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    Windows 7 – Which features really matter for small businesses

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    In anticipation of the full launch of Windows 7 on October 22, we’ve weeded through over fifty new features to bring you what we believe are the most important features for small business users. Here is a quick summary of what’s great – and not so great – about the new Windows platform.

    Windows 7 is great for:

    1. Employee productivity

    Things just seem to happen faster with Windows 7. While start up and shut down times haven’t reduced noticeably, opening files (particularly recent documents) and using Microsoft Office is much faster – and compared to Vista you’ll notice a lot less of those nonsense pop-up messages. If you’re using a smaller notebook (aka “netbook“) with less power, you’ll notice an even more significant lift in performance. A great review of the latest netbooks is here.

    What surprises most people about Windows 7 is that it seems to be less ‘buggy’ than Vista, even in early release (before all the service packs and bug fixes come out). You can expect future revisions of Windows 7 will be even slicker.

    2. Using two documents at the same time

    Windows 7 is great for editing to two Word documents, comparing two excel files, or having both your internet browser and email displayed on the screen simultaneously. In previous versions it was difficult to re-size two windows to fit nicely next to each other but with the Windows 7 “Aero Snap” function you can position two adjacent windows with a very simple click and drag of the mouse.

    If you find yourself using the Aero Snap function then you should know that this works best on widescreen flat panel monitors, so if you don’t have a widescreen now might be the right time to upgrade.

    3. Sharing files between multiple computers

    If your business runs a small group of computers then we think you’ll love the HomeGroups feature. HomeGroups is a really simple, new method of creating a network between multiple computers without the need for a server or a techie to set it up. Previous versions of Windows made this really difficult, but now you can share files, printers, media and more with only a few mouse clicks. No more USB memory keys or emails to share large files within your team!

    Windows 7 is not great for:

    1. Surfing the internet

    Windows 7 comes with Internet Explorer v8 (IE8) and if you ask any enthusiast they’ll tell you IE8 underperforms against the competition. It crashes unexpectedly, it’s not very fast and the features are lacking. People in the know use Firefox – a great web browser that is stable and feature rich. Thankfully you can download and install Firefox for free and it works fine on Windows 7.

    2. Playing media files (music/video)

    Listening to music and watching videos may not be a big deal in the work environment, but Microsoft Windows Media player continues to be difficult to use and unable to support all common media types. iTunes is still a far better alternative for playing media files. Also check out the open source VLC Player, which can play pretty much every type of file.

    The general consensus

    The techies are very positive about Windows 7, which is a huge contrast to the negative press Vista received prior to launch. For day-to-day business use, we think you will see a noticeable improvement in productivity because Windows 7 works faster and crashes less than both Vista and XP. If you use Firefox instead of IE8 and iTunes instead of Windows Media Player, then you’re guaranteed a better experience than you’ve ever had with your PC.

    Want to know more about upgrading to Windows 7? Read Seven “must knows” about upgrading to Windows 7.

    Joel Montgomery is founder of PowerBuy, a coupon and cashback service delivering discounts on technology product purchases for Australian businesses.

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