For most people who are considering moving to Windows 7, 22 October is D-Day. On that date Microsoft's newest operating system lands on store shelves, both as a shrink-wrapped upgrade and pre-installed on new PCs.
For some folks, though, D-Day has already arrived. Microsoft has issued the final RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 7 to large companies that buy Windows via volume licences, as well as to IT pros who belong to its Technet service. The Windows Vista era is officially drawing to a close - although you could argue that it never really quite started -and the Windows 7 one is under way.
And that promises to be a good thing, whether you're a satisfied Vista user, a disgruntled one, or a Windows XP holdout who has been waiting for something better. Windows 7 feels like an anti-Vista: Unlike that OS, for instance, it doesn't try to dazzle you with flashy new visual effects. With the removal of Vista applications such as Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, Win 7 actually does fewer things than Vista did. Even its unprepossessing name is a change from the epic-sounding monikers that began with the unfortunate Windows Millennium Edition.
But Windows 7's lack of glitz is a huge part of its appeal. Unlike the increasingly chaotic and annoying Microsoft OSs that preceded it, Windows 7 is designed to stay out of your way so that you can get stuff done. It smartly addresses Windows annoyances both new (User Account Control) and old (the system tray). And the final version I've been using seems to realise the promise of the rough drafts we started testing last October.