Beta 1 of Windows 7 has been leaked to the Internet, and those who have used it report that some of the more intriguing features of the new operating system, including the new taskbar, are finally in place.
Note that I haven't actually gotten my hands on the beta yet; I'll be giving it a full review in the coming weeks. Instead, I've checked out reviews from numerous sites such as Paul Thurrot's.
Most of what appears to be new is under the hood, including some performance improvements. But some of the new interface improvements seem to be put in place, including the following:
The taskbar at the bottom of the screen now functions somewhat like Mac OS X's Dock. Large application icons on the taskbar launch programs when clicked on. You can customize which application live there. In addition, when you run applications, they run in the taskbar as well.
So far, the new taskbar has drawn some fire, with some reviewers complaining that it confuses icons for launching applications with icons for applications that are currently running.
Mouse over an application on the taskbar or Most Recently Used list on the Start Menu, and a context-sensitive menu appears specific to that application, such as opening a previously opened file in Microsoft Word.
Hover your mouse on an area on the right side of the taskbar and you'll see a list of what is on your desktop, as well as previewing any open window.
Apart from these changes, it appears as if not much is new. But as soon as I get my hands on a copy, I'll report on details.