In evaluating Windows Server 2008 R2, I focused on the major features. However, sometimes it's the little things that really count. Server 2008 R2 includes several small but noticeable changes, mostly stemming from adoption of the Windows 7 interface.

  • New Taskbar—One of the things that jumps right out at you is the new Windows taskbar. The new taskbar combines what used to be the Quick Launch window with the old taskbar. I've read the hype that the new taskbar blurs the distinction between a running application and one that isn't running, and I agree. Formerly, you could easily tell what was running by looking at the taskbar. No longer! Now you must look very closely to see the highlighted frame around the icon that indicates an application is active. Personally, I don't see an advantage to launching applications from the taskbar over a menu or the desktop.
  • Restart/Log Off/Shut Down Button—One new feature I do see the advantage of is the Restart/Log Off/Shut Down button, which is clear and easy to find, right off the Start menu. This button is configurable, so you can change the default action. If you want to perform an action other than the default action, you simply click the arrow to the right of the default action.
  • No Classic Views—If you never got away from the classic Windows XP view of the Control Panel, then Server 2008 R2 will make you do so quickly. The option for Classic View is gone. However, at least the new All Control Panel Items view is fairly similar.
  • Libraries—Another Windows 7 feature that found its way into Server 2008 R2 is the new Libraries, which are special folders that are used to organize types of data or files, such as music, videos, or text documents. Libraries are most evident in Windows Explorer but are used in all Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 components.
  • User Account Control—UAC is also present in Server 2008 R2. Although I find Windows Vista's UAC to be annoying, UAC in general is a good security idea—and better implemented in Server 2008 R2 than in Vista. Like in Windows 7, you can adjust Server 2008 R2's UAC notification settings.
  • Internet Explorer 8—Server 2008 R2 includes Internet Explorer 8. IE 8 provides tabbed browsing, Accelerators for browsing shortcuts, InPrivate Browsing for anonymous web browsing, Web Slices for tracking favorite web content, and enhanced browsing security called SmartScreen Filters. Like previous versions of Windows Server, Server 2008 R2 comes with Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration (IE ESC) enabled by default. You can granularly enable or disable IE ESC for administrators and users.