If you love XP, will you hate Windows 7?

Over at ZDNet, Jason Perlow and I are having a debate over the Windows 7 interface. He hates it, I say he’s just too stubborn to ditch his old habits.

You can read both articles and participate in the discussion yourself.

Jason’s post: Windows 7: Mojave My Ass

My response: If you love Windows XP, you’ll hate Windows 7

During the course of writing my reply, I stumbled across a shortcut I had never noticed before, one that works in both Vista and in Windows 7.

One of Jason’s complaints is that Microsoft removed the Run shortcut from the Start menu when it released Windows Vista, and the Run box is still MIA from Windows 7.

If you mastered the Run box in Windows XP, you probably missed it, at least for a while, when Vista came out. But as I explain in my ZDNet piece, it’s not gone,  just hidden. And I explain several alternatives and workarounds for it:

First of all, the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu does nearly everything the Run box did, and much more. If you begin typing a command, it appears in the Start menu, where you can click or press Enter to run it. With the Run box, I have to type a command in full and possibly even include its path. If I mistype the name, I get an error message.


Still not convinced? You want the old- school Run box? So just press Windows key+R. That shortcut has been around since the mid-1990s and still works in Windows Vista and Win7.

Not good enough? Fine. Customize the Vista/Win7 Start menu to add the Run command and you can party like it’s 1998. Right-click Start, choose Properties, click Customize, and select this check box.


And that’s when it dawned on me. In both Vista and Windows 7, the Run command is actually a system-managed shortcut in the Start Menu folder of your user profile. So, if you want to open the Run dialog box, just click Start, type run, and press Enter.

Hilarious, and yet … for those who have occasional uses for the Run menu, a nifty productivity tip.

I’m interested in your feedback on the transition from XP to Vista and Windows 7. Leave it here or over at ZDNet.

24 thoughts on “If you love XP, will you hate Windows 7?

  1. You can use the start search at bottom of start menu just like the run shortcut. I found this much more convenient then run in older OS’s.

  2. One thing that doesn’t work well with the Start search box is going directly to a UNC path. If I enter “\fileserver\share” into the search box, it usually takes 30 seconds or so to come up. If I enter the same thing into the run box, the share pops up immediately. Than being said, I usually just hit “Win+R” to access the Run box on the rare occasion that I need it. The Start search has so many advantages over the Run box, that I certainly wouldn’t go back.

  3. Carl, really? I get a usually instant response with UNC paths in the Start/Search box here. Are you on a domain, by any chance?

  4. I was a stubborn Vista-hater until I actually installed Vista in my old AMD Athlon machine last year. Sure, it’s marginally slower than XP on the same machine, but not too noticeable. Eventually, I learned to live with Vista and now I use it exclusively. There are quirks, and some lost functionality, and the UAC can be annoying, but in the end the benefits of using a more stable, secure, and modern OS outweigh old habits and preferences.

    I eagerly await the release of Windows 7, with promises of faster performance and new features.

  5. It is amazing how many people, including many who make a living off technology, feel that the purpose of learning something new is to never have to learn anything again. They seem to feel that now that they have more expertise in one version of one product, the world should stop so that they can maintain their claims of knowledge with no more investment.
    We saw it with the move from mainframes to minicomputers. We saw it when PCs came on the scent. We saw it when GUIs replaced the command line and we’ve seen it in every single change in every version of Windows.
    In fact, we’ve seen it even among those people who should be the most technologically savvy – developers. The screams when VB.NET replaced Visual Basic are only met by those people defending the archaic design concepts of C or the architecture of Unix and other *ix style systems.
    Our industry has long been hampered not by users, who seem to be willing to learn new ideas and concepts to gain some benefit, but by “professionals”, be they developers, admins or writers, who have decided that what they know should be frozen in time as the be all and end all simply because they aren’t willing to invest now the same way they did when they got started and were in love with technology instead of being in love with their own “expertise”.

  6. That’s an awfully broad brush you’re painting with Mike. Moreover, PCs have not replaced mainframes or minis, and GUIs have not replaced scripts or lines of commands. Not even close.

    You might say (and it’s been said) that tech writers always want the latest and greatest innovations because their livelihood depends on explaining it to the masses. That is equally unfair and untrue most of the time.

    Were I to draw up a list of offenders hampering “our” industry (please tell me who does it belong to anyway) I wouldn’t place developers, writers, or admins anywhere near the top.

    FWIW, I’m not love with my own expertise. In fact, I’m in awe of many contributors half my age.

  7. Dan,

    I’d say it used to be true that tech writers want the latest and greatest but that changed in the late 1990s when they sought to have “credibility” by proving they were serious journaist by writing articles that consisted of little more than “excuses for IT managers looking to avoid upgrading”. After that, the quality of writing seemed to drop and the level of actual expertise dropped even more. (Ed being one of the great exceptions)

    And I’d point out that it’s not developers, writers and admins in general that I blame, it’s the ones who fight against any change and live with the certainty that what they know has gotten them a status quo that they like and a future that requires work and risk that they’d prefer everyone avoid.

