Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

A Little Bit of Personality

A Little Bit of Personality

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Greetings!  Based on the data we’re seeing we know a lot of folks on MSDN/TechNet/Connect are probably busy using the RC (Release Candidate) for Windows 7.  Thank you!!!  And of course many folks are looking forward to downloading the RC and using it as we expand the downloads—we’re looking forward to the participation and seeing the data that will help us validate the RC.  We’ve talked about making sure that you are “in control” of Windows 7 and one of the ways that people are in control of their PC is to personalize the experience.  With the RC you’re going to see some of the new personalization “elements” in Windows 7.  In this post, Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau of our product design team provide a behind the scenes look at some of the work.  Be sure to check out the links below the images as you can see a lot more work by these talented artists.  Note, these are just thumbnails for this post so be sure to enjoy the full screen images in the RC.  --Steven

PS: Just a reminder, that just as with the pre-beta and beta we’ll be testing out Windows Update and the system for doing patches and updates.  So along with new drivers you might also see some other updates flowing through the system. 

One of the most exciting parts of engineering Windows 7 has been the wide variety of work that gets done over the course of a full product cycle. As evidenced by the variety of topics just in this blog, one can see that we are hard at work at all levels of the product. For fun, we thought folks might enjoy hearing some of the story behind the new personalization work in Windows 7.

As some folks have noticed, we are unveiling some new personalization content (wallpapers, glass colors and sounds schemes) in the RC build which allows people greater flexibility to personalize their experience. One thing we know is that Windows users love to express themselves by changing the desktop background and like many past releases, Windows 7 includes content in the box that allows you to begin customizing your experience immediately.

A picture speaks a thousand words

In developing the personalization features, we knew that we wanted great content for people to express their personal style. Because the desktop background is such a vibrant surface, we wanted to focus on providing quality content that demonstrated how creative people could be with this feature. When folks send us screenshots using the feedback button, we are regularly inspired by the rich diversity and personality of the wallpapers that people choose.

As we thought about how we wanted to approach personalization in Windows 7, we knew one way was to honor our lineage. In the past photography has been featured heavily Windows. Some of that photography has been quite beautiful and has become a proud tradition we wanted to maintain. In addition, we also wanted to explore new territory and expand our visual palette. In the realm of photography, we kept a theme focused on landscape photography which is our tradition, but added new themes for architecture and nature. Much of the this imagery is from our stock imagery partners, but we also had the good fortune to work with a talented local photographer named Will Austin, who has photographed all over the world on many subjects with an emphasis on architecture. Will’s photos provide a little bit of the local flavor of the Seattle area that we are proud to call home.



Raising the bar of inspiration and delight

With the photography covered, we tried to broaden our coverage to include additional images that would inspire, delight and invigorate people’s imaginations. We wanted to stretch into some new content that felt unique, timely, and with a distinct point of view. Our goal was content that balanced the timelessness of great photography with graphical illustrations that are energetic, modern, and fresh. On top of it all it was also important to achieve a rich variety in the illustrations to appeal to different tastes, genders and ages, color ranges from quiet to loud, and from large compositions to small and detailed.

Inspired by our neighbors in Zune, we worked with an agency called 72 and Sunny to search for illustrators around the world to create one-of-a-kind art work for you to have in Windows 7. In the process of looking through tons of samples, we sought a group of artists whose styles seemed both incredibly varied, to cover the broad diversity we were after, and maintained a common thread that we felt was applicable to the overall tone we were striving to achieve. Then began the fun part, with little more than some simple guiding words (light, energetic, inspiring, optimistic, etc.), the artists went off with a blank canvas to create concept sketches of their original pieces.

Iterate and refine

We still remember the first chance we got to review the artist’s initial sketches and concept work, and right from that moment, we knew that these images were going to be a lot of fun. The next step was to iterate back and forth a few times to make sure certain goals were achieved and get little details just right. For example, a couple of things that were important to us were how the image flowed under the new task bar and striking the right balance between visually compelling, and not too distracting when it came to finding that important file on your desktop. It’s tricky to find the right balance and we were fortunate to have an amazingly talented set of artists and our friends at 72 and Sunny to work with on this project.

Windows is for the whole world

Finally, we wanted to recognize the global audience of Windows by seeking out illustrators with varied backgrounds and styles with the intention of representing and appealing to people all around the world.

With that, we are honored to introduce the amazingly talented artists and the work that they contributed to Windows 7 personalization.




Yuko Kondo
From Japan, now resides in London, England



Katharina Leuzinger
Born to Swiss and Japanese parents in Zurich, Switzerland, Katharina Leuzinger now resides in London, England


Osmand Nosse
Wicklow, Ireland


Klaus Haapaniemi
From Finland, now based in London, England


Chris Sickles of Red Nose Studios
Indiana, United States


Buenos Aires, Argentina


Pomme Chan
Born and educated in Bangkok, Pomme Chan now resides in London, England.


