By Adrian Booth

Like many people who regularly visit the articles of Fresh Business Thinking, I run a small business. It is in fact very small. I am a one man band, balancing PR and marketing consultancy with writing presentations, scripts and articles. So, also like many Fresh Business Thinking regulars, I spend a huge amount of my working day on a PC or laptop in programs like Word, or online researching and making connections.

So as someone that depends on my IT to function in business, I’m appreciating some of the cool new features of Windows 7. Here in no particular order are seven features which I think make a difference.

1. What a calculator!

I’m impressed with what MS - (Microsoft) has done with the W7 calculator. It looks a lot like the Vista version, but you get a lot of new features. Converting units of weight, temperature or distance for instance, is all now very simple. There are also all sorts of options for making statistical, scientific or programming calculations too, so there’s something for everyone. It even offers the option of calculating how many days there are between different dates....very handy for working out exactly how long it is until your next holiday! All you need to do is click the Windows button at the bottom left, type in calculator, and when you have brought it up you can change the functionality in the “view” option.

2. Presentation help with the Display Projection and Windows Mobility Centre

For those of us who need to make a lot of presentations, there’s a tool on Windows 7 that makes it easy to display your computer’s desktop on a projector. Just pressing the Windows logo key plus P launches a pop-up box which gives you control over your computer’s display.

The first default setting displays the computer screen only, and the second duplicates the display on your screen to the projector. The third setting extends the desktop across both the computer screen and the projector, and the fourth display gives you the option of having only the projector and turns off your computer screen.

Also handy for hard working presenters is the Windows Mobility Centre, achieved by pressing the Windows logo key plus X, which enables you to turn on presentation mode. Among other helpful actions, this disables your screensaver, and changes your wallpaper to a neutral one.

3. A picture says a thousand words...

When you want to share an idea or ask a question, a picture is a great way to illustrate what you’re talking about. The Snipping Tool captures a screen shot of your desktop, like a paragraph in a document, a picture you’re editing, or a section of a webpage. Then you can annotate, save, or e-mail the image using buttons right in the Snipping Tool window.

4. That little Action Centre flag

The Windows 7 Action Centre is a convenient location for finding tools to deal with security and system issues. And it is easy to find, a little flag icon sits in your system tray on the bottom right of your screen.

The Windonws Action Centre works with your chosen security package and literally flags any problem your device is experiencing by showing a red X if there is an issue you need to address.

You can also look at recent messages about your computer’s status and find solutions to any problems, with the troubleshooting capability. You’ll find system maintenance and recovery tools here, including the option to restore your system to an earlier time when everything was still running hunky dory.

5. Getting the best out of the monitor with text tuning and colour calibration

I reckon I spend enough time in front of a monitor, so getting the best out of it to ensure it is right for my eyes makes great sense. Now I’ve found we can do just that with a nifty tool called the ClearType Text Tuner.

You’ll find it in the Control Panel or by typing cttune.exe from the command line, at the bottom of the screen when you click on the colourful Windows icon on the bottom left of your screen.

When it is running, you are asked to choose from a range of boxes which all display type slightly differently. Selecting the boxes which look clearest to you enables W7 to customise the display for your personal use.

Windows 7 offers a colour calibration tool too, again reached from either the Control Panel or from the command line, this time by typing dccw.exe. So you can easily adjust the brightness, contrast, and colour settings on your monitor or monitors to achieve the best display.

6. Getting techie help faster with the Problem Steps Recorder

I’m all for time saving improvements. When things go wrong for me, I’m usually chasing an important deadline of course. We all experience these maddening times when either our computer hardware or software doesn’t seem to be working as we expect and production comes to a halt. Although things can go wrong with the hardware etc, simple user error is the common cause; some small piece of understanding missing from our personal IT armoury. Fortunately, most of us have a techie friends or contractors we rely on when things go wrong. The only problem is, describing exactly what it is we are doing to arrive at the point of frustration can be a challenge.

With Windows 7 this process just got easier. All we need to do is type PSR, which stands for Problem Steps Recorder, into the command line and press Enter, then select Start Record. We then go through whatever it was that was getting us into difficulty, and every step is recorded apparently in a zipped MHTML file, which can be emailed to our long-suffering techie , who will usually understand exactly what’s going on, and advise accordingly. Hopefully they’ll refrain from calling you a plonker, but using this approach can save a lot of time tracking down exactly what went wrong.

7. Comparing documents – the easy way

I often used to waste time flipping back and forth between two documents or spreadsheets and end up thoroughly confusing myself in the process! Snap is a quick new way to read, organise and compare windows, simply by dragging them to the edges of your screen. Depending on which edge you choose—top or bottom, left or right—the window will expand vertically, fill the screen, or you can even position windows side by side to make comparing documents a doddle.

These are just a few of the new features of Windows 7. To find out more read: Windows 7 - Improve Performance And Productivity.

Watch the video below featuring Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, explaining how Office 365 addresses the challenges that small businesses face.


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