The first seven things you'll try in Windows 7

By now you probably know Microsoft's new operating system is available — be it preinstalled on new computers or sold by itself to install on an existing PC — and you've likely heard it's much faster and easier to use than Windows Vista.

Click here if you still need a refresher on why Windows 7 will rock your digital world, but we thought we'd also share a few of those "aha!" moments with you — the first seven things you'll want to test-drive after booting up Windows 7 for the first time.

Whether you're planning to pick up Windows 7 or already own it, be sure to read, save, print or email the following list of seven must-try features.

For common tasks
One of my favourite new features is the smarter taskbar, which lies along the bottom of your screen. With Windows 7, you can "pin" large icons to the taskbar for a one-click launch of your favourite applications or files. To do this, simply right mouse-click on a file or program icon and one of your options will be to Pin to Taskbar. Run your mouse over these taskbar icons and you'll see a live preview of what's inside as a thumbnail image — and even multiple "tabbed" websites open in your browser.

* Video: Microsoft CEO unveils new operating system

It's a snap
You've got a widescreen laptop or computer monitor, so why aren't you taking advantage of this added real estate? Windows 7 makes it easy to do just that by letting you view multiple files or applications at the same time. Called Snap, simply open a couple of programs — such as Paint and Internet Explorer 8 — and then hold down the Windows key (next to Alt) and use the right or left arrow keys to snap them beside each other. Cool, huh? Also try dragging and dropping content from one to the other (such as a website photo into Paint or highlighted text in Word).

Get outta my way
If you're like most Canadians, you keep multiple programs open at the same time, such as a web browser, Word document, Windows Media Player, calculator, email, sticky notes, and so forth. If your screen gets too cluttered in Windows 7, however, simply grab hold of the program you want to see clearly — by clicking and holding on the top bar of the window — and give your mouse a shake left and right. This will automatically minimize everything else. Do it again and it brings back all the apps that were minimized.

More on Windows 7:

More on Windows 7:

Seven reasons why Windows 7 is better
Windows 7 more popular than Harry Potter
What's new in Windows 7
Better device management
True multimedia platform
Blog: How to protect yourself online

Stream dream
You're relaxing in front of your HDTV and your feet are up on the coffee table — so why shouldn't you be able to access all those videos, songs and photos on your PC in another room? Windows 7 has built-in support for DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) devices such as new TVs, mobile phones, cameras and some video game consoles. To enable your PC-based media for streaming, simply right mouse-click over a file (such as camcorder footage) and choose Share. Keep in mind you also need a wireless network.

Search from your perch
While Windows Vista made searching for a program easier — by simply clicking the Start button (in the lower left-hand corner of your screen) — it basically stopped there. What if you were trying to find a specific document, song, photo, bookmark or control panel setting? Windows 7's revised search bar, in the same place as before, is powerful and fast, and shows results segregated into various categories. You can also launch apps, such as a calculator or photo editor, right from here, too.

Home sweet home
In order to set up PC-to-PC file sharing in Windows XP or Vista you pretty much needed a degree in computer engineering. Not so in Windows 7. If you want to access files between computers in the home (and even a printer connected to another PC) you can easily enable this in the HomeGroup option. Now you can stream music or videos from one Windows 7 PC to another as if they were on your local hard drive, and you can access documents and photos stored elsewhere as if they were in front of you.

Lock it up
You probably carry around a USB thumbdrive, which is a great way to back-up important files and easily transport them between PCs, but what happens if that small device is lost or stolen? The "Ultimate" version of Windows 7 (upgrade or complete install) includes "BitLocker" protection that can encrypt files or folders — preventing anyone from accessing them unless they know the password — and you can now use this program for USB thumbdrives, too, with "BitLocker To Go." Simply right-click on a drive letter (such as F:) in Windows Explorer to enable BitLocker protection.