One obvious thing has disappeared from Windows 7: the Sidebar. Windows 7 has given it the heave-ho, preferring to place Gadgets - RSS readers, clocks, calendars, media players and the like - directly on the Desktop instead. In effect it's a pretty minor change given the applets themselves are no different, but hopefully this extra freedom will make them a more desirable and flexible addition.
Microsoft hasn't reinvented the Start menu, but it has introduced one cool new feature - jumplists. Hover over an application you've used before in the Start menu, and you'll get a list of documents you've worked on, or artists whose tracks you've played recently, or even common tasks appropriate to the program in question.
You'll also see jumplists when you right-click on a program icon in the Taskbar. And if there's a document that you want a permanent shortcut to, then you can pin items to your jumplists just as you can pin application icons to your taskbar. Nice.
On top of this, we get a few additional tweaks to the Aero Glass interface. First, the new Aero Peek feature we mentioned earlier also works during Alt—Tab task switching, with the other Windows going fully transparent as you tab or click your way through. Secondly, grab a window by its title bar and drag it to the edge of the screen and it now automatically resizes, occupying a vertical slice halfway across if you drag to the left or the right, or maximising if you drag it to the top. Finally, those who hate a messy desktop will love Aero Shake. Grab the desired app by the title bar and give it a vigorous shake, and all the undesired apps will cheerfully minimise.
Finally, Microsoft has revised the way it handles themes and desktop backgrounds. Windows 7 ships with a series of Aero themes ranging from Architecture to Landscapes to a jolly UK theme, with desktop backgrounds, colours and sound schemes to match.
And while Windows Vista Ultimate's motion desktop feature - Dreamscenes - has (thankfully) disappeared, it's been replaced in Windows Home Premium and upwards by the Desktop Slideshow feature, where your chosen theme cycles through a series of background images. If you don't like the default effect, you can always change the options or pick your own images for Desktop Slideshow to use.