So far, so good in the Windows Vista trial. I’m having trouble getting it to recognize my network hard drive (which was tricky even in Windows XP, for which it is designed), but everything else has been fine. The few Windows XP programs I’ve tried on Vista have run flawlessly. I suppose I’ll try to play a game (like BF2) in a minute. But for now, enjoy some pretty pictures of the new Vista interface:
The new desktop, in all its glory. Icons can be classic or ludicrously oversized tiles. The new Windows Sidebar, to the right, uses “gadgets” to provide more functionality to your desktop. Several useful tools come standard, like a clock and calendar, and more pointless things can be added – like a poker game. When mousing over a minimized window in the taskbar, an active thumbnail pops up displaying the window’s contents. Pretty handy, I suppose.
The new start menu is quite a bit slicker than that of Windows XP. For one thing, I like the Windows flag on the button better. Recently used programs appear on the left, and that search function at the bottom is quite intuitive. When you click on “Programs,” the menu doesn’t cascade out like in older versions…
…Instead, it simply opens over the recently-used programs, which keeps things much cleaner. New folders, when opened from this menu, simply expand down in the hierarchy, rather than out to the side. Pretty nice.
The control panel is now a bit nicer. Of course, the classic view is more intuitive, as it was in Windows XP. But they try to lay it out for the layman. All of the original functionality is still there, but it’s just displayed better.
The “Properties” dialogue box now shows the file type. I’m pretty sure Windows XP wouldn’t do this, because I remember it frustrating me to see “Image File” or something of the sort displayed instead of “.jpg” or “.bmp.” If you haven’t noticed it yet, look how pretty the semi-transparency of the window is. It distorts the background and acts like glass – hence the “aero” interface name.
The dialogue boxes for opening and saving have changed quite a bit, and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. It looks somewhat complicated, but I imagine it won’t be much trickier than that of Windows XP once I get used to it. That search bar is still there, as it is in every window, and it’s pretty handy.
There’s a new program called “Snipping Tool.” It works like the “Print Screen” key, but it’s quicker and gives you more control. With the program running, you simply drag a box where you want to take the picture. Once you select it, you’re given some options for light editing, and you can save it instantly as any one of several popular image formats. You’re also given the option of sending the image via email, which can be useful…I guess.
Internet Explorer 7 is here, and it’s pretty solid. It’s very, very similar to Mozilla’s Firefox, as it probably should be. I’ve been using it for a while now and see no reason to download Firefox, which I’m sure is what Microsoft was going for. The tabs, RSS feeds, pop-up blocker, anti-phishing protection, and various plugins all get the job done quite well. One cool feature Firefox doesn’t have (to my knowledge) is the ability to have several homepages. The main one will open, and several other ones can open in tabs simultaneously. Kinda neat.
Windows Media Player 11 is here as well, and it runs significantly better on Vista than it did for me on Windows XP. The interface is slightly different as well, with subtle changes made which enhance the readability of the menus. The whole thing is just more responsive though, and when minimized, it can be controlled via the taskbar. This is yet another Microsoft product that has improved enough to be a viable alternative to third-party products. I won’t be downloading another MP3 player, even after all the years of using Winamp. Oh, and it shows pictures and videos too.
All the included games have been redesigned. They’re just cooler looking, but now they’ll save when you exit. A new mahjong game is included, but hearts, minesweeper, and solitaire all return, along with quite a few others.
Word 2007 is also redesigned, but I haven’t had a chance to delve into the new functionality. All I’ve been able to see is that the menus have changed; there are no more “File” or “Edit” menus, though I believe there’s an option to get those back. Instead, there are tabs at the top which each have different options. This layout is probably better, but only time will tell.
Vista Ultimate encompasses all aspects of Windows computing – in addition to the included Tablet PC software, it has full Media Center software. This makes managing TV, photos, and videos pretty easy. It can be used as an alternative to Windows Media Player, but lacks most of its advanced options. This is just a prettier way of displaying media…
And that’s all I’ve had time for so far.
Addendum: This is the configuration screen for the window colors and transparency. You can completely disable transparency or change the colors of the windows. It’s going to end up looking like you want it to.
I did get my network drive working, but Battlefield won’t run from my XP partition and I’m too lazy to try to fix it.