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 1 and 5 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Also, many testers including me believe that Windows 7 is feature complete only to weed out bugs, I hope you prove us wrong!

  • I agree with many of the thoughts provided in the comments above, notably the return of a Network icon that shows activity. However, my largest concern is another already mentioned, namely Explorer making assumptions about how I want a folder to be viewed. I prefer Details for every directory on my computer and this alone was the reason I used Windows 2000 SP4 Rollup until Vista was released and hardware support for Win2K became problematic. Many of the improvements in Win7 are welcome, and I find it to be an extremely stable beta, given that I've been testing since Chicago (also NT5, so I used 2K in some form for about a decade). I understand that many users want a photo directory to display as thumbnails, but the only option available (apply to all folders OF THIS TYPE) takes control of what a "type" of folder is away from the user and makes assumptions that aren't welcome. Despite the numerous advances Win7 provides, I'd still be running Win2K for this reason and this reason only, if it were feasible in the current software and hardware ecosystem.

    Thanks for your time,


  • Great news so far Win7 Team! Loving Win7 so far!

    However, I'm still quite disappointed that NONE of my ideas have been implemented...

    1. Taskbar Thumbnails:

    When hovering over a thumbnail (when Aero Peek enables itself) there should be the three main operator buttons as in the normal Window GUI: Close (closes that window), Maximize (bring that window to the foreground if it is minimized, or else actually maximize it if it is in the foreground) and Minimize (minimize that window). Now, I know you're all thinking "why would you want the maximize command, that's what happens when you just click the thumbnail!" WRONG. When you click the thumbnail, it maximizes that window and then CLOSES the thumbnail display. This means that if you wanted to open, say, three explorer windows, you would need to re-open the thumbnail preview display three times! This is simply a time waster when you need to reopen these explorer windows multiple times each session (as is the case with my work). As for the minimize command, I agree with previous comments that this would simply save users time. This could even be disabled by default (so as to not confuse casual users) but at least have it as an option for power users!

    Also, I still support my original idea of having a small bar (full vertical length, about 1/4 horizontal length) to the left of your thumbnail previews. On this there would be four options: Plus (opens a new instance of that program - useful on a laptop where you don't have a middle click button, etc), Minimize (this would minimize ALL of this type of window), Maximize (this would bring to the front ALL of this type of window - often something I wish I could do to save time), Close (Which would close ALL of this type of window). You could argue that you can already close all through the right click menu, but it would be nice to be able to do it via the preview thumbnail display as well. Again, you could simply have this as an option for power users.

    2. Taskbar Itself:

    Users should be able to pin the Recycling Bin to the Taskbar! If you drag the recycling bin down onto the Taskbar, it shouldn't pin itself to the explorer's Jump list, it should simply stick to the Taskbar, which would allow for immediate access to that folder at a click, and its Jump list could have functions such as Empty Recycling Bin. Maybe that doesn't make much sense, as it is simply an extension of the Explorer process, but it would just be nice to see this work!

    Furthermore, having a "quick launch" icon on the Taskbar, which the User could pin any app to, would simply save time going through the Start Menu, and save space on the Taskbar. You could pin semi-frequent apps (that don't warrant a constant place on the Taskbar) to this icon, and access them via a Jump list. If you clicked the icon, it would just open the most recent app. The icon itself could be the most recently used non-pinned app in the list, with a simple overlay (like the shortcut overlay) to show the user that it is the quick launch icon.

    3. Window Functionality:

    Quite a simple fix I think: being able to right click the title bar of a window and select "pin to top" would be extremely useful to me, and it seems a logical extension to Aero Snap.

    4. Start Menu:

    My only real complaint with the start menu is the spacers on the right side: It has my User folders /spacer/ Games, Computer /spacer/ Networks, Control Panel. I personally think that Computer and Networks should be next to each other, and that Control Panel and Games should be by themselves. Being able to change the order of the links, and the spacers, simply by dragging them, seems like a good step in the "more customization" direction! As well as this, you should allow Uses to place their own shortcuts - I would personally like a Program Files link.

    Also, having read that you are changed the USER link back to the USER home folder (a VERY good thing!) I would like to see a Libraries link now, as I do sometimes still wish to go to the libraries folder.

    Further, you currently have the right side links as either static links (display as a link) or forced menus (display as a menu). I would like to be able to click the Text to open the folder directly, or click the arrow (which is displayed when display as a menu is selected) to open the menu. So, having BOTH options available to me, depending on which is more convenient.

