Master Windows 7 Enterprise

2010/09/09 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

Guide to switching to Windows 7 Enterprise from Windows XP

If your organization decided to skip Windows Vista and jump straight into seven, then you are the person to read this article. I am writing to inform experienced XP users on how to efficiently take advantage on the new Windows version. Changing an operating system necessarily evokes confusion, uncertainty and suspicion, but I promise to reduce the migration anxiety with this guide. This article introduces the major changes in Win7 UI along with new utilities and help you to use them effectively.

Changes in the user interface

Never mind the changes under the hood, but what added value does Win7 bring to a hardened XP user? On the interface level, Windows has been decorated with new eye candy, some of what was already introduced in Vista. But what is more important for real power users are few simple but important changes in the UI behavior. These changes concentrate on the taskbar, the handling of windows and the extensive search metaphor utilized in system administration. Notably Win7 provides now built-in functions and shortcuts to perform operations that previously required third-party utilities such as multiple display and power management, and keyboard shortcuts.

The taskbar has been changed to accommodate a large amount of Windows without getting badly crowded. The new idea is to combine instances of the same application, such as Notepad or Acrobat reader windows, in a single bin. The feature is called Pin. Instead of the old style, this stacking gives more space to a variety of applications. Basically this behavior takes the Windows taskbar a step closer to current Mac OS/X style as it now combines both quick launch type of application launcher which also acts as a container of the open application windows. This feature is combined to a keyboard shortcut allowing quick execution of applications. Is the Windows7 taskbar better than OSX equivalent? I think the Win7 version is more transparent in revealing the open applications, even though it not literally transparent as OSX version is. To me, it is still less visually appealing but I'd say it's more appropriate.

The window management has improved thanks to new system shortcuts that can be executed both by mouse and by keyboard (the details are provided below). Each window can now be easily minimized, maximized or split to occupy either half of the screen by snapping them. I believe this is an important usability step because it facilitates the proper use of large flat screen dislays that have recently become a commonplace at offices and homes. Effective multitasking or even working with multiple windows of the same application is much facilitated as the OS provides robust and consistent window resizing functions. A cynical comment might to ask why did it take almost 15 years for Microsoft to find some real use for the Windows button ubiquitous in keyboards? Particularly when third party applications, such as WinKey were taking the advantage over ten years ago.

Interesting change in the user interface is the wide utilization of search fields through out the interface. The new design is clearly inspired by search engines. For instance, the opening of the Start menu brings out a search field for documents. For system administrative functions such as Control panel this change works very well. The decision is intriguing as it turns back the tide in UI development. The infamous Windows 95 began the era of hiding all command linesh UI components, the usefulness of verbal commands over elaborate mouse-driven hierarchical menus has been acknowledged after 14 years.

New features

Win7 includes a number of new features but also omits some utilities. The list of minor changes is quite extensive, so I will only consider the essentials. Libraries are the new method for organizing different types of files. For instance, Documents, Music, Picture and Videos are the default libraries. Libraries are binned to the desktop and their idea is to create a shortcut for different locations containing similar files. The default libraries can be customized and new ones added. Widgets are also here to stay. Desktop holds a collection of gadgets introduced in Vista that will satisfy the typical needs. There is also a new screen shot tool (Snipping tool) and screen Post-It notes tool. A considerable changes have taken place in the security side. The firewall and malware detection methods have all been updated and should be better equipped to provide some real security out-of-the-box without the need to install additional third-party solutions. The emphasis on security shows for instance in the changed WiFi and other network interface configuration which now adjusts the availability of computer services based on the type of network you are connected to.

Some noteworthy updates reside below the surface. The application called robocopy has been around for some time and provides efficient way to create back up scripts or similar command line batches. Control panel has been re-organized and the management of fonts and networks is now quite different from XP times. Windows is now also better equipped for working on multiple screens and extended desktops. The management of multiple displays is facilitated by built-in switch application (Win+P) and keyboard shortcuts for moving the application windows between the display windows (Shift+Win+Left/Right Arrow). Troubleshooting tools have surprisingly improved. Diagnostics can now help to solve various issues in the system and repair them automatically.

