Aero made its debut in Windows Vista with translucent windows, a newly designed taskbar and quite a bit of eye candy. Despite this, it never really added much functionality to the OS and to me it was more of a gimmick than a useful feature, although I did find myself using Aero Flip quite often. In Windows 7, however, it makes quite a few advancements with new features and improvements over old features.
I already wrote a little on some of the new Aero features in part one of the Windows 7 review, talking about features such as Aero Peek which is integrated into the new taskbar. In addition to Peek, there are two more key additions on the Aero scene named ‘Snap’ and ‘Shake’.
Aero Snap is a fantastic addition to Windows, and helps my workflow become as productive as possible when working. Using Snap, if you have a window open that isn’t currently maximised, you can easily maximise it by dragging it to the top of the screen. When it’s dragged, you’ll see a preview pane showing that the window will become maximised, and then if you un-click the mouse, the window will move to that position. Similarly, if you drag the bottom of the window to the taskbar, the window will then match the height of the screen without fully maximising.
As well as allowing windows to maximise, Snap also allows you to position applications to the left and right side of the screen by dragging the window to either side of your desktop. This is the feature I use most often, especially when I’m working on a document, as it’s easy to place a word processor to one side of the screen, and then place your internet browser next to it on the other side. This makes it easier for me to research various things before I write whatever it is I’m writing. When you remove a certain window from either side of the screen, it automatically returns to the size it was at before you sent it to the side of the screen. This feature is best used on larger screens, as when I do it on my 13.3” laptop, it’s sometimes difficult to keep things as organised as I’d like.
Another addition to Aero is Aero Shake. If you have multiple windows open at once, and you want to be able to concentrate on the one that you’re working on without seeing all the others, you can ‘shake’ the window by dragging the window frantically around the screen for a second or two. When you do this, all other open windows will disappear, leaving you with just the window you want to be visible and the desktop background behind it. When you’re done and want all the other windows back, just shake the window again and they’ll all come back the way they were before you got rid of them. When you shake windows away they’re just minimised to the taskbar, so if you want them back you can just open them like you would any other window.
In addition to these newer features, Aero Flip is still present in the OS. If you press alt+tab, you’re presented with a grid of all the current open applications. When you have a window selected, you’ll get a peek at what’s going on in that window, and if you let go of alt+tab, you’re sent to that window. This was also available in Windows XP, but you just saw the icons of open windows and had to go into the application to see what was going on. Flip 3D remains the same as it was in Windows Vista. Pressing the windows key + tab gives you a 3D view of all your windows, and you can flick through them by either using the arrow keys or the scroll wheel on your mouse. Aero Flip is one of the features I enjoyed in Windows Vista, and I’m glad to see that it hasn’t been lost in the transition to Windows 7.
Overall, I think the improvements to Aero in Windows 7 are a good step forward for Microsoft. Not only does it improve on the eye candy introduced in Windows Vista, but it helps you to be as productive as possible when working with various documents and using various sources.