As expected, Microsoft gave a public demonstration of its next operating system at the PDC2008 conference earlier today. While Windows 7 still looks a lot like Vista, the demo revealed a number of major changes and additions. Both Ars Technica and Neowin have the details—and plenty of shiny screenshots to go with them.
The most obvious change in Windows 7 may well be the new taskbar, which looks very different from the Windows 95-era design still present in Vista. The Windows 7 taskbar takes up more vertical space, lacks text labels, and—according to Ars Technica—lets users reposition entries. Mousing over an application’s taskbar icon shows window thumbnails for that app, and right-clicking on the icon opens a “jump list”—essentially a contextually relevant list of tasks and previously viewed items, like the browsing history for Internet Explorer and recent playlists for Windows Media Player.
Windows 7’s taskbar also has a different system tray design. Ars says new tray icons are hidden by default, and they only come up if “explicitly enabled” by the user. The taskbar now shows the time and date in two rows, too, and it displays a translucent strip at the far right. Clicking that strip turns all windows into glass outlines and reveals the desktop. Because Vista’s sidebar gadgets have migrated to the desktop in Windows 7, that feature works a little bit like Mac OS X’s Dashboard.
Other user interface changes in Windows 7 look less dramatic, although Ars’ and Neowin’s screenshots still reveal a few surprises. For instance, Windows Explorer now includes “libraries” for items like personal documents, music, pictures, and video. Ars says these libraries “feel like a kind of WinFS-lite; they don’t have the complex database system underneath, but they do retain the idea of a custom view of your files that’s independent of where the files are.”
Check out the two sites’ articles for a look at other Windows 7 features, including the tweaked Start menu, the Device Stage management interface, the Play To media streaming function, the new tray-based Wi-Fi network browser, and more.