But things are gone or hidden. Windows Movie maker is one of the tools that is no longer bundled with Windows but needs to be downloaded separately from Window Live. The new taskbar has also replaced the Quick launch bar which appeared with Win 98 SE. This utility is not truly gone, but only hidden and can be brought back to the taskbar if you feel uncomfortable with the taskbar alone. The notifications of the taskbar have been transformed and by default they hide more messages than what they used to. Fortunately, this be now configured for each icon separately. The traditional Windows start menu has now also been eradicated. Installed programs can be browsed through a standard menu looking view, rather than a special hierarchical drop-down as it has been for ages now.

Setting up new installation

If you have a fresh start with your desktop, here are few changes I recommend:

  1. Select desired Windows theme and adjust Appearance and performance
  2. Move Taskbar around and set the desired dimensions before locking it
  3. Pin your applications to Taskbar and Start menu
  4. Check and adjust your Power plan and options

Power usage

For me, Windows XP never was quite enough out-of-the-box. Even though Win7 incorporates many features that satisfy the needs of the power users, there are still some performance and productivity tweaks which can make your system mean and lean. Many of my suggestions reduce UI eye candy as well as some underlying functionalities so feel free to choose how you want to push it.

Efficiency of use can be improved by utilizing new shortcuts for mouse and keyboard. The most import additions concern Window and application management:

Shortcuts

Behavior

Taskbar and application management


Win + [0-9]

Switch to or run application number 1-10 from the taskbar

Win + T (Ctrl+Click app on taskbar)

Browse Taskbar items, use Arrows and Enter to select open windows or run applications

Ctrl + Click taskbar icon

Show different windows of the particular application.

Shift + Click taskbar icon

Open new application window

Win+Up (drag a window to the top of the screen)

Maximize the current window

Win+Down (drag to the bottom of the screen)

Minimize the current window

Win+Left, Win + Right

Snap to the left or right hand side of the screen

Win + Shift + Left/Right

Move the window to left/right desktop

Win+Home

Minimize or restore everything except the current window

Win + M

Minimize all Windows

Win + D

Reveal or hide desktop

Other functionalities


Win+P (or run DisplaySwitch.exe)

Show display output selector

Win + Space

Show/Peak desktop (requires Aero theme)

Win + F1

Windows Help

Alt+P

Display/ hide the Explorer preview pane (when running)

Win+G

Show gadgets (when running)

Win + + or Win + -

Zoom in or out using Windows Magnifier

You can find more comprehensive list of shortcuts from the Windows Help by searching for Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts. For instance Shift + Left click + Application in Taskbar produces a New application window.

Looking back to previous millennium, I feel at home with the Windows classic looks. The ageless rectangles with simple gradients have disappeared with the Aero desktop, but they can be retrieved by changing the windows theme to the classic one. Depending on your primary display, you may also save some energy by tuning your desktop and standard UI colors to dark or bright scheme. After the Aero is gone, you can also cut down system system services (Run, services.msc) from the Control panel, Disable themes service, Disable Desktop Window Manager Session Manager and Disable Desktop Window Manager. With Aero you lose Aero Peek, Shake and Snap functionalities, but you can now also give some more performance boost from Advanced system properties (Win+Pause, Advanced system settings, Performance) and adjust for Best performance.

The security enhancements mean that when possible administrative rights are not automatically applied even if you should posses them. First time you will encounter this with command prompt which denies access to certain utilities, such as diskpart, should you try it wihtout administrative rights. This means that you will need to run it explicitly as an administrator. This happens by right clicking command prompt in the start menu and selecting Run as Administrator.

As mentioned, by default some components such as Quick launch toolbar and Send To menu appear to have disappeared or been relocated.

Type %UserProfile%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftInternet ExplorerQuick Launch

You can add this as a toolbar next to the main Taskbar.

