Monthly Archives: October 2008

Tidbits about the new “superbar” taskbar

Ever since the Windows 7 demo with Steven Sinofsky and Julie-Larson Green at PDC 2008 where they showed off the new “superbar” taskbar, there’s been a lot of questions about how the new taskbar will work, customized or tweaked.

Unfortunately because the pre-beta build did not contain the new taskbar, it’s been hard to answer those questions. Fortunately I met up with Chaitanya Sareen today who took me through a better tour of the new taskbar on one of the demo machines with the new build. Here’s a few facts about the new taskbar.

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If you like text in your taskbar, labels can be enabled for taskbar items in the “taskbar properties” panel. Text however will only appear for active applications.

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Improvements to fonts in Windows 7

Besides Windows Classic, another popular question when a new version of Windows is announced is whether or not the “Add Fonts” dialog is there. In fact this is such a quirk it’s the first and one of the top problems on Aero Taskforce. Well, I’m both glad and proud to say that the “Add Fonts” dialog is no longer there. In addition, there are also a number of font management improvements in Windows 7 worth mentioning.

As you see from above, the fonts folder now actually previews font live from the thumbnails. Each font’s thumbnail has 3 characters of it’s alphabet displayed on the icon. This is a great way to quickly glance through the styles of fonts available without resorting to furiously scrolling through Photoshop.

Fonts in a combined set will also no longer take up five different slots, instead, appearing as one font (for example Calibri) which you can double click to dive into.

Windows 7 is also intelligent about toggling off and on fonts when required. By “hiding” fonts, they are still technically installed in your OS but not enabled to applications, this reduces the number of fonts to scroll through and also memory. First, Windows 7 will automatically hide fonts based on regional settings, but it will also allow you to show and hide them manually.

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There’s also a new font in the pre-beta build of Windows 7. It’s called Gabriola and it’s a beautiful script font with support for a wide variety of advanced OpenType functionalities.

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Technologically, with the introduction of DirectWrite there is also better support for text rendering in terms of non-pixel-bound fonts and YDirection antialiasing.

Windows 7 and light sensors: let there be light

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Once in a while, we all leave our lairs to use the laptop in alien environments commonly known as the “outdoors”. One of the forces of evil we face outdoors is of course the sun who wrecks havoc on our fragile LCD displays.

One of the new subsystems Windows 7 adds are sensors, creatively called “Windows Sensors”. Through this, Windows 7 will add native support for light sensors where it can help optimize the user experience based on the amount of ambient light in both the operating system and third-party applications.

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Microsoft Boku at PDC 2008

For everyone who hasn’t seen Boku before, this is a Microsoft Research developed game for the XBOX 360 (and presumably PC too) aimed at kids to teach them about programming via a entertaining and casual manner.

The last time this was shown was at TechFest in 2007 where it was still in pre-beta. Today at the last keynote of PDC 2008, Boku was shown again in a more advanced state. It looks several folds better and seemed to be a lot of fun. Check out this gallery of screenshots I took.