Using Windows 7

I have used Windows 7 since the early betas, as is always the case with new Windows releases – I was very interested in what new features were coming. Over the years I’ve come to rely on these features quite heavily, and like millions of other people I’m currently use it as my primary operating system.

My use of Windows 7 has changed quite a lot over the years – from simply changing themes to using totally different applications. But as Windows 7 is coming to the end of its life (for me anyway) I’m interested to see how my computer usage will change and evolve when Windows 8 takes over as my primary operating system.

So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how I’m using Windows on my MacBook today…

I like to keep things simple, a trend that will no doubt continue to Windows 8. As part of this I usually keep the number of applications I pin to the taskbar to absolute minimum. On my home computer this is PowerShell, Outlook and OneNote.

In the notification area I tend to have only power, networking, and volume icons, as well as the awesome Process Explorer. This is pretty much all I want to see down there, and everything else gets hidden away. (Remember when we couldn’t hide stuff down there? Ugh!)

Because this is a laptop, I tend to run a lot of my programs either maximised or side-by-side using Aero Snap. This is by far one of my favourite features in Windows 7, and I use it all the time. Just grab the title bar of any window and drag it to the top, left or right of the screen to snap the window into place.

Windows itself is just the shell that works around the applications, and right now the applications I tend to use the most (other than the web browser) are:

  • PowerShell
  • Office
  • Visual Studio
  • Expression Studio
  • WebMatrix
  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Zune
  • WorldWide Telescope

All of these applications are made by the same company as the operating system they are running on, so you’d think that they’d all behave exactly the same. This is not the case – each one tends to have its own UX and personality. Something that’s probably going to change in Windows 8 thanks to the advent of the Metro design language.

There are plenty of other smaller applications that I also use, including (but not limited to):

  • Paint.NET
  • EOS Utility
  • FileZilla
  • Flux
  • KatMouse

Oh and as for the browser? My current choice is actually Google Chrome. Mostly because of the spell checking functionality. I’ve used Internet Explorer 10 pretty extensively on the preview versions of Windows 8 and I quite like it, so the chances are I’ll probably move back to IE when it comes out at the end of the year.

Finally I also spend a large amount of time in PowerShell console windows. I have a lot of applications and scripts that I use in this environment, and I’m really hoping we get some kind of full screen Metro treatment to PowerShell – until then I’m probably going to have to use the Desktop to run these kinds of apps.

Windows 8 will definitely let me work in exactly the same way I do today – you can get access to all of the desktop and features of Windows 7 (with more stuff) so there’s no doubt about that. But will things change?

Eventually Metro-style applications will take over from the desktop applications we are using today. It just might take a while.

The ‘Real’ Windows 8 Logo

The new Windows 8 logo, as shown above from the Microsoft blog post that announced it, has been designed to compliment the Metro Design Language and also has roots in the Swiss International Style, which is all about typography, solid colours, strong lines and grids.

Over all I like it, but when I first saw it I felt like something was a little off with the ‘beams’ on the window. It looked like the perspective was messed up or something.

Later I came across an article about the new logo by the design agency Pentagram – who were commissioned by Microsoft to create the new logo. After thinking about it for a little while I understand that the beams are like a grid on top of the rectangle shape, and because of this understanding the logo looks better to me.

This is a bit like seeing the arrow in the FedEx logo for the first time.

You can tell this version of the logo looks slightly different to the one posted on the Microsoft blog. As Pentagram explains, the window shape itself has been chosen to be a rectangular shape in perspective, but the actual beams (or grid lines) are separate from the shape.

The perspective drawing is based on classical perspective drawing, not computerized perspective. The cross bar stays the same size no matter the height of the logo, which means it has to be redrawn for each time it increases in size, like classic typography.

You can see these lines are cut out of the coloured shape, and are not in perspective at all. The idea is that each time the logo is drawn the lines are always the same size, as shown below.

Seeing the logo in this view makes me appreciate the design a lot more, but the problem is that the version that is on the Pentagram website is actually quite different to the one on the Microsoft site.

Here is an animation which Kean created for me which show the difference in the beams and text between the two.

So which one is the real Windows 8 logo?

I find it really hard to believe that Microsoft would be able to convince everyone – from OEMs to the press – to render a version of the logo for the exact size they need, every time they need it. So I think they’ve had to compromise on the design given to them by Pentagram.

I’m not sure which is the ‘real’ Windows 8 logo yet, or if Microsoft are going to make any more changes before it gets released to the public. But I’m going to place my bets on the version that Microsoft posted to their blog.

I’m assuming they’ve just picked a width for the beams which fits well for the majority of sizes shown in the new operating system, and decided to stick with that moving forward.

I wasn’t the only person to notice this, Long Zheng has a write up on his excellent blog. He suggests changing the beams to fit in with the perspective of the rest of the logo, and I think his version looks pretty good too.

PowerShell Metro

The more I think about Metro style apps in Windows 8 the more I feel like I need have a decent PowerShell Metro style app.

It needs to be the ultimate replacement for the console host in the Windows desktop, oh and Vim needs to work on it too.

Jeffrey Snover please make it happen!