by Kelly L. Potter
January 28, 2007
Windows Vista is Microsoft’s newest operating system, the program that controls and manages all other software on your computer. Microsoft will release this version as a stand-alone product on January 30th and it will come pre-installed on personal computers purchased on or after that time. Microsoft released its last operating system, Windows XP, over five years ago and due to the significant time between releases, Windows Vista has garnered a great deal of attention. In this version, there are four editions that you will have to choose from: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate.
According to Microsoft, Windows Vista contains hundreds of new features. We can expect some of these features to be visible from the graphical user interface (GUI), while others will affect the back-end, which controls how the computer performs.
Although Windows XP may be sufficient for you right now, let’s take a look at some of the Windows Vista features to see what all the hype is about.
New Interface: Windows Vista has a completely redesigned visual style. According to Microsoft, “Windows Vista is the first Windows operating system that can gracefully scale to the hardware capabilities of the computer it is installed on.” So, regardless of how robust your computer hardware is, there is a version of Windows Vista that will work on your system.
The premier visual style is Aero, which uses a Desktop Windows Manager to offer features such as 3D graphics support, windows animation, and translucency. There are three additional visual styles that are scaled down variations of Aero. These styles are Standard, Basic, and Classic and will work with a variety of computers depending on their hardware specifications.
Improved Search and Organization: Windows Vista has a new desktop search feature that allows you to type a word, phrase, or part of a file name into the instant search box to locate files on your computer. You can edit or add file properties, like a keyword, to make it easier for you to search and locate the file in the future.
Additionally, this version of the operating system introduces search folders, a tool that allows you to easily find and organize your files. For example, you could create a search folder for all documents created by Bob that have the word ‘expenditures’ in the file name. Each time you open that search folder, Windows Vista will run the search and locate any documents written by Bob that have the word ‘expenditures’ in the file name.
Easy Access to Information via Windows Sidebar: Windows Sidebar is a new panel on the right side of the screen where you can place Windows Gadgets. These gadgets are mini-applications that are designed for a specific purpose, such as delivering news, weather, daily calendar updates, and traffic maps. Windows Vista comes pre-installed with a basic set of gadgets, but you can delete these and add other gadgets from Microsoft online.
Integrated with Internet Explorer 7: In Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7 runs separately from other applications, which restricts malicious software from reaching anything besides your temporary Internet files without your consent. This keeps you and your computer safer while you surf the Internet.
New Windows SuperFetch: Does your computer load Microsoft Word or other applications slowly? If so, you’ll be happy to know that Windows Vista includes a new technology that Microsoft calls SuperFetch to help offset this problem. SuperFetch preloads commonly used applications into memory to allow software applications and files to load faster than on previous operating systems. SuperFetch recognizes the software applications you use most often and can even differentiate between the applications you are likely to use during the week or weekend. Overall, this makes your system much more responsive.
Updated Mail Service: Windows Mail replaces Outlook Express and enables you to search all of your email messages with an instant search feature without leaving Windows Mail. It has phishing and junk mail filtering systems that are better than previous versions. You don’t have to “train” the filter to recognize phishing scams or junk mail – it does this automatically. You can adjust the filter’s sensitivity to block more or less email depending on your specific situation.
Windows Update: If you hate the constant Windows Update reminders then you will be satisfied to know that Windows Vista manages software and security updates through the control panel and performs more automatic updates than previous versions.
Backup and Restore Center: This feature allows you to schedule computer backups for specific times. Windows Vista decreases the disk space that is uses by only storing changes you make to the files. Certain versions of Windows Vista feature CompletePC Backup that stores your entire computer as an image and will automatically recreate a machine setup if the computer crashes.
Improved Security Features: Microsoft aimed to improve security in Windows Vista because there were so many security issues with Windows XP. Windows Vista has a security technology called user account control that allows you to use your computer with fewer privileges by default. Your actions will not be limited, but you will have to enter an administrator name and password to complete tasks that may have an associated security risk.
Two other important security features in Windows Vista are Windows Defender, an anti-spyware product that provides protection against malware, and an updated Windows Firewall. Many other security features are included in the various editions of Windows Vista.
Windows Vista includes many features, like 3D graphics and animated windows, that have an undeniable "fun factor," as well as changes that enhance performance and security. But, how do you decide if you need to upgrade to Windows Vista? Read more about the other features, think about your computing style, and don't be swayed by the hype of a new product. Only think about how you use the computer and how the product might be able to meet your needs.