Be ready for new and improved applets in Windows 7

Three of the four standard Windows applets have been endowed with some new features and updated user interface components in the Windows 7 Beta. Greg Shultz shows you what's new in these applets.

Back in March 2006, while evaluating the Microsoft Windows Vista February CTP (Community Technology Preview), build 5380, I wrote an article titled "Vista's Recycled Applets Should Have Been Polished," in which I admonished Microsoft for not putting any effort into improving or adding new features to the standard Windows applets: Notepad, WordPad, Paint, and Calculator.

While those applets never changed between the Windows Vista CTP and the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) versions, I was really happy to find that in the Beta 2 version of Windows 7, three of the four standard Windows applets have indeed been endowed with some new features and updated user-interface components.

In this issue of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll show you what's new in these applets.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a Beta version and that the look and features of Windows 7 that I will discuss here may very well change between now and the time the operating system is actually released.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.


As you know, Notepad has been part of the Windows operating system forever, and even though the version in Windows 7 is essentially the same as it was in Windows 3.0, it still does the job that it was designed for -- edit text. Even so, after 19 years of service, this applet, shown in Figure A, could have been given a few new features in Windows 7. I still think that support for multiple windows or the ability to add line numbers would have been nice additions, but, at least in the current beta version, Notepad has not been given any new features.

Figure A

Notepad should have been granted some new features.


WordPad was introduced in Windows 95 and has remained basically unchanged in every version of the operating system between then and Windows Vista. Well, I'm glad to report that after 14 years, WordPad has finally been awarded that same Ribbon-based user-interface system as its older brother, Word 2007, as shown in Figure B, including the WordPad menu.

Figure B

The Ribbon-based user interface has been bestowed upon WordPad.
It has also been sprinkled here and there with additional word processing features that were missing in previous versions. For example, you now have the capability to justify text, use various styles of bullet points, insert pictures, use superscript and subscript, set the zoom level, and even open and save files in the OOXML (Office Open XML) and ODF (OpenDocument format) formats, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You'll can find the new file formats on the Save As menu.


While Vista's Paint applet did indeed get a single new feature after I wrote my 2006 article, the Crop command, the rest of the features were basically identical to the Windows 98 version. Windows 7's Paint has a bunch of new features, such as a host of new shapes, more intricate brushes, and a nice ruler, as well as the new Ribbon-based user-interface system, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Paint has a host of new shapes and many new brushes as well as the Ribbon-based user-interface system.


The Calculator in Windows 7 has finally matured. The improvements in this version are long overdue. For example the Mode menu allows you to switch between the Standard, Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics modes, as shown in Figure E. You'll find a History feature that will display a history of your calculations and allow you to copy and paste, as well as edit, the history. And best of all, there are a host of worksheets that allow you to quickly and easily perform common calculations, such as unit conversion, date calculations, and gas mileage, as shown in Figure F, just to name a few.

Figure E

The Calculator features Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics modes.

Figure F

This is the Gas Mileage worksheet on the Standard mode.

What's your take?

Are you ready for some new features in the standard Windows applets? How would you rate the changes that I've mentioned in this post? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums to let us hear from you.

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By Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.