Kustaa Saksi
Amsterdam, Netherlands







Paul Hwang and Benjamin Lee of Nanosphere
Los Angeles, California


Adhemas Batista
From Sao Paulo Brazil, now resides in Los Angeles, California


Kai and Sunny
London, England


Nan Na Hvass
Born to a Danish father and Chinese mother in Swaziland, Africa, Nan Na Hvass now resides in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We hope this post has given you some insight into the Windows 7 content. We also hope that we achieved the goals we set out for ourselves with this element of Windows 7.

-Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau

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  • Please add 8 and 7 and type the answer here:
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  • "- The user cannot group close applications as could be done up to Windows Vista. In XP/Vista, try holding down Ctrl and click to select multiple taskbar items. That too isn't possible under Windows 7."

    As for this, YES YOU CAN do this in Windows 7.  Hold down the SHIFT key, not the CTRL key, and right-click the grouped icon on the task bar.  

    Also, try Shift + Right-click on taskbar icons that aren't open -- it gives you the context menu for the application's shortcut icon, including an option that's never been so easily accessible in Windows before -- "Run as different user".  Fabulous.

  • "Focus Stealing: Under no circumstance should any non-elevated or non-kernel process be able to steal focus from the user. UAC should. Some app telling me that a download is complete, or a connection was lost... no. The functionality should simply not exist. There is nothing more fundamentally annoying than being in the middle of typing or using something, only to have another application steal focus because some ******* developer has decided "hey this is important to my application and screw what the user is doing"."

    This has been one of my biggest frustrations with the operating system for years now. It quite frankly boggles the mind that, not only has this not been addressed, but it apparently has not even been acknowledged as a problem. How can anyone talk about "making sure that you are “in control” of Windows 7" when input focus, the fundamental mechanism that determines what the user can control and how, is still not in the control of the user?

    I am glad that this blog is trying to open up the development process of the operating system. But at the same time, it is very disheartening to see all of the effort that is being put into mostly-useless trivialities while major user issues are being completely ignored. It makes the entire marketing scheme of "user control" seem...disingenuous at best.

  • Okay, i think everyone has lost sight of what everyone is talking about..

    This post is about wallpapers and themes and people are arguing about not being able to get to Network Connection in one click..

    Microsft is getting some attitude, which is very good, i really want to see how far that will go.. and while yes, Windows doesn't let the user customize (or personalize) EVERYTHING it still has many options which both novices and (so i would assume) pro's alike can use and enjoy, so instead of complaining you could

    A) Enjoy what we have - which is an absolutly brilliant operating system, which does have alot of useful features, BUT could still be inproved


    B) If you are really that urked about not being able to see the folder size the way you want, or not being able to get to Network Connections with a single click; don't complain here, email someone (Steven perhaps?) and suggest these ideas, get your ideas heard.

    Oh, and i saw someone mention something about 'pain' ..  well i daresay that it isn't easy to make and OS to please millions of people..

  • My opinion:

    It's nice to see more effort put into the way an 'average' user sees and customises their desktop. Personaly I find it to be quite a nice experience using the Windows 7 personalisation features. It was very surprising to find out that my desktop wallpaper changes by itself (I'm a bit thick, obviously, because I never noticed the feature until it changed by itself).

    My compliments to the Windows 7 Development Team for creating something that I believe the masses will flock to and love. Keep up the innovation and good work.

  • I could not agree more with you guys on the file manager. I have tried switching to vista, and even win7 multiple times but I leave it for XP every time because the file manager is just unusable. If there was a way to bring back the XP explorer or something similar I would consider switching, but until that happens I'm sticking to XP.

  • Have to say I agree with dsmtoday about the icky menu background color in Win7.  Unfortunately it's unchanged from Vista -- the same purple-tinted blue, ever so slightly different than the blue used by Explorer's toolbar.  It looks even worse on apps like Firefox that try to do the dutiful thing and use the proper system themes.

    For whatever reason, a slightly different color -- one that looks good -- is used when viewed over remote desktop.  Any chance that you can swap in this better color for normal usage?

  • Please don't listen to the naysayers. It's great that you finally give the subject more thought, and obviously the wallpapers you show here are varied, so nobody is going to like _all_ of them. Good job..

    Perhaps you could create an application (or a tab in some kind of Windows Marketplace app) that would let users share their backgrounds?

  • @warrens:

    Providing new ways of doing things doesn't mean that the old functionalities have to be abandoned.

