My work system has taken a beating over the last 12 months and is due for is bi-annual reinstall of Windows. In the last 6 months I’ve given Gnome (on Ubuntu) and OSX a fair go for an everday operating system, however whilst their UIs are certainly easy to use - it’s the small things that catch you up and bring your productivity down to a grinding halt, and Windows 7 is no exception. So here’s my list of 5 productivity showstoppers I’ve found in Windows 7:

  • Quicklaunch - In Windows 7 Quicklaunch is gone, replaced by pinned items. These can be placed anywhere in the taskbar, but if you launch the application - it’s taskbar item replaces the original icon. This means that if you’ve placed your commonly used icons there to get at them quickly, they’re constantly moving around the taskbar, making this completely useless. You can try adding a folder based toolbar, but you have to put up with labels and the pinned items mess around with it quite badly.
  • Start Menu - Okay, let me start by saying that I’m a big advocate of the original start menu. I’m the kind of guy who will use his keyboard and type a sequence like START-P-P-ENTER to load PuTTy. I get that I’m not a normal person, and that the Start Menu has changed - in fact, being a keyboard type of guy, I don’t mind the new search approach - but PLEASE give me the option to use a classic Win2000 start menu.
  • Explorer Menus - You broke this one completely guys, whats with the sudden desire to break the Menus on top, toolbars underneat pattern? Why did you have to put the toolbars first, and why on earth can’t we change it back?!
  • Explorer Menus (again) - The dumbed down idiot menus that are in the wrong place aren’t the menus with the tools that we’re used to using. You can enable the old ones, but can’t get rid of the new ones either.
  • Explorer Menus (still) - What’s worst about the new explorer menus is that they’re inconsistantly used around the Windows UI. To show Small icons in some explorer windows, you use the mystical and confusing icon that turns into a size slider (an improvement nonetheless), in others there’s a dropdown menu (eg: Control Panel). What’s worse is that each of these remembers different display settings even if you’ve asked it not to.

Now, I know a lot of these issues were introduces in Vista - and I had hoped they would be fixed/improved for Windows 7, however it looks like they’re to stay and we’ll just have to like it or lump it (I’m running the RTM release of Windows 7).

I’m not opposed to the changes either, there are a lot of positive UI improvements in the product - but these are issues that are going to trip up a lot of users who have spent the last 15 years using a user interface that has been refined by user feedback, and all I want is to be able to use Windows productively without having to miss out because I’m running XP.