Changing from XP to Win 7…

Yesterday I abandoned my long love affair with Windows XP and upgraded to Windows 7 which, frankly, sucks, being fragile and unstable, at least as far as Windows Explorer is concerned.

You must have seen those dorky ads MS used to run, with people claiming “I’m a PC!” and that they were personally responsible for elements of Win 7? Well, if they were responsible, it must have been on the days when they were let out of the asylum for a bit of fresh air.

Not to mention the ads which boasted how much Win 7 held your hand while you were using it because, quite obviously, MS thought you were a cretin.

Windows 7 is designed for people who either hate PCs, or have never seen one before in their lives, so don’t realise how shit it is. For this experienced user it’s purgatorial.

First problem came with installation. Computer claimed that the files were corrupted. A quick search on Google, for which I had to reconnect my old XP PC, revealed that this is an old, and well–known fault with Win 7. You’d think, then, that Microsoft would have fixed it, but no. They do provide a tool so that you can copy the ISO images to a USB drive, and install from that, which works perfectly but – and it’s an important point – how would their target market, newbies and the inept, know either of those things? And why should they have to?

And once installed, Win 7 is proving way too fragile. My new PC has a 2.8GHz processor and 6GB memory, so it’s no slouch, but ask it to multitask, and Windows Explorer crashes in flames. True, it repairs itself, but only after hanging for half an hour or more first, before flashing an “Oops, I’ve fucked up” message, and slinking off to pull itself together.

And if you connect an external HDD, as I did, ignore it if it tells you the files are corrupted and it offers to fix them for you. What WILL happen is that Windows Explorer will crash and burn, and you’ll be locked out of the external HDD until you reboot your PC. And no, I have no idea why!

But by far the most infuriating aspect of Win 7 is the fact that some genius decided to abandon the Quick Launch menu – I had a load of regularly-used apps in there, every-day ones in view, the rest hidden away out of sight. It took up very little space, was immensely useful, and now it’s gone. The alternative is to pin frequently-used apps to the Task Bar, which is an inelegant and space-consuming solution as you could wish for.

I’m also – god help me – finding my way around Word 2007, a more perverse piece of software I’ve yet to meet. All of the absolutely vital controls are hidden away in dark corners, with bugger all indication of where they’re hiding or, even, that there are dark corners to look in – who would suspect that clicking on the upper left logo reveals hundreds of settings? Well. OK. me, but only because |I already have it on my Netbook – come to it as a newbie, and you’re seriously screwed. And it’s not great at punctuation, even when you’ve found the settings that tinker with it. For example, it doesn’t recognise the ellipsis (three dots, usually with half a space between them (when typed in a word processor), like this …  except in doesn’t insert the spacing, as you can see – it just remains 3 periods in a row. And while I’m typing, the fucking insertion point keeps vanishing, leaving me typing nothing until I notice. Seriously, people, WTF?

It does seem, so far, anyway, that Word 2007 is capable of learning – it eventually stopped disappearing the insertion point, for example – so maybe there’s hope for it yet. One thing I really love, though, is its contextual spelling checks. I have a problem – linked to my ME I’m pretty sure – of typing entirely random words on occasion. Normally, I have to read stuff assiduously to correct crap like that, but contextual spelling checks flag most such errors, making life just that little bit more pleasant! It also snags our old friend the aberrant apostrophe that so often finds its way into the possessive “its”.

It did have an initial problem inserting a dot in every space. Just a formatting mark, it didn’t print, but I looked in vain for a section called Format or something similar, so I could turn it off. Then, having exhausted every logical possibility, I looked in the section called Display – to find it full of formatting stuff, with the space dot enabled by default, for reasons that elude me, as does the mind-set of some Redwood numpty who thinks Display is synonymous with Format!

As for the troublesome ellipsis, Word 2007 has now changed its mind and accepted that it’s valid punctuation – nothing I’ve done.

I’ve used several versions of Office over the years – 2000, XP, and 2003 – and the latter was by far the best, and most intuitive. As far as I can see, 2007 has reverted to the unintuitive clunkiness of earlier versions (the introduction to Outlook is straight from the Office 2000 playbook, offering various options instead of email – you can’t have them as well as email). And there should NOT be a learning curve as steep as the sodding Matterhorn, just to type a simple document! Though, to be fair, now I’m past that, I think I’ll get on with Word, especially as I now know where most of the functions I need are hidden. Not all of them, by any means, but it’s only been a couple of  hours, and I’m getting there.

