by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 in Pictures: 10 Cool Desktop Features

Jun 24, 20094 mins
AnalyticsOperating Systems

In anticipation of Windows 7 being released into the wild on Oct. 22, here is an up-to-date pictorial guide to the most compelling navigation and networking features of the OS.

Aero Peek

Aero Peek expands on Vista’s Aero graphical interface. If you have many windows open, Peek brings the window you want to focus on to the front, while turning all other open windows into transparent “glass sheets.” Peek also works on the desktop. If you mouse over the “Show Desktop” control at the far right of the taskbar all windows on the desktop turn to glass, allowing the entire desktop to be seen.

Sharing with HomeGroup


HomeGroups let you easily link Windows 7 computers on your home network to share pictures, music, videos, documents and devices such as a printer. In order to set up a HomeGroup, a user’s Network Location needs to be set as “Home” in the Network and Sharing Center. When you create a HomeGroup, you specify which media files, folders and devices you want to share, and create a password so that only people with that password can join the HomeGroup.

Media Streaming Options


Media Streaming in Windows 7 has been simplified to share photos, video and music with other PCs on your home network using the new Homegroup feature. Remote Media Sharing, a new feature in the Windows 7 release candidate, allows users to stream information over the Internet to share media remotely. Media Streaming Options lets you restrict which specific PCs have access to your media by choosing “more streaming options…” from the Windows Media Player “Stream” menu.

Play To


Once Media Streaming is enabled on your Windows 7 PC, the “Play To” feature lets you to send media to other Windows 7 PCs or devices in your network and play it using a remote control window. From Libraries within Windows Media Player or Windows Explorer, you can right-click on your media and send it off to another device. For example, you can send video clips to a television, or music to another laptop that’s connected to speakers.

Aero Snap


Maneuvering between windows is a pain, and comparing the content of two windows side by side requires awkward resizing that never quite works. Aero Snap is a feature that allows users to snap any two windows side by side. You grab a window and move your mouse to the edge of the screen and the window will fill half the screen. Repeat with the other window and they are locked next to each other.

Jump Lists


Jump Lists provide users with quick access to a mini-Start menu containing lists of pictures, music, word documents or links that they use most frequently. There are two manifestations of the jump list in Windows 7: As part of the Start Menu (pictured here), and as a popup menu from an application’s taskbar button. For example, if you right-click on the Microsoft Word button in the taskbar a list of recently accessed documents would pop up.

Trippy Desktop Background Wallpaper


OK, this has nothing to do with navigation or networking, but this surreal acid-trippy desktop background artwork (and there are others like it available in Windows 7) is part of the user interface and shows that Microsoft actually has a personality. By including some experimental styles from international artists, Microsoft is embracing the weird and having some fun. Who knew?



Instead of having all files and folders organized under the familiar Documents folder, Windows 7 features separate Libraries for specific content types such as contacts, documents, downloads, music, pictures and videos. Each Library is stylized to fit its content and can be shared with other people in your home network by using HomeGroup. Click here for more on how Libraries and HomeGroup work together.

Taskbar Peek


This feature applies the Aero Peek technology to taskbar thumbnails. If you mouse over an application button in the Windows 7 taskbar, thumbnails of open windows associated with that program pop up. If you then mouse over one of the thumbnails, the full corresponding window on the desktop (be it a Word doc, a browser, an IM session) will come to the forefront and all other windows will turn to glass and become transparent.

Windows Media Player Taskbar Controls


A Windows Media Player mini-viewer works with the new Windows 7 taskbar. You just need to hover over the Windows Media Player button on the taskbar after WMP is launched and a good-size thumbnail window shows up with options for controlling your WMP and playing songs. The controls provided in the thumbnail are basic — Previous Track, Play/Pause, Next Track — but the quick access to music from the taskbar is a nice time-saver.