The good news is that the beta, or so-called Release Candidate, of Windows 7, is available as a free download. I took the plunge and within minutes I exclaimed: “Wow, this operating system is so easy to use. It actually feels like a Mac.” Aside from zipping along far faster than Vista, Windows 7’s uncluttered screens are logical and unambiguous. Finding and sharing files on a network are a snap. In short, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to make it work. And the super-geeks I’ve talked to are applauding Windows 7’s powerful user-interface tools, better security and useful troubleshooting gear.
What also immediately impressed me is that, not only does it seem to be designed for the small or even home office, but it has the muscle to satisfy the needs of a large, networked office. How does it compare with XP? As much as I love XP, I must admit that Windows 7’s sophistication without complication clearly trumps XP. Call me loyal or just nostalgic, but I’m not surrendering XP that fast. I loaded both Windows 7 and XP on my main computer. Caution: Because it makes for some complications, I don’t recommend everyone do this.
OK, now for the not-quite-so-good news: This is still a beta copy. That means there is still a gap when it comes to support for some third-party hardware, and it still requires quite a few tweaks. I spent a frustrating hour getting it to recognize my printer-scanner- fax-copier. But surely the gap is closing fast. Immediately after I loaded Windows 7 and connected to the Internet, I found that Microsoft had assembled a score of updates for downloading.
So the bottom line is this: If you’re inclined to download Windows 7, remember it’s still in beta, so do it as an experiment—preferably not on the computer on which you run your business. The free license has an end date: Starting March 1, 2010, it will shut down every two hours, and then, on June 1 it will stop entirely.
When will Windows 7 be ready for its official debut? As of this writing, Microsoft had not set a date, but October is the most oft-mentioned date.
To download the beta Windows 7, go to microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/.
Of course, we still have Office 2007: Powerful? Yes. Complicated and not intuitive? Double yes!