In my recent blog posting "Windows 7 – Just Do It!,” I gave a brief overview of the reasons you should move forward with upgrading your machines to Windows 7. In this article I will dive into a few more details for why you should move forward sooner rather than later. We upgraded several months ago and our experience has been nothing but positive. A handful of our Boomer Technology Circle members have already made the move as well with some being leading edge enough to upgrade before tax season. The reports from those firms have also been positive.
As I said in my blog posting, think of Windows 7 as Microsoft’s prime-time release after a long (and somewhat painful) beta that was known as Vista. This new operating system is what Vista was supposed to be and is based on the same foundation. As such, the primary software providers have had quite a bit of time to make their offerings compatible with Windows 7. Both CCH and Thomson Reuters have certified all their applications as compliant. You can check the compatibility of software applications at the Windows 7 Compatibility Center.
There are a number of new features in Windows 7. In fact, there are too many for me to cover them all so I will cover the most beneficial items in terms of increased productivity.
- Libraries – These are virtual folders that allow you to logically group and view content. In other words, you file it once and can retrieve documents in multiple views using filters. Along with the libraries, the windows explorer interface was revised to make it more user-friendly.
- Taskbar with Aero – The new task bar with Aero preview gives Windows 7 much more of a Mac look and feel. The real benefit of this new feature is the ability to hover over running applications for a quick preview. By cutting out mouse and keyboard clicks, the potential time savings is huge.
- Aero Peek, Snap & Shake – These three features are also all about increasing efficiency by reducing the amount of time end users spend switching between applications. The peek feature allows you to see your desktop without minimizing all open windows by hovering over the Show Desktop button. This makes all open windows on the desktop temporarily transparent. The snap feature is an easy way to split the screen by dragging a window to the side of your monitor causing it to resize to half the width of your monitor. If you do this with two applications you will have a split screen. Shake allows you to drag a window back and forth (shake it) to minimize all windows but the one you are working on. This is an easy way to quickly clean up the number of open windows on your desktop.
- Jump Lists – These were designed to provide quick access to documents and tasks associated with applications. Jump Lists appear by right clicking on applications in the task bar or on the start menu.
- Pinning – For added time savings, users can pin regularly used applications to the task bar or start menu. This gives you quick access to your most commonly used applications.
- Snipping Tool – You no longer need a 3rd party tool like SnagIt to grab simple screen shots. Simply launch the snipping tool and select the area of your screen you want to copy. For those that never had a 3rd party tool, this is a major efficiency gain over pressing Print Screen and pasting the image into an image editing tool to crop and resize.
- Location Aware Printing – Windows 7 can detect if you are at home or in the office and automatically route print jobs to the correct printer.
- Problem Steps Recorder – This feature is a major improvement for end user support. When you encounter a problem with an application, simply launch the problem steps recorder to capture all the steps taken to cause the error. This eliminates lengthy emails or phone conversations to describe the problem. Just email the recorded file to support and they can see what you did to cause the error.
Benefits for CPA Firms
So what are the benefits you will recognize by upgrading? It really comes down to time savings and increased efficiencies in multitasking. As you probably noticed, most of the new features I outlined above are about making the end user more efficient in completing their daily tasks. As I mentioned in the blog, Windows 7 also offers tremendous time savings in terms of speed and performance. Boot time is drastically reduced because the OS starts and stops services in parallel. In other words, it doesn’t have to wait for one service to start or stop before moving on to the next. This leads to both faster startup and shut down. And, Windows 7 really trimmed down the number of services that must be running. It is also a much thinner OS leaving a 5GB average footprint as opposed to Vista’s 11GB average.
Additionally, Windows 7 is the first Microsoft OS in a long time where you can get away with upgrading existing machines. You don’t necessarily need to wait to replace your hardware to make the leap. This can extend the lives of your existing desktops and laptops. We were able to extend most of our machines by upgrading to Windows 7 and moving to solid state drives.
Just Do It!
If I haven’t sold you by now, let me offer up a couple more reasons you should go ahead and make the move to Windows 7. First, no matter how great you think Windows XP is, you can’t stay on it forever. General availability of XP has already been phased out as well as mainstream support. Extended support runs until 2014 but I would highly advise against using that as your target upgrade date. Second, the other software vendors are going to begin phasing out XP support and developing for the future. This means that new applications and new features for existing applications will be developed to take advantage of Windows 7. As with anything in technology, it is less costly in the long-run to stay current rather than trying to pay catch-up once you’ve fallen behind. So go ahead and make the leap. I think you will be happy you did.