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Windows 7 arrives on the scene three short years after Vista, shoring up its predecessor's inadequacies and perhaps offering a little bit more to chew on. We've been playing with the OS ever since the beta, along through the release candidate, and now at last have the final, "release to manufacturing" (RTM) edition in our grubby paws. Does it live up to its understandable hype and the implicit expectations of a major Microsoft release? Let's proceed on a magical journey to discover the truth for ourselves. It's the most base of operating system functions. Install, turn on, turn off. But first impressions matter, and Microsoft made sure to give Windows 7 a nice sheen when it came to these things. You can read through our full installation guide for an in-depth look at the pitfalls and triumphs of Windows 7 in this department, but in short: it's fast and lightweight, but the real performance gains can be found on netbooks and with clean installs. Otherwise there's really nothing to put Vista to shame -- though the amazing breath of fresh air a clean install provides should really set cruftware-happy vendors to a bit of soul searching. Everybody who's used a modern operating system for more than five minutes has been met with the hassle of juggling too many windows, and Aero Peek seeks to alleviate some of that. Available with any machine capable of "fancy mode" translucent window graphics, Aero Peek lets you hover over a "show desktop" field in the right of the task bar and show the outlines of every window currently open -- which usually amounts to chaos. Microsoft got a lot right with its new UI tweaks, but it certainly could've taken things a few logical steps further. For instance, it's odd that there's no built-in support of multifinger trackpad gestures -- why is this something that third party vendors have to figure out all by themselves? We understand that the hardware isn't universal, but we'd like to see Microsoft driving the adoption of such functionality by building clear, reliable support for it into the OS. Two finger scroll in particular: it's the best thing to happen to trackpads since tap-to-click, and we think everybody should've figured that out by now. On the multitouch front, Windows 7's support for multitouch display interaction is laudable but hardly sufficient. Microsoft itself has poured plenty of R&D into finger-friendly interfaces, and we would hope that they'd be building some of that innovation into the OS by now -- the release of the Surface-inspired Microsoft Touch Pack is a nice start, but doesn't go far enough. We shudder to imagine the haphazard implementations of smartphone-style multitouch innovations we're undoubtedly going to be seeing from OEMs in the coming years.
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