- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

The anticipated arrival - summer, perhaps? - of the Windows 7 operating system should generate a sigh of relief from millions of computer users - right after we figure out how much it’s going to cost.

Money aside, a “new” new Windows is kind of necessary: Call it a Vista Recovery Plan, if you will, after the 2-year-old Windows Vista, possibly the least popular OS after the ill-starred Microsoft Bob. Vista, like Rodney Dangerfield, couldn’t get any respect at all. Vista is big (some would say bloated) and klunky: Sometimes it would run happily; other times it would balk. The bells and whistles didn’t always work as advertised, or as desired.

Win7, as I’ll call it here, deserves a lot more respect. I’ve tested the public Beta release (www.windows.com/windows7) in two different configurations: an Apple Inc. iMac running VMWare’s Fusion 2.10, and a Dell Vostro 1510. In both “emulation,” on the iMac, and “native,” on the Dell, installation was swift and operation was smooth.

Some caveats: This is Beta software and, as the saying goes, “there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” Microsoft could “freeze” the feature set in this Beta, or someone could come in and muck it all up.

That’s doubtful - one more OS failure and Microsoft would have a world of hurt to confront - but it is possible. The other caveat, my installs were either “fresh,” on “clean” computers (the iMac had no previous version of Windows) or on a machine running Vista. Those currently running Windows XP, the OS that came before Vista, may face upgrading issues, according to media reports.

Caution aside, Win7 is a delight to work with. Once installed, it loads quickly and well, and - so far - I’ve not been able to crash it. The screen display is nice, almost Mac-like, and switching applications and the like is easy. There’s a “taskbar” at the bottom, which closely resembles the Mac OS X “dock.” You can see a preview of an open application’s screen, even in full size if desired. The “jump list” on the Windows menu has a way to show the latest files you’ve worked on: Right-click on an application’s icon and the file list pops up.

You can cut and paste between windows, and resize windows, on the fly. On a touch-sensitive PC, you can do more with your hands to manipulate the OS and the data on screen. On regular PCs, everything, it seems, works faster and with fewer hiccups.

In testing Win7, I’ve used the OpenOffice.org applications suite, and the installed-with-Win7 version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, or IE8, as it’s known. On the OpenOffice side, I’ve got no complaints: Word processing, my main task (and probably yours), ran without a hitch. That’s to be expected, of course, but it’s nice to see it play out with a new operating system.

IE8 seems to hold a fair amount of promise as a Web browser, but I’ll confess that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve used any IE as my day-to-day Web client; I prefer Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox on Windows.

Using it was not too much of a chore, however, and I can imagine that most die-hard IE fans will enjoy its operation. When downloading files, it seems to work well and you can overcome the default “don’t download this” without too much hassle.

In the “idiosyncratic” applications category, Win7 seems to play well with e-Sword (www.e-sword.net), a free Bible software program for Windows users that is well worth having. Again, downloads and installs of the program and various add-on components were smooth and successful.

If things hold as they are now, Win7 will be a great boon to users. How much we’ll pay for that boon - in dollars, hardware and hard-disk real estate - has yet to be seen.

What OS are you running?

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.