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August 20th, 2009

Windows 7 Under Construction

Here is the second group of five new Windows 7 features that will be quite helpful to those of you planning and preparing presentations, and might even bail you out during one if certain problems arise. Read Part 1 here.

(6) Problem Steps Recorder

Not everyone’s computer is in tip-top technical shape, and if they bring those problems along with them to a presentation, they may regret it. If you a rent a computer from CRE, of course, you will have a professionally prepped PC with all its hardware and software in first-rate working order.

If you are having problems you can’t personally resolve, you can now use the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR). It is an advanced form of screen-capture software that will record all mouse clicks, keystrokes, etc., and save the event sequence in an MHTML page that your friendly tech advisor can open in a browser. PSR will document all the steps together with screenshots. Start the PSR by entering “psr.exe” at the command line prompt or in the Start menu Search box.

(7) ISO burner

Windows users have asked for an ISO burner for years. An ISO file, or disc image, is a sort of archive file that is widely used for distributing software, but you can make disc images of folders, directories, files, etc. Until Windows 7, you had to install some third-party application to do this.

Now it’s dead simple. If you have an .ISO file (or an image that has the .IMG extension) on your hard drive, whether by creating it or downloading it, you can now just double-click and the Burn Disc Image box will open in Windows 7. If you work for a software developer and run out of replicated discs at a trade show or convention, having some blank CDs and DVDs in your briefcase will now save the day.

(8) Biometric device management

Another wish come true for Windows wonks, the Windows Biometric Framework gives developers all they need to integrate fingerprint-sensing security into their applications. Several fingerprint sensor hardware makers, including UPEK and AuthenTec, helped Microsoft develop the Framework. You change various biometric settings and manage your devices with a Control Panel applet. With this additional level of security, no one is going to do a virtual break-in if you leave your computer in the meeting room hooked up to the projector.

(9) Credential Manager

Although similar in several ways to Vista’s password management feature in its User Accounts applet, Windows 7’s Credential Manager is much more potent. You can manage your credentials (passwords, certificates) for all the computers that you login to, for all your e-mail accounts, web sites, web memberships and so on. This can come in very handy if you are running an LCD touchscreen interface for trade show or convention attendees and are taking them to protected web locations for software demos or other presentations.

The Credential Manager stores the passwords and certificates in a single, central location by default (the Windows Vault) and can also back up and restore the Vault. You should back up to a removable or external drive (flash memory, hard drive) so you can easily restore the Vault after a hardware or software crash.

(10) A better backup utility

Previous iterations of Windows had backup utilities, but it has been dramatically improved for Windows 7. Vista’s backup utility scored well in user friendliness but not in flexibility, but Windows 7 gives you additional control over what you are backing up. If you don’t know why you should be doing backups, just consider what you would do if your presentation computer crashed in the middle of your PowerPoint masterpiece.

If you had planned ahead and rented a laptop from CRE, you could back up everything from that presentation to your entire hard drive, to another local hard disk, removable storage, a DVD, a different computer on your network or even a web location (this may require the aforementioned credentials). Just open the Backup And Restore tool from Control Panel (or type “Backup” in the Start menu’s Search box). You can back up your files to a local hard disk, a removable disk, a DVD, or another computer on the network. You can back up libraries or individual folders, as you need, and also exclude particular folders from an otherwise global backup.

Windows 7, of course, is the most advanced and refined operating system from Microsoft thus far—even if it is still uncertain which cool logo the Redmond team with go with. Windows 7 has added a number of features of particular value to professionals who plan, manage and give presentations. Whether you need to run an office meeting or make a trade show appearance, the new tools can help secure your data, share it with others or make protected locations available to users of standalone interactive presentations on a touchscreen monitor.

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