Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Week With Windows 7

This week I've switched from using a MacBook to using a Windows 7 laptop, in my job as a network manager. Here are the five things that struck me on the first day, in no particular order:

1. Windows is perfectly fine
I'm satisfied that the choice between OS X and Windows is largely a personal preference, and not a compromise in functionality. I'm now more wary of anyone who tells me that one system is better than the other. However, the choice will be governed by familiarity with conveniences that each system offers (see below).

2. I need a mouse!
Within minutes I connected a mouse. The laptop's trackpad feels cramped, and seems unsuitable for anything other than small, occasional mouse pointer movements. This is a criticism of the hardware, not Windows, although I rarely see laptops with a trackpad as large or responsive as the Macbook's.

3. Task Switching
I tend to have 3 or 4 application windows open at any time, and I need to switch between them. In OS X, a three-fingered flick on the trackpad tiles all open windows, and a click selects a window.

The nearest equivalent I could find in Windows is switching tasks using the Windows Key and Tab, which cycles through all open application windows. This feels awkward and disruptive to the "flow" of work. Maybe I should just get used to clicking applications in the Taskbar?

4. Dashboard
OS X supports "spaces": multiple desktops, which can be swapped using a trackpad gesture. The first of these spaces is the Dashboard, which contains "widgets": simple applications like Calculator and Sticky Notes. I use widgets regularly for keeping notes and for calendar checking, but I couldn't find a Windows alternative for quickly reaching these applications. Browser tabs were the temporary solution, which is a functional but poor equivalent.

5. Trashcan
Maybe I'm paranoid, but I never directly delete files or folders. I prefer to drag these into the Trashcan, then empty the trash from time to time.

The OS X trashcan sits on the edge of the Dock, at the bottom-right of the screen, and is always visible. The Windows Trashcan sits on the desktop, and is obscured by the stack of application windows I'm using. The technique I've adopted in Windows is to drag a file to the bottom-right corner of the screen, wait for all the windows to minimise, drag into the Trashcan, then restore the window I was working with.

I know about the DEL keyboard shortcut, but I'm looking for a simple drag/drop mouse pointer action. I've read about hacks to add the Trashcan to the Taskbar, but this is unsuitable when I visit many laptops during the day. Is there a better solution?

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