their parent IE windows. So I was unable to quickly find the right IE window. I then had to start minimizing all my windows one by one to reveal the IE window that I wanted.

    Please group the IE jump lists, when they exceed the thumbnail limit, by their parent IE windows and make it pretty obvious. Be it a different background color, or something.

    And PLEASE, give us quick launch back. I absolutely hate the pinned program concept when those icons can float around on the tool bar. I used the 'quick launch' hack to bring that functionality back, but I shouldn't have to perform a 'hack' to bring back a feature windows has had for what, 10 years?

  • Hi,

    is there finally an easy way to display the USB versions a device supports? I.e., USB 1, 2, 3?



  • I know you took out the classic start menu but heres an idea for a twist. Personaly I miss it but there might be a way to bring it back but still have something new to it. When you click the start menu you have a white box with the programs in it and on the right side you have transparent icons.

    Why don't ya just use a classic menu but have the whole menu transparrent to the desktop. Get rid of the stupid white box all together.

    The only reason why I miss the classic menu is I could customize it to the way I want. I don'y use programs and accessories. I delete all that crap and make folders like "Office", "Tools" Games etc. I use the KISS method of start menus.

  • Today, most computer is ship with a DVD burner. Of cause the most popular out there is Nero, but over the years, Nero has became a boasted entertainment package. In fact, I've never even use Nero for anything else other than burning. Particularly, Nero 9 takes a long time to load. Windows includes a drag-and-drop burning process, but what users really need is a light-weight burning application that works the way they expect it to, like CDBurnerXP. It should include functions such as: create and copy data disc, ISO images, audio disc, video DVD, bootable disc, and other features that CDBurnerXP offers. Windows 7 has already taken the first step and is able to burn ISO images, but the first step is not nearly enough.

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