Windows 7 (formerly codenamed Blackcomb and Vienna) is an upcoming version of Microsoft Windows, a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, netbooks and media center PCs.
Microsoft has stated that it plans to release Windows 7 on October 22, 2009,less than three years after the general availability of its predecessor, Windows Vista. Its server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2, is slated for release at the same time.
Unlike its predecessor, Windows 7 is intended to be an incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible.
Presentations given by the company in 2008 have focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows Shell with a new taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements. Some applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery, will not be included in Windows 7; some will instead be offered separately as part of the freeware Windows Live Essentials suite.
Originally, a version of Windows codenamed Blackcomb was planned as the successor to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Major features were planned for Blackcomb, including an emphasis on searching and querying data and an advanced storage system named WinFS to enable such scenarios. However, an interim, minor release, codenamed "Longhorn" was announced for 2003, delaying the development of Blackcomb.
By the middle of 2003, however, Longhorn had acquired some of the features originally intended for Blackcomb. After three major viruses exploited flaws in Windows operating systems within a short time period in 2003, Microsoft changed its development priorities, putting some of Longhorn's major development work on hold while developing new service packs for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Development of Longhorn (Windows Vista) was also "reset", or delayed in September 2004. A number of features were cut from Longhorn.
Blackcomb was renamed Vienna in early 2006, and again to Windows 7 in 2007. In 2008, it was announced that Windows 7 would also be the official name of the operating system.
The first external release to select Microsoft partners came in January 2008 with Milestone 1, build 6519. At PDC 2008, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 7 with its reworked taskbar. Copies of Windows 7 build 6801 were distributed out at the end of the conference, but the demonstrated taskbar was disabled in this build.
On December 27, 2008, Windows 7 Beta was leaked onto the Internet via BitTorrent. According to a performance test by ZDNet, Windows 7 Beta has beaten both Windows XP and Vista in several key areas, including boot and shut down time, working with files and loading documents; others, including PC Pro benchmarks for typical office activities and video-editing, remain identical to Vista and slower than XP. On January 7, 2009, the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) was leaked onto the web, with some torrents being infected with a trojan.
At CES 2009, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the Windows 7 Beta, build 7000, had been made available for download to MSDN and TechNet subscribers in the format of an ISO image. The Beta was to be publicly released January 9, 2009. Initially, Microsoft planned for the download to be made available to 2.5 million people on January 9. However, access to the downloads was delayed due to high traffic.
The download limit was also extended, initially until January 24, then again to February 10. People who did not complete downloading the beta had two extra days to complete the download. After February 12, unfinished downloads became unable to complete. Users can still obtain product keys from Microsoft to activate their copy of Windows 7 Beta. Users can still download Windows 7 via the Microsoft Connect program. The beta expires on August 1, 2009, with bihourly shutdowns starting July 1, 2009. The release candidate, build 7100, has been available for MSDN and TechNet subscribers and Connect Program participants since April 30 and is available to the general public as of May 5, 2009. It has also been leaked onto the Internet via BitTorrent.
The release candidate is available in five languages and will expire on June 1, 2010, with bihourly shutdowns starting March 1, 2010. According to Microsoft, the final release is planned in time for the 2009 holiday shopping season.On June 2, 2009, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 7 will be released on October 22, 2009. The release of Windows 7 will coincide with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2.
Features new to Windows 7
Support for themes has been extended in Windows 7. In addition to setting the colors of the window chrome and desktop background, themes in Windows 7 include a sound set, a default screen saver, and desktop slideshow settings. A new control panel interface, accessible through the "Personalize" content menu item on the desktop, has been introduced which provides the ability to customize and switch between themes, as well as download more themes from Microsoft's web site. Support for "theme packs" is included; theme packs are cabinet files with an extension of .themepack, and consist of a .theme as well as any number of image, sound, icon, and mouse cursor files.Windows 7 recognizes this file format and will switch the user's theme to the theme contained inside when opened. A Windows 7 theme can also specify an RSS feed from which new desktop background images can be downloaded.
The default theme is titled "Windows 7", which consists of a single desktop background depicting a betta fish, and the same sound set as Windows Vista. Six new "Aero Themes" are included: Architecture, Characters, Landscapes, Nature, Scenes, and an additional country-specific theme that is determined based on the defined locale when the operating system is installed. The Windows 7 Beta includes themes for the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Japan, South Africa and Australia, and while the theme for the user's home country is the only one displayed in the user interface, the files for all these themes are included in the operating system installation.
Each of the themes included with Windows 7 consists of six desktop backgrounds each at 1920x1200 resolution; none of the desktop backgrounds included with Windows Vista are present in Windows 7. The country-specific desktop backgrounds depict both famous places in those countries (such as Stonehenge and the Sydney skyline) as well as country scenes. A number of sound schemes are included, each associated with an included theme: Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna, and Sonata.
Additional theme packs are available as free downloads from Microsoft's web site.
Windows Explorer in Windows 7 supports Libraries, virtual folders described in a .library-ms file that aggregates content from various locations - including shared folders on networked systems - and present them in a unified view. Searching in a library automatically federates the query to the remote systems, in addition to searching on the local system, so that files on the remote systems are also searched. Unlike search folders, Libraries are backed by a physical locations which allows files to be saved in the Libraries. Such files are transparently saved in the backing physical folder. The default save location for a library may be configured by the user, as can the default view layout for each library. Libraries are generally stored in the Libraries special folder, which allows them to be displayed on the navigation pane.
By default, a new user account in Windows 7 contains four libraries, for different file types: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. They are configured to include the user's profile folders for these respective file types, as well as the computer's corresponding Public folders.
Windows Explorer also supports federating search to external data sources, such as custom databases or web services, that are exposed over the web and described via an OpenSearch definition. The federated location description (called a Search Connector) is provided as a .osdx file. Once installed, the data source becomes queryable directly from Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer features, such as previews and thumbnails, work with the results of a federated search as well.
The start orb now has a fade-in highlight effect when the user moves the mouse over it.
Windows 7's Start menu retains the two-column layout of its predecessors, with several functional changes:
* The "Documents", "Pictures" and "Music" buttons now link to the Libraries of the same name.
* A "Devices and Printers" option has been added that displays a new device manager.
* The "shut down" icon in Windows Vista has been replaced with a text link indicating what action will be taken when the icon is clicked. The default action to take is now configurable through the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window.
* Taskbar Jump Lists are presented in the Start Menu via a guillemet; when the user moves his or her mouse over the guillemet, or presses the right-arrow key, the right-hand side of the Start menu is widened and replaced with the application's Jump List.
The search box, first introduced with Windows Vista, has been extended to support searching Control Panel items. For example, clicking the Start button then typing "wireless" will show Control Panel options related to configuring and connecting to wireless network, adding Bluetooth devices, and troubleshooting. Group Policy settings for Windows Explorer provide the ability for administrators of an Active Directory domain, or an expert user to add up to five Internet web sites and five additional "search connectors" to the Search Results view in the Start menu. The links, which appear at the bottom of the pane, allow the search to be executed again on the selected web site or search connector. Microsoft suggests that network administrators could use this feature to enable searching of corporate Intranets or an internal SharePoint server.