By Harry McCracken | Monday, November 16, 2009 at 11:03 am
It’s been a couple of weeks since I reported on Project Switchback, my experiment in using an ASUS UL30A-X5 thin-and-light notebook as my primary computer after a long period in which I was more Mac person than Windows person. How are things going? Pretty well.
The Asus has continued to perform well–it’s the best $675 investment I’ve ever made in a computer. I do, however, struggle to eke out half of its advertised twelve-hour battery life. And I did discover a display glitch: Sometimes, the machine refuses to render bitmapped images, such as PowerPoint thumbnails. (It’s been a minor enough irritant that I haven’t found time to troubleshoot it, although I’m now downloading the latest graphics driver just in case.)
Other than that graphics weirdness, Windows 7 has been running like a champ. It’s the same pleasing OS I’d been running in pre-release form for a year, and I haven’t run into any compatibility problems, or suffered any crashes.
I like being able to use a shipping version of Chrome as my primary browser. I like being able to run Office 2007 without having to resort to virtualization. Mostly, I like the fact that the OS sort of recedes into the background. I forget whether I’m using Windows or OS X–and I mean that as a compliment. (I’d much rather focus on the work or fun at hand than think much about what operating system I’m using.)
Speaking of OS X, I still like it better than Windows overall, although the gap has narrowed a lot from the days of the Vista-Leopard race. Snow Leopard remains sleeker, more subdued, and more consistent than Windows 7: It’s even easier to ignore. A few remaining Windows 7 irritants (none of them catastrophic) that have no counterpart in OS X:
You don’t always get a search field in Windows 7 file open dialog boxes. On Macs, I hardly ever navigate to a file or folder–I just use Spotlight to find it. Windows dialogs are more cluttered and less consistent, and you can’t assume they’ll have a nice big search field in the upper right-hand corner.
The Windows 7 Taskbar is stubborn. By which I mean that even if you choose the Auto-Hide feature, it sometimes won’t budge. This baffled me until I figured out that if an app in the Taskbar is trying to alert you to something, the Taskbar won’t hide itself. It’s annoying–both because I always want the Taskbar hidden, and because it isn’t always obvious that an app is attempting to tell you something. I want an “Always, Always Autohide” feature.
(Note: This may be a Taskbar annoyance of long standing, not a new Windows 7 one. I can’t remember. But it sticks out, since it’s at odds with Windows 7’s generally more compliant personality.)
Windows 7 doesn’t always grind things down to the minimum number of clicks. In its Wi-Fi finder, for instance, you’ve got to click twice to connect to a wireless network: Once to select it, then again to connect–and you’ll probably need to move the mouse pointer in between clicks to hover it over the Connect button. On a Mac, it’s a one-click process.
(Another note: It’s conceivable that Microsoft inserted the extra click on purpose, to reduce the chance you’ll accidentally connect to a network and not notice it. But in general, Windows 7 still feels less like a lean, mean machine than OS X.)
I quibble, but I remain a Windows 7 fan. I haven’t been as pleased with a new Microsoft OS since Windows 2000 came along a decade ago. (To me, both XP and Vista were disappointments–Microsoft spent too much time on unnecessary eye candy, and too little time fixing glaring problems that made using Windows less than pleasant.)
More thoughts on Windows 7 as I continue Project Switchback. At some point, I’ll declare the experiment to be over; I’m still not sure if I’ll segue back to my MacBook Pro as my main machine, or stick with the Asus. Basically, I like ’em both.
If you’ve got thoughts on Windows 7, please share them–preferably by taking our Windows 7 Satisfaction Survey…