    In short, this is an industry that requires constant learning and a love of the new.

  8. You mean to tell me that there are actually people out there who miss the “run” box, but don’t know about windows+r? Seems impossible since most who love the cli also like keyboard shortcuts. While you’re at it, tell them about windows+e, alt+F4 and my personal favorite added with XP, windows+L.

  9. Ben
    There are people out there who miss the “run” box and consider Windows+R to be too different and treat the change as a personal affront. And some of them write professionally as “computer experts”.

  10. A note about clicking Start and typing “run” and pressing enter –

    This unfortunately only works if nothing else in your start menu has the phrase run in it. For example, one of my systems has an ATI GPU, which (thanks to the ATI developers) included an entry to “Restart RUNtime” (emphasis added). So for me, typing “run” requires that I remember to arrow down before I press enter.

    Unless there’s a quick way to fix this aside from renaming everything else that has run, then people will have to keep this in mind. But, a minor point considering we can utilize the search box in the same manner.

  11. @ Jared

    As has been mentioned before, you could just use the keyboard shortcut winkey+R or you could right click on the start orb, select properties, customize and then add it to the start menu permanently. I just don’t see what the problem is and think many people just love to nit pick and complain no matter what Microsoft does.

  12. @Ed
    Regarding the Start search box delay – I am on a domain. However, it appears the delay when typing a UNC path into Start search was fixed somewhere along the way. I only have one Vista machine on the domain right now, but I no longer see this issue on that machine. I’m sure I saw this delay repeatedly on the Vista RTM version. I have no name resolution issues on the domain.

    Glad they appeared to have fixed the problem!

  13. Ed –

    Do you have an extra copy of “Windows Vista Inside Out” you can autograph and send to Jason Perlow?

  14. @Carl@Brightrev
    for what stupid reason you’re still using the Vista RTM version? Come on, install the SP1, all patches released after the SP1 via WU including the updated version of Windows Search for Vista SP1.

  15. I used Win+R out of habit for months when I started using Vista. Then I switched out of classic mode start menu to get a better feel for default vista so I could support it over the phone better. I stumbled upon the instant search bar and haven’t used Win+R much and all but forgot about the Start -> Run shortcut I enabled on my start menu .

    To me, I’m thankful that Vista is and hopefully 7 will be customizable enough that power users can restore functions/features they have grown accustomed to over the years.

    P.S. I would say my 5 most used Windows key shortcuts which work in XP / Vista are

    1) Windows + L – Lock Workstation
    2) Windows + E – Explorer Window
    3) Windows + Break – System Properties
    4) Windows + R – Run
    5) Control Shift Escape – Task Manager (Okay this one doesn’t use the windows key)

  16. Look,
    When it comes down to the user, any underlying improvement to the OS is nil for a great percentage.
    I have made Vista mock XP, made icons that say Internet Explorer that run Firefox, say Outlook Express that runs Thunderbird but how do you teach people not to keep 2,000 messages in their inbox?

    The most success I have found is putting systems together for elderly people. Minimum 19″ monitors (CRTs), and on the email side only accept PDFs from a whitelist of relatives. And I run the resolution at 1024X768.

    Why can an 82 year old half-deaf, half blind person learn quicker than a 30 year old? Beats the pants off of me, I’d rather help someone who wants help than someone who won’t listen.

    Just rantining

  17. I prefer the classic menu and have used my system that way since Vista hit the market.

  18. I reckon they’ll put the classic menu back into Windows 7 before it is released.

    I use Win+R to run commands. I also hacked my shell32.dll to make the run dialog (font size and box size) much larger for my old eyes.

  19. Your article really nailed it. It took to tries for me to go to Vista before I finally settled there for good. It took me a couple of months to get weened off of the run box, but once I started using search more and more I haven’t looked back.

    Integrated search has revolutionized the way an operating system should be used. I really feel for folks stuck in the old Run command.

  20. Ed, excuse my last comment, if it even got through. I haven’t even gotten to Vista and all the talk about 7 has left me with the feeling of being left behind.

    Happy new year to you and all the regulars here!

  21. @cool
    I’m not using Vista RTM. I was using Vista RTM before SP1 was released and UNC paths were a problem on that version, at least in my experience. If you actually read my comment, you’ll see that I used the past tense when referring to the problem and acknowledged that it has been fixed in the current version.

  22. Have to agree with you Ed, I was reading Jason Perlow article and was thinking most of the points you made. I also agree with Mike Galos about how some people do not seem to want to learn anything new, they want to stay with what they know. Fear of change?

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