Despite the various changes made to the user interface in Windows 7 you still get a feeling of familiarity as you hit the desktop for the first time. Yes the taskbar looks a bit different – the quick launch icons are gone and it’s a bit chunkier than before – but you’re still presented with a ‘Start’ button on the left (no longer labelled as such) and the system tray sitting in the bottom right corner.
Of course, if you’ve read our Windows 7: What’s New? piece – or any of the hundreds of thousands of similar articles and blogs posts for that matter – then you’ll know this doesn’t tell the whole story. Before we get into the finer details of the user interface, though, it’s worth noting some of the new things you’re bound to encounter when you first start using Windows 7.
While not everyone has the luxury of using more than one display, setting up displays is routinely the first thing we deal with when installing a new OS and Windows 7 handles this better than ever before. Hit the Windows key (Win) and ‘P’ together and you get a useful external display dialog, while the Screen Resolution menu – now directly accessible from a right-click on the desktop – has been redesigned to make it far more useable. It’s even got proper orientation options as well now.
Most exciting for the more anal among us, though, is the calibration tool. It’s nothing too advanced, as evidenced by the step-by-step screenshots below, but it’s a really useful way to quickly get your display looking its best and is simple enough for novices to navigate, too.
Since many of us are now using smaller, higher-resolution displays as well, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to improve readability options. DPI settings are easily accessible and Microsoft has added a ClearType Text Tuner. This four-step process shows you examples of text, asking you which one is most readable on your display, then uses your choices to adjust on-screen text accordingly. This is good for those who find their display shows small text particularly poorly.
Finally, once you’ve set up your displays and tweaked those small settings, you can personalise your desktop a little. Again this has seen some serious re-designing, introducing a more visually instructive menu and banishing legacy menus that had stuck around since Windows XP. Also new are Aero Themes, which add the ability to have slideshow desktop backgrounds. If nothing else it’s a nice way to give large photo collections a little more exposure.