When you use Windows 7, you may notice the lack of included applications compared to previous versions of Windows. You won’t find a messenger application or a movie maker without downloading them from Microsoft, but don’t worry! You still have Paint, Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center, the three applications that this article concentrates on. You may question why Paint is included in the list, as we’ve had it in every version of Windows since 1.0 in 1985, but it’s undergone quite a facelift that might get your attention…
The first thing you’ll notice when you open Paint in Windows 7 is the fact that it’s equipped with an office-like ribbon interface. Before now, I thought of the ribbon as that huge office logo in the top left hand corner of your window, but the ribbon is actually designed like the ribbon in the upcoming Office 2010, with a very subtle button in the top left of your window, that presents you with a menu of options. You can send your picture in an e-mail (not a feature I’d use very often considering my talent, or lack of, as an artist) or set whatever you’re working on as your desktop background.
Cropping, resizing and rotating tools are all readily available on the ribbon, and you also have a host of brushes to choose from when doodling in your free time… In addition to this, there are also some gimmicky shapes to choose from, including a love heart and a lightning strike on top of the usual arrows and speech bubbles. So MS Paint is still a pointless application, but what I like about it is the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously. Microsoft know that it’s not going to be used for serious artwork, and have updated it in quite a nice way, adding a few more tools for procrastination along the way.
Windows Media Player
Another version of Windows means another version of Windows Media Player. My first interaction with it was playing a video clip I downloaded from the internet. Like QuickTime X, it has a very minimalist feel to it with video controls fading in when you roll your mouse over the window, and disappearing again when you move your mouse away. When the window isn’t maximised it looks good, but the complete lack of controls look quite strange in full screen mode, and there’s no title on the window which also looks strange to me, but that’s probably down to personal taste.
You’ll also find a picture viewer, which shows all the images in your personal ‘Pictures’ folder. By default, they’re displayed in a grid format, and to enlarge a picture, you can double click on it. Similar to when you’re watching video, the control bar appears and disappears depending on where your mouse is, and a slideshow of your pictures appear.
When viewing your music collection, you can view either by artist, album or genre. Again by default, your albums are displayed in a grid. Like previous versions, as you view an album, all the songs are displayed in a list an you can choose what you want to play.
To me, Windows Media player feels incomplete, although there are some quite nice features. You can play songs from your iTunes library (DRM songs are a no go, but that’s expected right?) and you can control it from your taskbar without having to go into the media player itself. Personally, I’d rather stick with iTunes than use Windows Media Player as the interface feels more polished and easy to use than WMP.
Windows Media Center
I’ve been using Windows Media Center ever since it made its introduction on Windows XP Media Center Edition, and I always enjoyed using it to play my music and watch movies on the big screen. At first glance, not much has changed – the home screen has a similar feel to that of Vista’s Media Center, where you can browse through all your photos, videos, music and watch TV. A great feature of the Media Center is menu navigation whilst you’re watching a video. Rather than show the menu and continue to play the video in a small window by the side of it, the menu appears over the video, which continues to play in full screen. Not only does it look good, but it allows you to carry on watching your movie while you’re rooting around the menu.
When you’re looking through your music, all of your albums are displayed in a grid view across the screen, so you can easily see your albums and pick out the one you want. If you have a lot of music and it takes too long to go through the grid, you can also search for the track you want. When you’re playing an album or a song, the album art appears by the song information, and a grid of all the other albums in your library appear behind it faded out. The album art goes from one side of the screen to the other, fading out the menus until you roll your mouse back into the window to view the menus again, which is also a nice effect.
The new additions to Windows Media Center in Windows 7 make it well worth checking out and a great addition to the media capabilities of Windows. Unfortunately, I don’t have a TV tuner on my computer set up yet, but when I do, you can expect a full review of its capabilities!