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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  • To the negativity complaints: I don't see anyone complaining about the quality of the wallpapers. What people are complaining about is the inclusion of "New wallpapers in Windows 7" in a blog with "ENGINEERING" in the title, with marketing fobbing us off with "personalisation is control over your Windows experience" twaddle.

    Rule #1 when speaking to a base of engineers: Lock marketing in a cupboard and hide the matches.


    You're totally missing the point. When the windows key was instituted (to universal disdain), Ctrl-Esc wasn't removed. Vista, however, changed a lot of learned behaviours *to no benefit whatsoever* - either in UI terms, structure, or architecture.

    Your comment about Focus stealing is entirely wide of the mark too. It IS Window's fault, because MS provided the functionality in the first place. These apps haven't been "granted" permission by the user *at all* - in fact, the only way to get around it was to install a downloadable registry tweaker, and all that did was switch from stealing focus to flashing madly in the taskbar. They shouldn't be given the tools to do it, and it shows a total disregard for what we, the users, want in favour of what a subset of developers want.

  • @pepkaro

    I confess that I did not know that I could set permissions to allow or disallow applications to steal focus. If you would point me to the location where I can change those permissions, I would be forever in your debt.

  • THIS IS ART!!!!

    Congratulation to ALL!!


  • The W7 backgrounds are generally very nice. However please consider to add some less dramatic background as well. These vibrant backgrounds can be confusing and for some professionals (f.exp photographers) annoying.

    I was a bit disappointed with the explorer preview plane. It is not very useful for most case. Some detachable preview plane would be nicer.

    Also a bit strange thing happened. Maybe it was the same in Vista but I have not used the file explorer a long time. When I renamed a file to a name that was already existed it did not offered option to overwrite. Only to add some increment after the name. And when I renamed that file I ended up with 2 file with the same file name in the same folder with different size and date!!!

    Is that a bug or  a feature??? Anyway pls add overwrite option.

  • Great work W7 team. The bottom line is you wont please everyone. If someone doesn't like a desktop wallpaper, then they wont set it as their background! Doh!  No harm in including it now is there?

  • I got all excited there for a minute.  I thought this post would be about personalizing my window manager and it is about wallpaper.  This is why windows disappoints me.  Where's the info about window managers, changing window managers, configuring window managers, specifying a mouse-windows focus model, having a choice of desktops, etc.

    wallpaper?  you can go any where on the internet and get wallpaper.


  • Thank you.

    We know that the powers that be either haven't read it, or are carefully avoiding it, but thank you for pointing it out again.

    Wallpapers are nice.

    Please spend more time fixing some of the massive problems that Windows still has (some of them very very old indeed) next time.

    Good luck with Windows 8. Hopefully it's a new, 64bit only OS rather than Vista Fixed.

  • The new Desktop Backgrounds and Sound Schemes are quite nice, it is very refreshing to see Windows's sense of style expand past the usual images of landscapes. And the artists who created these works definitely deserve some praise, the art is interesting... and unusual, of course.

    Now that we're on the topic of personalization though, I'm a little more interested in the command bar. Across the world, the Explorers of Windows 7 will iniformly be a pale blue color. While I like the color and do not mind this, I was wondering why it is the case. Why is there no color picker in Personalization so command and menu bar colors can be changed similar to Live Mail?

    If there are any 'softies available to answer my question, I'd greatly appreciate it.


    >>I also must concede that one of the posters (the one with the long name) is right - I do not quite see the point of adding many wallpapers by default at all.

    It's about selling a complete product. Wallpapers are sold with every version of Windows, 7 being no exception, as an out-of-the-box value.

    Another poster said this is where the effort was going to instead of adding features. I doubt any of the coders for Windows 7 put in any work regarding creation of wallpapers. Adding these didn't impede them in any way, the features weren't added because Microsoft didn't want to add them.

    >>"Default" folders spammed all over the OS partition and virtually cross-referenced against other virtual folders in an endless loop.

    I'm sure you know the purpose of these links, so why complain? Would you rather we not have them? Do you think it should fall onto the user to create them? Simply hide the links you don't want to see.

    >More to the point, if the OS gets corrupted, or needs to be re-installed, or the registry goes titsup, guess what happens to the oh-so-useful "Library"?

    Absolutely nothing? Libraries are similar to saved searches, they don't contain actual data themselves. If you wanted to you could take music files from another drive, another computer, and a WHS box and view them together through the library. Libraries are a clean way for Windows to handle managing files from multiple sources. Windows could go fall over and your data will be just fine where it is... hell, the PC could explode and your data would be just fine.

  • I can't say I like all of the new wallpapers.

    I hope, when you release Win7, you add the old wallpapers (that came with the beta version) too.

    Also, when using small icons on the taskbar, the spacing between pinned links is too big.

    See here:

    Really ugly, isn't it ?

  • Why don't you add some icons on the context menus ?

    E.g. when you right click on a file, the appearing menu is huge and it has no icons at all. If it had some, it would be much easier to locate what you want to select (and it could be more beautiful too).

    Look at that:

    Image what will happen aftr a few menu extnsions...

  • Try this:

    Right click on the taskbar, choose properties, go to the "taskbar" tab and on the "taskbar buttons" make sure the "Always combine, hide labels" is selected.

    Then open IE8, open three or more tabs and minimize IE's window.

    Why when you click on taskbar button for IE8, IE's window doesn't get restored ?

    If the setting for "taskbar buttons" is other than "Always combine, hide labels", IE's windows gets restored normally.

    I would like to use the "Always combine, hide labels" option, but I don't, because I don't think it's working fine. Am I wrong ?

  • I wonder if it would be easy to add some "tree lines" on the TreeView control of the start menu (where the programs appear).

    It would help a lot to distinguish what program belongs in what folder.

    I would also love some more customizations (generally talking).

    Can you also make the "Spinning Tool" open the copied image on the clipboard after the user presses the "Print Screen" button ?

    Generally, Windows 7 seems to be a nice piece work !

    But you don't seem to take much into account any of the suggestions posted on this blog, ahhh ? :(

  • OK. How about this:

    I am a Windows XP person. As a Win XP person I like seeing my explorer files ALWAYS in lists.

    However, when I set the view to list and select "Folder Options..."->"View Tab"->"Apply to folders" this setting doesn't apply to folders with images (where I get thumbnails), the desktop, etc, etc.

    So. What is going on ?

    Does Win7 have design flaws or it's just me ?

    Any way to see lists and only lists ?

    Finally, look how much better the Win7 TreeViews would look if they had a few lines:

    Which do you think is better ?

  • "Wow, those wallpapers look like crazy acid trips. Word up, Microsoft."

    harsh way to say it, but VERY TRUE.

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