Windows 7 for Law Students
Windows 7, the successor to the ill-fated Windows Vista, is barrelling towards completion and is due to be released on 22nd October this year. Back in January, I first sampled Windows 7 in the form of the public Beta - a release which was greeted with almost exclusively high applause. Back in January, I didn't play around with Windows 7 for long, however, as I found the experience of relying totally on a beta OS for my LLM computing needs a touch unnerving.
The Release Candidate (RC) for Windows 7 has been out for nearly a couple of months now, but because of exams, travelling and a bunch of other stuff, I haven't had a chance to sample it. Until recently.
Running Windows 7 has also been my first foray into 64 bit computing, a move prompted in no small part because of the 32 bit versions of Windows inability to address more than 3.4 GB of RAM. So far, the switch has been totally seamless and glitch free - and I'm referring to both Windows 7 and 64 bit computing here. I've come across 1 piece of software thus far which has thrown a technical wobbly at running in a 64 bit environment but on the whole, it’s been a big success.
Many tech pundits have referred to Windows 7 as ‘Vista done right’ and while that’s a bit of a loaded statement, I guess that sentiment is more or less accurate. Yes, it’s got more in the way of eye candy, yes it’s nimbler, cleaner and more highly polished. There are a few improvements in respect of UI, search and libraries – as well as security features like ‘bit locker’ and ‘bit locker to go’ being pushed out across all major versions of the OS. But for the average user – and certainly the average law student – you would have to be seriously sick of Vista for those reasons alone to justify the cost of upgrading.
That said, there is a tantalising pre-order deal being offered to UK customers presently in which you can order a full copy of Home Premium of £49.99 (Amazon are offering it for £44.97) so this is possibly one of the best ever deals for Microsoft’s arguably greatest OS release of all time.
There’s no escaping the fact this release has a very ‘Vista 2.0’ feel about it and if you’re familiar with Vista, you should be well at home when using 7. Granted, the new style taskbar takes a bit of getting used to which is designed to operate more in the manner of the Apple OS X dock, but it can simply and easily be altered so that it mimics the behaviour and appearance of the conventional Windows taskbar. There are a few nifty features - aero peek and so on - but the highly touted multi-touch features require specific hardware.
So would I consider upgrading? Well, I like the sound of a faster OS and would like to enjoy the benefits of my OS addressing all of the RAM I’ve installed. Quite frankly, though, on my beefy desktop machine I can’t say I notice any different in speed between Vista and 7, so that in itself is hardly a reason to upgrade. That said, 7 reportedly runs considerably better than Vista on lower-end hardware such as netbooks and seeing as these have quickly become a student favourite, I can imagine there are many law students out there that will soon be running 7 on a such a machine. (Personally, I can’t stand going below a 14 inch screen so don’t see myself jumping on the netbook bandwagon any time soon).
Search in 7 has been tweaked to improve it from Vista which, let’s remember, was a quantum leap over the laughable search functionality built into XP. Search is undoubtedly one of the true day-to-day benefits I have found with using Vista in the context of a law degree. XP, out of the box, is woefully inadequate by comparison, though I admit, there are several additional apps out there which you can download to mimic much of the search-goodness found in Vista and 7 today – such as Google Desktop and Windows Search. For me, Vista’s prowess in respect of search really comes into its own when compiling bibliographies and where I'm completing or cross checking their accuracy; I believe that the instant search functionality in Vista has literally saved me hours and hours of time over of the course of the academic year. Digging files out in a flash, and the ability to open apps by hitting the windows key, typing a couple of letters and tapping enter also makes Vista's (relatively few in my opinion) flaws worth enduring.
So as a law student, would I upgrade - outside of buying a new computer? To be honest, I would only do so in the form of the excellent pre-order deal and, as great as 7 is, my experience with Vista has been fine so don’t find myself absolutely itching to upgrade. Nonetheless, I’ll probably go ahead and order myself a copy of Windows 7 – I’m just like that, I guess. If you’ve a fairly modern PC and are still running XP, Windows 7 could breathe a whole new sense of life into your computing experience and bring you right up to the present. Other than that, if you want the latest thing, and have a lower end Vista machine - particularly a laptop or netbook – Windows 7 might also be well worth a look this autumn.
It’s a shame that 7 won’t be released in time for the start of the new academic year. Although the install process of Windows 7 is smoother and much faster than ever before, installing a new OS on your indispensable computer during term time is not the faint hearted. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing – don’t even try it. If you are feeling brave, set aside plenty of time, have lots of backups and be near to a spare machine with internet access would be my advice. And whatever you do, make sure you’ve printed out that assignment that’s due in the next day before you start tinkering.