Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 17:48 UK

Putting Windows 7 to the test

By Spencer Kelly
Presenter, Click

Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft's widely used operating system.

Tom Royal, deputy editor of ComputerActive magazine, said features in Windows 7 'Release Candidate' vary from the 'very good' to the 'daft'

It is intended as an update and refresh for Windows Vista, which was released to the public in January 2007.

The arrival of Vista was marred by technical problems and, despite Microsoft's claims to the contrary, is widely seen as getting a lukewarm reception from companies and individuals.

Many found problems with early applications and many drivers for basic hardware such as printers and scanners were not working.

Windows 7 is available as pre-release software for anyone wanting to download it, install it and try it out.

This "Release Candidate" as it is called, is an almost finished version, but it is not guaranteed to run smoothly.

Below are some of the new features that caught Click's attention.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

Windows 7 is certainly different to its predecessors. It has a lot of novel features and one of the biggest changes is its ability to work with multi-touch.

Multi-touch means that gestures, rather than one finger, can be used on a touchpad or screen to control what happens. A pinch might close applications and pictures can be expanded using fingers moving diagonally away from each other.

However, the only applications currently supporting this feature are Internet Explorer and Microsoft Viewer. Also, very few laptops are ready to be used in this way.

Microsoft is expecting manufacturers and software developers to start building multi-touch functions into software and hardware soon.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

The task bar, which has remained pretty much the same since Windows 95, has been combined with the Quick Launch bar to become the Super Bar.

This has no text and simply lists icons for the programs already running and ones a user might like to run. Hovering the mouse over the icons brings up thumbnails of different windows.

Icons can be shuffled to suit individual needs, and anyone preferring the old view, can switch it back on.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

Resizing windows is easier - just drag them to the edge of the screen and they will automatically either fill half or the whole screen. Shake a window and it minimises everything else in the background - shake it again and it all comes back. Move your mouse to the right edge of the screen and click to minimise all windows.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

There are some wonderfully bizarre pre-installed desktop backgrounds. The user can also take a group of their own favourite snaps and get the desktop to display them as a background slideshow.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

The Live Search feature has been improved. Looking up files and folders in the computer produces results neatly categorised by where they are on the PC. Then, by clicking on the file's heading, the user is taken straight to its location. Refined search filters can also be created.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

If users find that some of their applications or hardware are not compatible with Windows 7, the new OS allows them to launch Windows XP virtually.

This will open a new window with an XP desktop which can be used to run these programs, if the PC has a CPU with specific features turned on. Check the Microsoft website for more details.

Windows 7 Release Candidate

The Bitlocker application lets a user encrypt internal hard-disks and portable flash drives so the data stored is only accessible with a password. This feature was available on Vista, but only in the software's Ultimate edition.

MS Windows 7 goes on public test
30 Apr 09 |  Technology
Downgrade plan for Windows 7 PCs
09 Apr 09 |  Technology
Windows Touch coming to a PC soon
26 Mar 09 |  Technology
Microsoft begins Windows 7 push
08 Jan 09 |  Technology

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