Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preview -- a genealogist looks at Windows 7

While my copy of Windows 7 has been ordered and is on its way, I have been looking at the reviews. Bear in mind that the previews and early reviews for Windows Vista were all over hyped, I began looking to see if the glow of the initial release of Windows 7 had begun to dim. I remember the introduction of Windows Vista and clearly recall that there were multiple sources in the genealogical community that were panning the program and telling users to wait to upgrade. I was one who waited so long that I never did upgrade my PC from Windows XP.

Genealogy programs, unlike high speed games and intense graphics programs like video editing or 3D rendering, do not get perceptively faster with a newer operating system. Many of the most popular genealogy programs are relatively text based and do not rely on either huge amounts of RAM memory or super fast computers to run perfectly well, thank you. Even with tens of thousands of names, the venerable Personal Ancestral File will load in a few seconds with a moderately fast computer. I have a five year old Pentium 4 computer and a PAF file with almost 7000 names opens in less than a blink of an eye.

One of the most touted features of the new Windows 7 is its faster performance. OK, if PAF opens in a blink of an eye, will the new program take half a blink. How fast is fast? And do I need any more speed? Well, as a matter of fact I do. One of the challenges driving my upgrade to a newer operating system is the hope that my huge collection of graphics files will load and sort more rapidly. Even with Picasa, sorting the image files is a slow process and using Picasa's new people identifier is positively painful. Advertisements for Windows 7 claim increased speed, well we shall see.

Many of the features supposedly coming with the new Windows 7 have no relevance to genealogy or how I work with my computer at all. I do not plan on purchasing a multi-touch computer so the fact that Windows 7 will support gestures, handwriting and voice, does not make me want to change to the program.

On the other hand, improved navigation to find folders and files would be a benefit and an improvement. Coming as I do from the Apple Macintosh environment, the Windows search function has always seemed slow and very clunky. Improvement in searching would be a positive feature.

Windows Vista was a very incompatible program. However, it is one of the advertised aims of Windows 7 to be compatible with the same accessories and applications as Windows Vista. As a Windows XP user, why doesn't that claim impress me? Obvious, it appears that the problems I may have had with Windows Vista are certainly going to show up again in Windows 7.

Since I don't use Windows Explorer much now, nor do I use the Internet Explorer of whatever number (I use Firefox), the fact that the new Windows 7 comes with an upgraded Windows Explorer is no great draw.

So what does this all mean? When I load Windows 7 into Parallels Desktop on my iMac, I will be looking to see if there is any perceptible difference from my Windows XP experience and if so, how will it impact all of the genealogy programs I depend upon for my research and work? Looking forward to when the program arrives...

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