Windows 7, these are a few of my favourite things.

Well, its finally arrived! The new Windows 7 operating system which will hopefully encourage all those who still insist on remaining with Windows XP because they weren’t prepared to upgrade to Vista, a valid reason at last to move on.

I have been using Windows 7 since it became available in its beta form, and it is a fantastic operating system with some brilliant touches and ideas incorporated into it which are intended to make the users life a little easier. So here are just some of my favourite things in Windows 7.

1. The taskbar.

I have always preferred to have all of my favourite programs that I use the most displayed on my taskbar so that they are available to me at all times and are just one click away.  It just makes a lot of sense to me to have them there so that I can access them  even if I am online and reading a website for example.  But its how the new taskbar in Windows 7 actually works that is so fantastic. If a program or application is still open then that particular icon is slightly opaque so that you can see that open program at a glance.

Taskbar showing any open programs Not only that, but if you are downloading something in Internet Explorer for example, you can see the progress of the download in green  working its way across the Internet Explorer icon. If you have two windows open in a program or application, again this is shown by there being two opaque instances visible.  Want to be able to access a website that you have been browsing recently in Internet Explorer and go straight to it with one click? Or access a post you were recently working on in Live Writer? Easy, just right click on the icon to view ‘jump lists’ where you can then ‘jump’ to that website or recent post.  Jump lists as they are called, are not implemented with every application or program at this particular time, but eventually they will be.

2. The Action Centre.

I love the Action centre in Windows 7!  It brings together all of the security and maintenance areas concerned with looking after your computer neatly into one area which has a ‘safety flag’ icon visible at all times on your taskbar. If this icon is white, then everything is running fine,  if it turns red, then there is something that needs your immediate attention.  Under the Action Centre umbrella resides the two separate areas of Security and Maintenance, but there are also extras included besides those.  There’s the new addition of Troubleshooting where you can find and fix any problems as they occur, you can do a restore of your computer to an earlier time.

Action Centre areas and window Whenever and if ever a problem with your computer occurs, Action Centre will try and come up with a solution to that problem. If it can’t be resolved at that particular time, the problem is logged and then when a solution presents itself later, you will be informed that a solution has been found.  You can set up the Action Centre settings for receiving messages about problems as they occur (it constantly checks for these all the time) and you can stipulate which messages you wish to receive from Action Centre about various aspects of Security such as Windows Update, your Network firewall, you virus protection etc, and also your Maintenance messages regarding any backups, checks for updates or Windows Troubleshooting. You can turn any of these off if you wish.

Action Centre settings

So the Action Centre is constantly looking after your whole computer to make sure that it is running at its optimum best.


Again, this feature could have been introduced especially for me!  I am constantly changing my desktop background wallpapers and so the new ability to have  a slide show  of changing wallpapers on the desktop is fantastic.  In fact whilst testing Windows 7,  I have actually made some of my own themes to share with others as you can choose to save your theme as a Windows 7 theme file and then upload it to share with other users.  It’s fairly easy to create your own theme as well simply by choosing some of your favourite wallpapers, choosing a window colour and the sounds for your theme  and also to choose a Screen saver for it as well. You can also stipulate how often each wallpaper will change to the next one during the slide show.  I just hope that Microsoft sets up a Windows 7 theme sharing site for that purpose so that everyone who uses the new OS can then share themes with each other.

Themes in Windows 7

4. Connections.

Connecting  other equipment up to your computer is now a breeze with Windows 7.  With all my other equipment such as my Canon printer, my Samsung mobile phone, my daughters Nokia phone and my Samsung camera, I have not needed to use any of the relevant discs because Windows 7 has just found the drivers automatically as soon as I have plugged the external device into the computer.  It really has been made so much easier to use any external device with the computer, and XP users should upgrade to Windows 7 for this feature alone in my opinion!  Not only that, but all your devices are then visible on the Devices page so that you to see them all.

