Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Valuable and Useful Features of Microsoft Vista Operating System Software

The Microsoft Windows Website,, lists 55 new or enhanced features for Vista, Microsoft’s newest version of its operating system software. While many of these are improvements upon features already available in XP, there are several new features worth mentioning.

The most noticeable change is the Windows Aero user interface. Aero boasts a customizable “glass” look that features translucent window borders and taskbar. Navigation between open applications has been enhanced to include live thumbnails via taskbar mouse-over and “Windows Flip,” ALT-TAB. A new, impressive looking navigational feature is “Windows Flip 3D,” START+TAB which presents a live, 3D rendering of open windows scrolled diagonally across the screen. Aero also offers a smoother, more dynamic look and feel. Animated fade effects are displayed when windows are closed or minimized, instead of simply disappearing, and windows glide smoothly across the screen when moved or resized without redraw effects, etc.

Vista is more intuitive and easier to use than previous versions of Windows. The new “Instant Search” provides improved search capabilities for finding files, e-mail, music, pictures, control panel applets, applications, among others. “Instant Search” is incorporated throughout the operating system, including in the start menu, Windows Explorer, control panel, contextual menus, etc. Revamped Start Menu, Windows Explorer, and Control Panel interfaces enhance usability by streamlining common actions and presenting users with intuitive options based on previous selections and other environmental variables.

Vista includes several new or enhanced auxiliary applications. New applications include DVD Maker, Meeting Space for group collaboration, Photo Gallery for photo organization/editing, and Sidebar/Gadgets (a widget engine with widgets). Improved/enhanced applications include Calendar, Defender anti-spyware, Internet Explorer, Mail (replacing Outlook Express), Media Player, Movie Maker, Security Center, Welcome Center, and others.

Security and safety are modestly improved in Vista. Although somewhat annoying, the enhanced user account control service prompts users to confirm various activities often exploited by spyware, worms, viruses, etc. Integrated dynamic security protection and anti-spyware software add to Vista security. Various built-in self-tuning and diagnostic services enhance safety by correcting certain problems or alerting users of their existence. An improved backup and restore in the Enterprise edition helps users keep their data safe from file corruption, accidents, and hardware failure.

For more information, contact Kirk M. VanOoteghem, Microcomputer/Systems/Network Analyst, Ball State University Libraries, Library Information Technology Services,, (765) 285-8032.

This newsletter article first appeared in The Library Insider 5(3): 10; March 2007.

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