Smackdown: Windows 7 takes on Apple's Snow Leopard

Microsoft's new OS is the best Windows yet. Is that enough?

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As noted earlier, the revamped Show Desktop area at the right edge of the Taskbar is handy in full-screen mode, and Microsoft has added Jump Lists, which give you access to recently viewed documents from the Taskbar's application icon. (In Mac OS X, recently accessed items are displayed under the Apple Menu.) I prefer Microsoft's arrangement; it would be logical for Snow Leopard's Dock to show an application's recent items from within a Dock menu.

For launching applications, Snow Leopard offers a few options, and a couple of them can be customized to suit your needs. For instance, you can launch an application via Spotlight: All you need do is type the app's name and press enter. You can drag apps from the Application folder to the Dock, which allows for one-click application launching. Or you can drag folders to the Dock and then scroll through them for the file or app you want to launch. Manipulating applications via the Dock menu is an integral part of Mac OS X.

Which implementation is better? Since I don't like using hover to view anything -- in any OS, on the Web, anywhere -- I prefer Snow Leopard, where seeing a preview of open windows is an active decision, not something triggered accidentally.

Better Search

Let's be honest: Apple's Spotlight search tool is what Microsoft has wanted for Windows search. Spotlight can search quickly for file names and words within documents themselves, including contacts, e-mails, letters, pictures and System Preferences. It also acts as an application launcher and a built-in calculator, and it can look up words in Mac OS X's Dictionary and Thesaurus application.

Compared to earlier versions of Windows, Windows 7's Search now works better as an application launcher and for finding certain things. For instance, I didn't immediately realize there's no e-mail client in Windows 7, so I decided to run a search for "e-mail." One of the results was a link to the Microsoft Live Essentials site, which allowed me to download the app.

So, while Windows 7 offers up better and faster search results than its predecessors, it's still not Spotlight. The results aren't as comprehensive. For example, I needed to launch an application at log-in. I couldn't find this feature in the Accounts control panel, so I ran a search for "login application." Windows search revealed nothing; Spotlight picked up the appropriate System Preference and automatically opened that specific screen. While the improvements to Search will make Windows users happy, Snow Leopard still offers better search results and system integration.

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