    Lastly, you have made everything in the Start Menu look elegant, except for the Shut Down extension menu (the menu with Restart, Log-Off, etc). This menu simply looks out of place, and it would be nice if it had a glass effect or such to keep it looking nice and consistent.

    5. Explorer:

    I expect you have received a lot of requests for this, so I am unsure why it has not yet been implemented, but one of my single greatest wants from Win7 is Tabbed Explorer Window functionality! It would work exactly the same as in IE7/IE8 (including with the thumbnail functionality to switch between tabs), and it would just make my life far more productive! At the very least, this should be an option for power users.

    5 down, maybe more later...

    Thanks all for putting up with this rant!

    Seriously though, I'm sure many other uses second many of these requests, so it would be nice if at least some of them are implemented in RC1 and beyond!

    - AeonSlayer / Simon

  • Hello,

    Am really tired of the driver for "NETGEAR WG311v3 54Mbps Wireless PCI Adapter" still being missing. It was available in the WINHEC build but not after that. Have to install an older driver, then once it connects, Windows Update wants to "upgrade" the driver. Hopefully it can be included in the build again!

  • Awesome, great job, especially "7. Going up?". This is terribble in small "Open" or "Save File" dialogs on Vista - now with the new parent folder button everything is fine. As an alternate you could add the old up button to the end of the breadcumb bar beside the refresh icon.

  • I suppose all of these "experience" issues are easier to talk about, but I'd feel better if you would address the hard questions.  Questions like:

    Which applications are going to work correctly in the RC that don't work now?

    When will the system stop changing screen resolutions spontaneously and moving all my icons around?

    Will we be able to get networking after every reboot without having to disable/enable the network card every time?

    Yes, I care about Windows explorer options, but only as a distant second to reliability and compatibility.

  • Thank you so much for taking the Beta users' input and making Windows 7 better!  This makes me trust and like Microsoft more when you listen to your users and let them be a part of the development process. I like Microsoft more now!

  • Please, please, please add folders to the favorite shortcut area of the file explorer... then it would be great like XP.  See this video:

  • When I click in taskbar on IE task with several tabs it pops up to choose which tab to open. But why? IE8 has 1 window and it has it's own tab selector. So clicking on task should open IE with current tab. I would agree if it would do that on hovering, but not on clicking!!! It's not logical

  • Hey guys,

    Just wanted to say you're doing a great job with Windows 7 and user feedback.

    But what's left for Windows 8 if Windows 7 is so awesome?

    That makes me scared... ;-)

  • Suggestion 1


    Add toggle option: Direct TreeView in folder icon

    in MacOSX / LinuxDesktop,

    you can direct TreeView in folder icon. (of course, also can disable this function.)

    this function can help some people.

    so, support for Windows.

    Add toggle option: Direct TreeView in folder icon


  • Suggestion 2


    automatic remeber last EDIT/READ state for every documents.

    in LinuxDesktop.

    Editor can automatic remeber last EDIT/READ documents state.

    When you mouse cursor stay in Ln 32, Col 7 with some documents, Colse this documents.

    Next time open this documents. It will automatic go to Ln 32, Col 7...

    It can automatic remeber state for every documents.


  • Suggestion 3


    "Toggle Document icon show content preview thumbnail"

    in linux gnome desktop environment,

    every text document icon can show its own content preview thumbnail.

    On desktop, you unneeded one by one the open view (Preview pane not on desktop)

    add custom option by user to toggle show text document preview thumbnail

    look screenshot:

  • Suggestion 4


    "audio-preview function" (unneeded open wmp)

    in LinuxDesktop/MacOSX environment.

    When you move the mouse pointer stay at music file icon.

    It will auto playback audio-preview (icon show a symbol as the tip).

    When you move the mouse pointer without icon,it will stop playback.

    on Desktop, you will unneeded one by one the open view.

    "unneeded open Windows Media Player".

    Many people don't like Windows Media Player. and European Union Edition no WMP.

    ps. Desktop can't use Preview pane, and Preview pane is a stupid function.

    look screenshot:

  • Suggestion 5


    Improve Start Menu and Appliaction Menu color layout (suggestion consistency)

    to improve Appliaction Menu color layout. (discriminated Appliaction Menu color very difficult)

    There is no consistency between the Start Menu and the Appliaction Menu.

    To keep Start Menu and Appliaction Menu color layout consistency, like Windows XP.

    All use white color for background, light blue color for selected item.


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