Start menu shortcuts for all users are nowadays found here:
C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu
where as items installed only for one user are in :
C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu

Send to menu works still, but its originating folder has been relocated. Typing a short cut Shell: sendto to the explorer address bar will take you there quickly. There are also other shell shortcuts which may prove handy:

shell:Libraries

shell:MusicLibrary

shell:SuggestedLocations

shell:UserProgramFiles

shell:DocumentsLibrary

shell:User Pinned

shell:UsersLibrariesFolder

shell:ImplicitAppShortcuts

shell:UserProfiles

shell:MyComputerFolder

shell:System

shell:AppData

shell:Quick Launch

shell:TreePropertiesFolder

shell:Profile

shell:Start Menu

shell:Administrative Tools

shell:PrintersFolder

shell:Default Gadgets

shell:Common Startup

shell:ControlPanelFolder

shell:SendTo

shell:Recent

shell:Common Desktop

shell:Fonts

see more from web: http://www.winhelponline.com/blog/shell-commands-to-access-the-special-folders/

Places bar, the part of a common file Save/Open dialog window on the left can be configured using the Local Group Policy editor. Run gpedit.msc and browse yourself to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components >Windows Explorer > Common Open File Dialog. Once found, double click on the Items displayed in the places bar, enable it and customize it. I personally put it shell:Favorites which seems to completely transform the dialog - to the better.

Try holding down shift when you do a secondary (right) click. This reveals normally hidden menu items. Ctrl key on the other hand has similar effect, letting you run some commands with elevated privileges. For instance, while Shift reveals Open command window here, pressing Ctrl+Shift lets you run the Command prompt as an administrator. Alternatively, you can also execute a Run (Win+R) command using Ctrl+Enter instead standard carriage return also elevating your level of access. When working with the command prompt you can now drag and drop files into the window and thus retrieve their file path. This is another way to perform Copy as path function available in the extended (Shift + Right click) context menu.

Some new utilities

There few tools that may come in handy for tweaking your computers performance. From reporting tools, resmon.exe helps you to identify processes that consume too much processor power. Another similar tool is powercfg -energy which creates a power consumption audit. A tool called robocopy has been around for sometime after XP, but now this efficient copy tools also supports multithreaded transfers with the switch /mt.

Although the search function facilitates the handling of the bloated control panel, a hidden view to all items of the panel can come in handy for browsing all items contained within. To access this view, one needs to create a new folder, for instance on the desktop, and rename it to:

Everything.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

Standby mode is nowadays called Sleep, like in OSX, hibernation appears to work bit more reliably then before. However, should you need to disable (or enable) it,



C:Windowssystem32>powercfg.exe /hibernate off

C:Windowssystem32>powercfg.exe /hibernate on



The background image for the login screen can be customized by changing the DWORD value to 1 in REGEDIT.exe for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionAuthenticationLogonUIBackground and placing a file %windir%system32oobeinfobackgroundsbackgroundDefault.jpg which needs to be less than 256KB in size and match your screen dimension.



You should also check out the following things:

Run: control userpasswords2

Windows Start -button properties

Control panel Hardware and Sound > AutoPlay

Tools > Folder Options > View and clear 'Hide empty drives in the computer folder'.

Msconfig > System configuration screen > Boot > Advanced options to utilize all processors from the start

Configuring Alt+Tab application switcher

You change the way open applications are shown in Alt Tab view. You can change the number of rows and columns that are used to lay out the icons. To do this edit registry by adding a new key with two DWORD values to make the settings (logout required):

[HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop]
'CoolSwitchColumns'='7'
'CoolSwitchRows'='5'

[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerAltTab]
'Rows'=dword:00000005
'Columns'=dword:00000007

Here I set 5 rows and 7 columns instead of the default 3x7.

Useful Third-party software

http://www.door2windows.com/windows-7-show-desktop-button-remover-remove-windows-7-show-desktop-button-with-one-click/
Customize Places bar in common dialog box

http://sourceforge.net/projects/virtuawin/files/

General References

Microsoft Easy Transfer utility to migrate settings from Windows XP and Vista

http://www.pctipsbox.com/windows-7-performance-and-productivity-tips/

http://blog.taragana.com/index.php/archive/10-best-power-tips-for-windows-7/

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/67-windows-7-tips-tricks-and-secrets-643861

http://www.winhelponline.com/blog/shell-commands-to-access-the-special-folders/

Related content:
How Windows 7 restore really works, 2014/04/26

Instructions for creating bootable Windows 7 recovery environment on a USB flash device, 2014/03/30

Disabling background software installations and upgrades in Windows, 2013/03/03

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Keywords: [windows] , [computers] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2010/07/31
Modified: 2010/09/09
Published: 2010/09/07


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