However, I’ve had to make a formatted document which I’ve saved, containing all the settings I favour, as when I open Word I’m presented with a virgin page that I have to format all over again, which is so bloody stupid, and didn’t happen in Word 2003!

So, in conclusion, unlike Word 2007, I shall be very surprised if I ever get to like Win 7. In some respects it’s positively simple-minded, in others needlessly baffling** – though not as obscure as the Basic version on my Netbook! But why MS thought it necessary to cryptically rename functions – and it’s far worse in Basic – when long-term users, like me have their old names carved in stone in our memories, is beyond me. It’s OK for PC virgins, they don’t know any better. But I do, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to piss me off for a very long time!

**Just remembered I have a copy of Win 7 For Dummies!

One good point, though – it seems to be capable of learning that what I ask it to do really is what I want it to do. And when I say pin this app to the Task Bar, I don’t bloody well mean until I turn you off – I mean til hell freezes!

So I can tolerate it, but like it? Nope – never gonna happen.

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18 thoughts on “Changing from XP to Win 7…

  1. Eeeek. I’m on the verge of upgrading from Vista and Office 2003 and this has made me reconsider. Not that I’m a fan of Vista, I much prefer XP which I still have on my 5 year old netbook and I know it inside out, but my 3 year old laptop came with Vista and it’s taken 3 years for me to get to grips with it. And after 3 years I think I’ve finally managed to get on top of all the various upgrades, patches and fixes, although I’ve had to increase the memory in the laptop to cope.
    And I absolutely hate, loathe and detest the ribbon business instead of the menu tabs in Word 2007 which I had to use at work (before being forced into voluntary redundancy from my public sector job 2 years ago because of mental health problems, but that’s another story) – after 20 odd years of word processing, it made me feel like a complete beginner again, hunting round for a way of making the damn thing do what I wanted it to do, which I could do in 03 in a split second. In terms of work productivity, a transition to Win 7 and Office 07 would set me back for weeks until I figured it out.
    I think I’m happy being a Luddite for a bit longer. I might invest in a copy of Win 7 and Office 07 whilst I officially have student status as I can get a cheap copy of both through Software4Students (I’m doing ECDL despite having a degree in IT because I’ve been told that without ECDL I have no proof of my computer literacy!!!) but I’m not in any rush to upgrade – in fact I’m more likely to upgrade the hardware than the software. I’m seriously beginning to think about investing in an Android tablet for every day use, and it’s nice to think that I won’t be throwing any more cash at Microsoft if I do so.

    • Stay with Vista/Office 2003. Vista may not be great, but MS still support it (as far as I know, anyway). On the other hand, the closer Windows 8 gets, the cheaper 7 seems to get. Your best option might be to cram in all the memory your machine will support. Unless it’s already maxed out it’ll give it a good performance boost across the board.

      It probably took me maybe 6 hours in total to get to grips with Win 7 and Word 2007 – previous versions of both took just an hour or two. The biggest problem with both is that menu terms that MS has used for decades have been abandoned completely – you’re like a blind man in a car – you know how it should work, but can’t identify most of the controls!

      As for Microsoft, they did bring computers out of the realm of the geeks and, with the IBM clones, made them available to, and usable by, the masses, and affordable too (Apple please note!). And that’s worth whatever Bill Gates made out of it. After all, look how long it took Linux to emerge from geekdom and become (sort of) user-friendly. Had it not been for MS, we’d have all bankrupted ourselves buying Macs, which can’t be upgraded or repaired even now, given their obsession with sealed boxes, and the total lack of parts.

      • But people mange to use a light switch without knowing the internals of a powers station or drive a car without knowing the slightest bit about auto engineering, Yes, Gates brought computing to the masses but he also created an essentially unnecessary zillion dollar ‘industry’.

        What other domestic appliance demands such a knowledge of its internal workings from the hapless user? Some of us like to know how things work but most people just want to type a letter, keep basic accounts or browse the web?

        • Hapless? Why hapless? I’m quite happy to know how to repair my PC. OK, I don’t have the resources to replace a chip in a mobo, but I certainly know how to swap out the whole thing and rebuild. Just as I knew – before they computerised the buggers, and made them almost impossible to get at without specialist tools – how to take a car engine apart and rebuild it. Or a bike – there are people who should be ashamed of themselves because can’t even fettle their own pushbikes – something you can figure out pretty much by observation, as any kid could do 30-40 years ago.