Devices page in Windows 7

5. Aero Snap.

Strange name I know, but believe you me, you will wonder how on earth you ever managed without this feature!  Its so handy when you are working in two different applications.  Before Windows 7 when I was composing my blogs in Writer, I was constantly having to go to and fro between either a web page as I worked my way through each step, or my pictures folder. Now, thanks to Aero snap I simply ‘snap’ the Live Writer screen to one side of the screen,  then ‘snap’ my pictures folder or the website screen that I am working through if doing a ‘how-to’ post to the other side of the screen, and then I can just drag and drop a picture into the text of my post from my picture files or alternatively work my way through each step on the website page as I write about it in the post inside  Writer.  It saves me so much time!

using the snap feature to write my blog

So there you are, just a few of my favourite things in Windows 7.





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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa. round 2.

Sharing your photographs in Picasa.

As I am comparing these two programs from a newbie’s point of view and how they might make use of them both,  I decided that next I would compare how easy it is to share your photographs with other people, as that is probably the next thing that a new user might want to do.  They may want to send their newly edited photographs to someone in an e-mail, or upload them to an online site such as  Facebook to share with family and friends.

PIcasa choices for sharing In Picasa, the choices offered for sharing a particular batch of photos are found at the bottom of the main screen.  You can choose to do the following with your selected photographs, you can upload them to the Picasa web albums, send them in an e-mail, print out your selected photos, copy them to another hard disc, you can buy prints from an online provider, post them to a blog on Blogger if you have one, create a collage with these photos, make a  movie with them or Geo-Tag them using Google Maps.  That’s quite a choice, but a new user will probably just want to send them in an e-mail or perhaps upload them to a site where others can then view them.

Choice of Email program for sending your pictures Most of the icons used are nice and large and also mostly self explanatory as to their use.  Clicking on the Email icon will bring up a window containing your desktop email program (in my case Windows Live Mail) or offer to use Google Mail instead. You can make sure that your choice for this is permanent by  ticking the ‘’Remember this setting, don’t display this dialog again’.  There’s also a handy Help offered as well. 

As I use the desktop email program Windows Live Mail I was then able to choose to send these photos as a photo mail.  Alternatively you can upload your photos online to Picasa web albums where you can then inform your family and friends  that they can view them.  If you don’t already have a Web Album you can create one and this will require a Google mail address.  You can also stipulate who can see the photos once they are uploaded.

Uploading to Picasa web albumsThe printing offer Shop is a good idea for those users who don’t own a printer and there are quite a few different sites to choose from  such as SnapFish,, Klick and Bonusprint to name but a few and these choices will be  different depending on which country you reside in.

Sharing your photos in Live Photo Gallery.

Choices for sharing in Photo GalleryThe different choices for sharing your photos in Photo Gallery are found on the toolbar at the top of the main window.  Again, you can choose to e-mail your photos to someone and clicking on email will take you directly to Windows Live mail and the photo email page (see picture below) so that you can then send your chosen photos to someone as a photo email.  Because Photo Gallery is part of the Essentials suite of programs which also contains Windows Live mail, obviously these two programs are meant to work well together and this shows by how your photos are automatically inserted straight into a photo email.

Windows Live mail synced with photo galleryAlternatively you can upload them to either Windows Live if you have an account there, or  alternatively you can upload them to flickr.  With the addition of a plug in you can also upload them to your Facebook account as well.

Publishiing to flickr When uploading to either Windows Live or flickr via the Publish tab,  you are allowed to choose  which folder (or set in the case of flickr) to upload to, and also set up permissions for who can view these photos. To add more services to upload to such as Facebook, you just choose More Services where you are then taken to the Windows Live Photo site which then lists the plug ins available to you.  Its a pretty comprehensive list consisting of Facebook, SmugMug, Picasa Web Albums, PIxelPipe, Iperuty, Multiply and Drupal. 

In order to sum up the sharing choices given to the user in both programs, I feel that they offer very different options in regard to how they approach which sites you can publish your photos to with Picasa only giving the choice of its own Website, whilst Photo Gallery gives the user a range of options including Picasa’s, so Photo Gallery is definitely more versatile and ‘’open’ in this respect.

In my next post I plan to take a look at the more complex editing features of both programs and compare just how easy they are to use.  


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