Why (some) Windows 7 usability features are useless (to me)

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&amp;playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:3c4e45e3-53e3-4a80-a305-f9a41937a6bd&amp;showPlaylist=true" target="_new" title="Doing Homework in Windows 7">Video: Doing Homework in Windows 7</a>

As a follow up to yesterday’s Windows 7 for Law Students, I thought I’d post a video I found entitled ‘Doing Homework in Windows 7’ designed to showcase time-saving tips and features in Windows 7 for students to be more productive. At least that’s the theory.

Now, I realise we all have different ways of working but I have to say, for me, many of the so-called advances in Windows 7 designed to improve workflow, clarity of content and ease of use would be worthless to me.

When I’m working, I like to have windows maximised to make best use of my widescreen display. That’s one of the chief reasons why I’ve found the sidebar in Vista (essentially now gadgets in 7) to be such a flop which I ended up disabling long ago. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way: I’ve got a big screen so I want to make use of it. Why the heck would I open piddling little windows which obscure much of the content when I could see so much more at a glance and wouldn’t have to shuffle those little windows about like I’m playing solitaire?

The demonstration illustrates aero snap whereby 2 windows are docked at opposite ends of the screen. Nice feature, perhaps, but how useful is this in practice?

Using this feature, the user is left with using a ridiculous pair of narrow windows resembling pillars which would quickly get right on my proverbials. As a result, not only are you scrolling every 5 seconds to move down the page, but you have to scroll horizontally as well to get to the content you need. And this is supposed to make me MORE productive? Go figure.

Please remind me again why is flipping between windows such a big problem – there are even keyboard shortcuts for it? However you do it, switching between windows is surely much more preferable than having to scroll up and down, left and right like you’re a person possessed trying to search for your content in small windows when you can have it all open in front of you in maximised ones?

And what’s the deal with using a minimised window and using a Wikipedia gadget to search for an answer online? With a maximised window and using either a keyboard shortcut or mouse, I could open, say, Firefox (almost certainly open already) and open a new tab with Cntrl + T move the cursor to the built in search box with Cntrl + K and start typing and hit enter. Done. Wikipedia entries are often first in the list of Google results and the added advantage of this method is that I’ve a whole page of other entries within view if I don’t like Wikipedia’s offering without having to do another thing.

So, yeah, I think I’ll give Wikipedia gadgets and similar a wide berth, thanks.

Some of the other so-called tips in the video are pretty esoteric and would represent a long-winded means of working for many people. That said, though, aero peek is an awesome feature and one I found myself using continually; the number I times I go to swipe the ‘show desktop’ button and miss on the Vista taskbar is infuriating.

In short, I’d say Windows 7 does indeed boast a few bona fide productivity enhancements but videos such as these are not only deceptive but detract from the genuine improvements that are present.


  1. Hi Michael

    Having watched the video, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. It seems an overly sophisticated process of achieving things that have been available for sometime. I achieve similar functionality on XP, albeit using few downloads. It hardly seems a massive advancement in itself.

    Most of what was achieved in the video could be best served with...two monitors. In the absence of that, Something like using a number of virtual desktops, or even smple Yahoo Widgets on XP seems a more efficient way of getting the same result.

    I haven't yet had the time to play with Windows 7 (come on dissertation, write yourself!) so I can't really comment more generally.

  2. Thanks, Ody. I'm also a slave to a dissertation but couldn't resist taking some time out to play about with Win7.


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