    Please tell me exactly what the point is of changing from Ctrl-click to Shift-right click to group taskbar icons? Did keyboard makers suddenly stop shipping keyboards with Ctrl keys? Are left mouse buttons an infection vector? Or did some Vista committee decide to make an arbitrary and pointless change, and then not tell the users about it?

    Making the user right click this, pin that, and switch around the way the OS arranges something just so that you can get to a useful part of the OS in less than 2 or 3 clicks is an example of why Vista adoption is so poor, and the OS got so much heat. Hiding the network connections doesn't represent a change in networking, it represents a waste of the user's time and energy. If the aim is to "set it and forget it" then why have any network notifications at all? Answer: because networks are finicky, unreliable, changing things. When they go wrong you need to be ably to get at them and there's no reason why the OS should attempt to stop you. If the argument was that Network Connections was too tech-heavy for the average users, then there's no reason why it couldn't have been made more user-friendly *and left in the same place*. It's a head in the sand "we haven't addressed the issue but we moved it somewhere else" attitude.

  • AFter upgrading from Vista Ultimate to Windows7 RC1, if you click on "All Programs" in the Start menu it is empty.

    Where's my workaround:

    1. Click on the Start Menu.

    2. Right Click on All Programs.

    3. Select Open All Users.

    4. Open the Programs Folder.

    5. Create a new folder named A.

    6. Drag all the other folders into the A folder.

    7. Close Windows Explorer.

  • Lots of negativity overshadowing the cool artwork on here, congrats to the artists for some excellent work and to Microsoft for taking this initiative.

    I agree they're all a bit too distracting to use as wallpapers, but then I'm often a solid-color wallpaper guy anyway.

    Back to the negativity; it is a bit annoying to see Microsoft considering wallpapers to be a way of offering customization.

    Even without going as far as one of the excellent open-source window managers from the Linux world, we should still be able to change the shape, size and behaviour of a lot more things, at least to the extent you could in older versions of Windows.  I shouldn't have to swap DLLs and whatnot just to re-skin things.  "Glass color" is a start though.

  • It's been pointed out to me that the "shift-right-click" functionality in Windows 7 is not quite the same as the "ctrl-right-click" functionality in Windows XP.  Ctrl-click in XP lets you select multiple taskbar icons and perform the same action on them (i.e. treat them as a group), whereas Shift-click on a single grouped taskbar icon gives you the group actions for that icon.

  • @Eric Duran, re "It is borderline insulting to dedicate a post to personalization when key customization features are missing."

    I consider myself a power user of my PC, and nothing you listed are considered "key customization features" to me.  Stating things that you think are important do not make them important; this is known as an "I am the world" logical fallacy.  There are a number of usage cases for PCs equal to the number of people who own.  Features don't exist until they're made, and when existing features have been replaced or superseded, they are removed.  Engineering software is an exercise in trade offs: you can't have everything and the kitchen sink and still ship your product.

    @Warrens: bravo.

    As a follow up: changes to core systems (like the taskbar) can't always have no changes between versions.  Example: TheDesperationOfAntiMicrosoft's your logic, we should not have the windows key after going from 3.1 to 95, and Ctrl+Esc should suffice for all time.  If "power users" can't re-learn moving your hand one quarter inch to the left and pressing a different key to use a key combination that I would suspect 99% of windows users have NEVER heard of or used before, not upgrading is an option.  Or those same power users can use many of the excellent benefits that the changes to the taskbar have given us along with the minor changes to key combinations, and have the best of both worlds.

    @commongenius, re "Focus stealing apps":

    The only apps that can bring programs to the foreground are ones that have already been given permission to bring apps to the foreground.  You, the user, have to give those apps permission.  The primarily way is by having them selected.  If you hate apps that steal your focus, then don't use those apps.  If you don't have a choice, it's not Windows' fault that your system administrators installed those apps on your PC and gave them the permission to do it.

  • I would love to see a simpler and darker wallpaper featuring the windows logo for the minimalist Win7 fans :)

  • I think that this move is bold and fantastic. Some of the pictures look very... Katamari-esque, to be a gamer about it, but there's nothing stopping anyone from using their own images. The photography from Microsoft and its partners is as awesome as ever, and I'm proud to see such fine-quality imagery in my OS of choice.

    I know it would probably require more lawyers than you care to think about, Steven, but I would *love* to see a contest where everyday users like me can submit a picture and one picture is chosen to be included with Windows. (Or maybe one per region). I'd be honored to have a picture I took be a part of Windows.

    One last thing: I love all of the customization in Windows. Now, can I please make the Start Menu MORE transparent and glass-like? It seems darker in the RC than it was in Beta and I really prefer it to be clear and light and glassy. :)

    Keep up the good work! RC is fantastic, so far.

  • Love the new artwork - lots of variety and all extremely creative!

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