          Going with your first point, I think people have an obligation to know how their world works, beyond which hole to put the oil in, in the car, and which ones the water and petrol go in – which is the extent of most people’s knowledge, I suspect. Let’s face it, many people use a light switch without knowing even how that works!

          When society goes tits up, those of us with the knowledge to get it – or parts of it at least – working again will be in a better place to deal with it. How many – to borrow an image from Steven King – know how to rewind generator rotors or stators, or have the nous to figure it out? Precious few, I’ll warrant, yet simple observation – comparing a dead genny with a working one, and making the dead one match the working one, is perfectly doable if there’s the will to learn and get dirty. Taking apart the dead one, of course, will provide the knowledge needed for reassembly.

          And if the nukes ever fall, PC owners are best placed to get up and running quickly after the EMP – as long as PC World hasn’t been nuked 😉 (Seriously, most of us have enough bits lying around to cobble something up.) Mac owners will be left with worthless junk.

          Less dramatically, if people simply knew enough to run an anti-limescale routine in their washing machines once a week, they’d save a fortune in replacement machines. But they don’t. There’s a massive market in installing appliances because some cretin passed a law which effectively said people are too stupid to be allowed to do it themselves – hell, I installed my first gas cooker when I was 12 – now they’re a bayonet fitting anyone can cope with, but they’re not allowed.

          That – see, I knew there was a point, of sorts, to this rant! – is where the Mac customer base is. Those who will stand gawping at the ruins, mystified, while the rest of us, armed with greater or lesser degrees of knowledge, and cobbled-together PCs** (as opposed to none – thank you Mr. Jobs), get stuck in to see what can be salvaged and made to work again. And hey, it won’t be Macs. And there will be a statue to Saint Bill the Ubergeek!

          **What d’you mean, where’s the power coming from? Don’t be picky!

          • Not you Ron, you’re one of the least hapless people I e-know 🙂

            Otherwise agreed! Our generation was one that could mend stuff whereas nowadays. Have gone beyond drying when I hear people talking about bike services. . I have do not do gas but I have wired and self-certified a new build house. Etc etc. So much used to be done, everyone had a skill-set that managed post day-t-day maintenance tasks.I have gone beyond being a grumpy old man sabot it, rather hang around with self-sufficient people and am not very polite to those who pay £££ for a task that they could do for themselves. It is not impossible to imagine the time in the not so distant future when oldies will be valued for their ability to light a fire. cook from basic ingredients, write letters, do sums and all those other skills which weren’t college taught but rather part of growing up.

            How are you and you confuser today?

  2. Wait until you try searching for a phrase or word in a file… especially if you are using pdf files. Dreadful – There IS a way around it apparently, but it’s long winded and requires a bit of know how. Xp was a million times better.

    • Tbh, Window’s search applet has always sucked, from day one (or, at least, from v3.1 which is where I came in), and XP followed the trend. I use a third party app called Everything, which is capable of searching even multiple HDDs more or less instantaneously

  3. Thanks for that, Ron. Last time I upgraded I insisted on sticking with good old XP rather than Vista, but I was thinking next time (soon) I would have to go for Windows 7. I have 7 on a net book, which is pretty poor, really. I hadn’t thought that the problems might be because of the operating system.

    As for Word 2007, I have been using that for a few years now and you do get used to it eventually. Although there are still many functions I haven’t found, hidden away in dark corners. I hate it when “they” move things around illogically, just for the sake of it. However, one very good thing is the zoom slide-bar down in the bottom right of the screen. You have to admit that’s progress and I miss it when using “old” Word at work.

    • Hi Pat,

      Other than finding a way to make Word 2007 retain the background colour, instead instead of having to set it for every new document, I’ve pretty much got it figured out (for normal use anyway) – now I’ve found where they hid all the old standard controls that are now optional!

      I’ve got Win 7 Basic on my Netbook, and it’s horrible, but Premium is very much better – many of the cryptically-renamed functions have reverted to something closer to what they were in previous versions. The absence of the Quick Launch menu is still annoying. Pinning icons to the Taskbar, and using the small icons setting, gives something very close to it, though, but there’s no hidden section so it’s quite limited.

      I’ve got a spare 32-bit copy of Premium – I might install that on the Netbook, and set it to use the Basic set of colour schemes – less memory-hungry than Premium’s see-through (and god, that’s annoying!), Aero theme.

      And whatever was causing the keyboard weirdness, with the vanishing insertion point, has stayed gone.

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