Ah, Microsoft beta software. Applications you love to hate… wait a minute. This stuff actually works!

So I’ve reconfigured my system yet again – well, about a month ago I did :). Figured that I couldn’t get around it any longer and loaded up Windows Vista B2, Office 2007 B2 (w/ OneNote, Visio, Project), and the included IE7 B2, and Media Player 11 that comes with Vista.

My first reaction – its slow, but that’s part of beta software. It may be feature complete, but the performance optimizations have yet to be done. With that said, Vista performance is much improved over previous beta releases and so is IE7 – it’s gotten much more stable.

Previously I had not been keeping up on the Office betas, so when I had the chance to “level set” my system I figured that I needed to go all the way. The new toolbars in Office 2007 are a nice surprise – I mean, I had read about them last year and was intrigued, but didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that (for me) they are a productivity enhancement. The tool I needed was within easy reach, right on the visible toolbar, and organized by function with easy to identify icons and labels.

Internet Explorer 7 is a pleasant experience as well, with the new tabbed interface and built-in RSS support. Usually I add the MSN Toolbar to IE6 for a (pseudo) tabbed interface, and Pluck for RSS reading. IE7 is polished enough that I am quite pleased with the tabs and the RSS support. I simply imported my OPML file containing my feeds into the browser and I was off and reading my feeds in seconds. The other neat feature is the search function – the fact that you can easily add different search tools with a simple click or two, and choose your favorite search engine very easily.

Honestly, I’ve not used Media Player 11 yet – I have a better speaker system on my main home system and simply play tunes on that PC instead. Sooner or later I’ll get around to trying it out and I’ll probably talk about it then.

One new item in Vista B2, is the new Windows Mobile Device Center, a replacement for ActiveSync. This tool is used to sync your Pocket PC or Smartphone with Outlook. It works very well, though its really not significantly different than ActiveSync, simply built into the OS. The process and interface is highly polished as is the entire Vista and Office 2007 experience. Added functionality to sync media and such with mobile audio, mobile video, and camera devices automatically just like PPCs have done for years.

Of course Vista Ultimate Edition includes the Tablet PC and Media Center features in addition to the base “Windows Pro” full Active Directory networking integration. I’ve only toyed around a little – my laptop is not a Tablet PC so those specific tools don’t add anything in my case. The Media Center features are intriguing and I’ll be investigating them more as time goes on. I’ve not had a MCE before, so I’ve got some exploring to do – neat stuff though!

Alright this post is getting quite long so I’ll cut it short – though I’ll admit to using the OneNote & Word combo to post a number of posts lately. The integration promises to be impressive, though it is a little rough in this beta. This post details what it takes to post from OneNote 2007.

Anyone else running all the major MS betas on their main system? What do you think?

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