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Windows Vista Layout


Windows Vista shines with improved search, security, reliability and visuals By The Associated Press In the span of five years, Microsoft Corp. promised its most advanced operating system ever and then yanked key features to meet deadlines that were missed anyway. Details of what would later be known as Windows Vista sounded suspiciously like Apple’s Mac OS X.

Yet Vista, which finally appears on store shelves and new PCs next Tuesday, manages to largely overcome its long, tortured prelude.

Though it duplicates some of the feel and functions of the Mac software, Vista includes its own improvements that take security, reliability and usability to new heights on the PC.

Vista is by far the most robust and visually appealing version of Windows yet. It’s similar enough to its predecessor, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition with S
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‘);” onmouseout=”setTimeout(‘hideLayer()’,500);” class=”hotlink2″>Windows XP, to make the switch easy, but different enough to make the price almost bearable.

That’s not to suggest Vista‘s perfect or even as polished as Mac OS X. In more than a month of testing on multiple PCs, I’ve run into a number of rough patches. Then again, I was able to run my systems longer between restarts, experienced fewer crashes and generally found it more informative than its predecessor.

Overall, it’s a worthy upgrade, though one that most users will probably want to delay until the kinks are worked out.

Be forewarned: The hardware requirements for the best features are high.

Though a low-end version is offered (Home Basic Edition, $199, or $99 if the user is upgrading from XP), it lacks the high-end graphics and multimedia functions.

Most consumers will likely want the Home Premium Edition ($239, $159) that includes the visuals and entertainment tools and requires a heftier PC (with at least a 1 gigahertz processor and 1 gigabyte of memory).

The visuals, for obvious reasons, are the most noticeable improvement, though the software doesn’t hesitate to downgrade the experience if your PC is too weak. Programs appear in semi-see-through frames that pop open and close with an animated swoosh. Icons can be instantly resized with a slider (yes, like pictures stored in Apple Inc.’s iPhoto).

The flourishes aren’t just eye candy. They also help get the job done, particularly if you’re a multitasker.

In previous Windows versions, minimized programs were something like a mystery meat: You knew they were there but it wasn’t easy to find anything. In Vista, live mini-previews of each window pop open when the cursor is moved along the task bar.

Switching between programs using the Alt-Tab key combination is easier, as the live previews appear there, too. A new combination _ Tab-Windows keys _ flips through all your programs like a 3-D stack of playing cards.

The start menu _ which has wisely lost the word “Start” _ also has been renovated. It now sports a search box that returns results instantly as you type. No more dancing dogs or grinding hard drives.

In fact, the improved search _ which had been available for Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition with S
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‘);” onmouseout=”setTimeout(‘hideLayer()’,500);” class=”hotlink2″>Windows XP users through add-on programs _ is fully integrated throughout Vista (much like the latest version of Mac OS X, released in April 2005). Windows that display the contents of hard drive folders, for instance, all have a search box that can filter whatever is inside.

Search results also can be saved into folders that get populated by future files that meet the original search criteria, though the feature isn’t easy to find.

By default, the right side of the screen is filled with small programs known as gadgets, displaying headlines, weather, microprocessor loads, memory utilization _ whatever. (The idea isn’t new: Mac OS X has “Widgets,” and other companies have offered similar lightweight application layers for years.)

The default gadgets in Vista look great but aren’t terribly useful. The Really Simple Syndication gadget, which pulls headlines from news sites and blogs, only displays four items at a time.

Hundreds of additional gadgets are available from Microsoft’s Web site. Some maintain the slick Vista visuals. Others don’t seem to try.

Vista also includes considerable security improvements, including a firewall that blocks network traffic in both directions and an anti-spyware program. You still need to get your own anti-virus software.

Vista adopts “user authentication,” which prompts you before the installation of anything that might muck up the system. Oddly _ and unlike Mac OS X and Linux _ it doesn’t require a username or password. The prompt, which darkens and deactivates everything in the background, also is jarring and decidedly un-Vista-like.

Vista also has tools for monitoring and controlling your kids’ computer and Internet usage, as well as new “features” that Hollywood can use to control what you do with its movies. If you ever update to HD DVD or Blu-ray, for instance, the quality of those crisp videos may be downgraded.

There are finer controls to adjust for power consumption and excellent notification and monitoring tools to figure out how the system is operating and what has gone wrong. Like a judge at a diving competition, Vista will rate a computer’s performance _ though it doesn’t explain the scale very well.

Vista sports new multimedia capabilities as well, including a photo management program with basic picture-editing capabilities. It’s improved upon XP’s moviemaking software. And it supports DVD burning.

The premium editions also include Windows Media Center _ a shell that makes playing music and video easy, even with a remote control. The program, previously part of a special version of XP, adds some of Vista‘s visual pizazz to a package that bundles a digital video recorder for capturing live standard and high-definition TV.

How long does it take to give a PC running Windows XP this facelift and, arguably, heart and brain transplant? Surprisingly little, at least on a high-end PC with 2 gigabytes of memory. The anesthesia takes considerably longer to wear off.

My installation took about an hour. After the software checked for updates, prompted me for a serial number and asked me to agree to the Windows user license, the installer ran without any need for input _ a great improvement over previous Windows versions.

Problems arose when the PC came back to life. The beautiful visuals and inviting “Welcome Center” were covered up by error and warning messages detailing a number of incompatibilities.

There was no sound. A program that I use to synch data with a flash-memory drive wouldn’t work. The Internet-phone software Skype couldn’t find audio input or output. And I was told the control center for my ATI Radeon X1600 Pro graphics card “might” have an issue. There was no warning from Microsoft’s compatibility program that I ran before upgrading.

Most of the problems were fixed by visiting each vendor’s Web site and downloading updated software, although I still couldn’t use my Hewlett-Packard Co. LaserJet 1020 printer or my company’s software for virtual private networking.

In fairness, software companies have a few more days to get their acts together before Vista‘s consumer launch (businesses have been able to buy it for two months). But what have they been doing all these years?

The success of the operating system, however, won’t ride on how well old programs and peripherals will work but on the new capabilities that are enabled. For laptops, it may hinge on auxiliary displays that notify users of new e-mail when the machine is closed. For gaming rigs, it may be how well the games tap into Vista‘s graphics capabilities.

That’s because given all its bells and whistles, Vista is still just an operating system _ a blank canvas, albeit one with a very pretty and elaborate frame.

___

On the Net:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista

Copyright The Associated Press 2006. All Rights Reserved

One response to “Windows Vista Layout

  1. ryan February 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    oke………..??to the point…technology in the world more develop and full develop so…i sugggest this technology.and specially for the kindness…
    oke..thank you….

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