It has now been since January 7th, 2009 that I have been running Windows7 (build 7000), mostly on and off, as a dual boot testing option on my Desktop. I chose to install the 64 bit version since this seems to be the direction for most applications and the option I enjoyed using most on Windows Vista. The install was simple and I opted to install it with visibility to the both hard drives from either operating system for maximum access. I went through the usual tasks of installing all my critical applications to work on the day to day, but then dove into installing all my SolidWorks related applications one by one. On the beta build of 7000, SolidWorks appeared to function fine on new documents but would crash immediately when I chose to open anything existing. Overall the program seemed stable except for that major issue and the only other applications that gave me trouble were Google Chrome (which had a workaround) and AdobeReader. Since I knew this was a beta and there are usually a few more builds to come, I just chose to spend most of my time using the operating system and figuring what exactly changed that would benefit me.
The task bar, by far, is a HUGE improvement and is great for those of us that run a lot of concurrent applications, bringing fantastic visibility and navigation options to the user. Windows7 also took the quick launch bar and merged it with the rest of the applications running on the system, making it function much like the Dock on the Mac. This change allows you to "pin" a launched application to the task bar for quick launch in the future. One of my favorite features of the new task bar is for applications that keep a recent document list like SolidWorks. These applications you can right click on in the task bar and see the recent list, selecting the document and launching the app! Overall, most of obvious changes are final touches that I think many of us believe Vista should have had from day 1.
May 5th rolled around and with it launched a release candidate (RC Build 7100) which, again, installed without a hitch, of course, after uninstalling Windows7 beta. There were some very minor changes to some of the Task Bar defaults but overall seemed to be the same as the beta. The big difference was with compatibility. Upon install of my standard daily apps, (MS Office, Chrome, FireFox, Skype, Twhirl, Yammer and Evernote) all seemed to install and function as expected. I then proceeded to install my SolidWorks products and I was also surprised to find out that all the features of SolidWorks Premium worked! SolidWorks, Workgroup PDM, Simulation, CircuitWorks and even 3DVia Composer installed and functioned normally (without RealView). I have installed many of the SolidWorks LABS tools like Tagger, Presentation Studio and Treehouse, all of which function normally.
Obviously we cannot expect these products to work perfectly in an operating system that has not launched yet, but it does give us some hope that the transition to Windows7 will be much less painful. Windows7 is very pretty looking, but don't let that fool you into thinking it is just "flair" and no substance. I use it now daily on my desktop machine and find all sorts of little features that make me not what to go back to Vista! If you have the opportunity to install it in a test environment and try it out, the release candidate is good till June 1, 2010 and is Windows7 Ultimate.