Working with Windows 7 in prepress

This page contains my notes on using Windows 7. It includes tips and tricks to make the most of the system and points to related pages on this site. I couldn’t resist the occasional comparison with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow leopard which I also use quite a lot.
I am currently running the 64-bit Ultimate version at home and hope to upgrade the systems at work as soon as possible. I find Windows 7 to be the best Microsoft operating system since Windows 2000. I used Vista for 6 months and hated it. Most of its glitches seem to have been fixed in Windows 7. The system feels faster. With my Vista set-up my user profile would not load properly once every two weeks or so, forcing me to restart the machine. That problem is gone in Windows 7. Every now and then my monitor would revert to a lower resolution in Vista, causing the taskbar to disappear. The exact same video driver works fine in Windows 7.

User Interface

Windows Explorer has improved in a number of small ways

  • Grab a window and move it to either the left or right-hand side of the monitor, until the cursor touches the edge of the screen. The window automatically resizes to half of the available screen space. This makes it easy to put two windows next to each other to compare stuff. This is useful when comparing a PDF to ripped data or when comparing the content of two folders. Irradiated Software’s Cinch adds the same function to Macs running OS X.
  • You can organize data in libraries, which appear in the left-hand pane of Explorer.
  • Unfortunately, Explorer lacks some features that make OS X so useful for the graphic arts market. To view thumbnails of EPS, PSD, or AI files, you need to switch to Adobe Bridge. I couldn’t get PS+Ai Thumb, a small tool to add preview support for EPS files, working with the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Explorer also doesn’t show thumbnails of the content of PDF files. It simply displays a generic icon.

Microsoft seems to have taken a good look at the OS X dock. The Windows 7 taskbar allows you to permanently ‘pin’ programs to the taskbar. As with the OS X dock, an application gets highlighted whenever it is running. Right-clicking such an app takes you to a list of recently opened documents. Hover the mouse over an active application and you get to see all of its windows. This is especially useful when copying files: once you start a big file transfer, you just need to move the mouse over the Explorer icon to see how far along the file transfer is.

As with OS X, you can use the search tool to start applications, which is very handy. I do miss the dictionary that is built into OS X.


Windows 7 ships with 235 fonts. Compared to OS X there seem to be more non-latin fonts in it and less ‘classics’.

There is a page on Windows 7 font handling on this site. It will show you that Windows 7 support a wide array of font formats, including TrueType and OpenType.

I am not entirely happy with the way Windows 7 handles font anti-aliasing by default. Text is a bit thin and has a slightly colored edge to it. Fortunately, the bundled ClearType Text Tuner application can be used to tweak the settings.

Font management tools for Windows 7 is another topic that I still need to look into. Compared to the OS X Font Book application, the Windows 7 Font control panel is pretty limited.

Tools & applications

Windows 7 comes with a small Sticky Notes application, which replaces the Vista Notes gadget. I like having the possibility of adding ‘to do’ notes to the desktop.

  • By hitting CTRL+B or CTRL+I with text in a note selected you can make it bold or italic.
  • CTRL+SHIFT+L creates a bulleted or numbered list.
  • To change the font size, highlight text, hold down the CTRL key, and roll the mouse wheel.
  • It is a pity you cannot change the default font though. Deleting the Segoe Print font seems to be the only way to force the system to switch to MS Sans Serif.

Windows 7 has built-in support for XPS. PDF is much more useful in a prepress environment so you’ll have to install Acrobat or at the very least Adobe Reader.

Just for old-time sake, I tried installing a PostScript driver. You won’t find one on the Adobe site so I downloaded the generic 64-bit Xerox driver (X-GPDWin_PS_x64_English) and set FILE: as the output device. It works but I am not too sure that I’ll ever really need it. The PDF export capabilities of most applications are good enough.

I use SyncToy to back up data and had to wait for version 2.1, which fixed some compatibility issues. Regarding security: creating an emergency recovery disc proved to be remarkably easy in Windows 7. Just go to the backup control panel and use the ‘Create a system repair disc’ function. Do it as soon as you installed the OS. This is one of those things that don’t get done afterward and at some point in time, you might desperately need such a disk.

Virtually all of my existing applications run fine. I did check the compatibility of all of them before doing the upgrade – especially because I went from a 32-bit OS to the 64-bit release.

  • Norton Anti-virus was the only incompatible app that required a payable upgrade. Fortunately, Microsoft Security Essentials is free and seems to do a reasonable job according to the reviews I read.
  • If you’re also contemplating a move to 64-bit (which is necessary if you want to use more than 3.5 or so MB RAM), make sure that there are compatible drivers for all your hardware.
  • The client app for the Apogee Prepress workflow refuses to install since it doesn’t support a 64-bit OS. I already installed the XP mode but haven’t tried yet to install the Apogee Prepress client in it.

Other sources of information

Bill Blynn sold me on the upgrade to Windows 7 in his excellent Techbyter podcasts. His weekly 20-minute podcast, which regularly contains Windows 7 related information,  is highly recommended.

There is a video training about Windows 7 on which I can recommend. Watching videos is an easy way of learning things. Unlike classroom training, you can skip any part that you are not interested in.

Working in the printing industry, I should also recommend a book or two but I haven’t gotten round to reading a Windows 7 one yet. I think video tutorials make introductory books irrelevant and those giant ‘Ultimate Guide to…’ books that I used to buy in the past seem to always remain unread for the most part. O’Reilly’s ‘Windows 7 Annoyances’  and ‘Windows 7 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant’ might be worth a look.

3 thoughts on “Working with Windows 7 in prepress

  1. Here is an update after 6 months of use. Meanwhile I have also upgraded my system at work.

    • I’ve had one blue screen of death – proving that Windows 7 is still Windows after all.
    • I’ve come to appreciate the viewer in Explorer, which shows the content of many different file types (including PDF) without the need to open the file.
    • Explorer can also display a lot of metadata for photographs or other data, which can be useful.
    • I am having occasional issues with slow access to shared folders of other systems on the network.

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