Get Windows 7's features on your Vista or XP PC

Why wait for Windows 7 - install its best features right now!

So, while Vista pointlessly tells you that it was sparked by '{9DF523B0-A6C0-4EA9-B5F1-F465C3AC8Bc}', a click on the Norton 'Details' link reveals that this stands for TimeDate.cpl. Clear information about the cause of an alert makes it much easier to have informed opinions about what you should do next. You also gain access to a 'Don't ask me again' checkbox. Can't see any reason why changing the time should be a security issue? Check this box and you won't be bothered by prompts about it ever again.

If you hate UAC so much that you can't even bear this, then there's a second option: turn off the prompts altogether. Launch 'REGEDIT' and go to 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SOFTWARE | Microsoft | Windows | CurrentVersion | Policies | System'. Double-click 'ConsentPromptBehaviorAdmin' in the right-hand pane, set its value to 0 (2 restores the default setting) and click 'OK'. UAC continues to run, so you'll still enjoy UAC-related benefits such as Internet Explorer's Protected Mode, but you won't see a single prompt window.

Bundled applets

Most of the bundled applets in versions of Windows are quite frankly rubbish – especially when compared to the tools available in other operating systems. Fortunately, Windows 7 is about to change all that.

The rapidly ageing Paint is to be brought up-to-date with a Microsoft Office ribbon-style interface, and is rumoured to include brush selection, quick shapes and symbols, and improved colour control. Great news, but it's unlikely to better Paint.net, so we'd recommend that you use that instead.

The changes in Wordpad aren't likely to be quite so dramatic as those to Paint, although it too will receive a facelift. It's also going to be easier to embed pictures or edit them on the page. These are all welcome gains, but if you want a simple word processor that loads quickly right now then try AbiWord. It uses minimal system resources and isn't a cut-down version of something else, so it provides all the features you're likely to need.

Perhaps the Windows 7 applet due to change the most is the Calculator. The current version has only two modes – 'impossibly basic' and 'maths student' – but the Windows 7 Calculator will include a host of more genuinely useful spreadsheet-like functions. With these you should be able to solve queries such as the number of days between two dates, or how a mortgage repayment changes with different deposits.

Duplicating this new calculator on your XP or Vista desktop is tricky, so we'd suggest using a website instead. Calculate For Free has links to hundreds of great examples. Have a look at www.calculateforfree.com.

One applet that must surely be updated is the Windows Vista back-up tool, because currently it can't be used to specify particular folders to back up.

In the meantime, AceBackup or Cobian Backup should cater adequately enough for your backup needs.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First published in PC Plus, Issue 277

Now read Everything you need to know about Windows 7

Sign up for the free weekly TechRadar newsletter
Get tech news delivered straight to your inbox. Register for the free TechRadar newsletter and stay on top of the week's biggest stories and product releases. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register