Windows Vista: The New Windows Operating System
Windows Vista is right around the corner, and there is a lot of talk about
its new features and abilities. The new OS requires PCs that have more processing
power, more memory and graphics abilities. Also, with any new software it is
best to wait a bit before you consider purchasing a Vista PC or upgrading your
existing machine, as there are always bugs and glitches that need to be worked
out in the first few months following their release.
If you do decide to upgrade to the new OS, it might set you back more than
just the price on the Vista box. The new system requirements might add a few
items to your shopping list, requiring you to upgrade your hardware along with
your new software. There are a number of payoffs that might make the upgrade
a tempting offer. Of course, if you are not a do-it-yourselfer and would prefer
to wait until your next PC purchase (with Vista preloaded), here is a glimpse
at Microsoft's new offering.
The biggest improvements available on the new OS include stronger security,
parental controls, more included applications, improved data back-up and networking
enhancements. It also comes packaged in a new flashier interface.
Some of the improvements available in the new OS are already available for
you to use on your existing computer. They include Internet Explorer 7, with
tabbed browsing and Windows Media Player 11, which gives you a sneak peak at
the new Aero-style interface. The new IE7 still does not have as many features
as the Firefox browser, but if IE is your preferred browser you'll be happy
to know that the differences are now fewer.
The Start menu and Windows explorer have also been improved. With explorer
you have more options to navigate and search through your computer folders
and see previews of the files inside them. The Start menu now has a search
feature to help you find a program or file name.
Probably the most visually cool feature is the new open application scroll
method. Currently, if you have a number of programs open and all are maximized
to fill your screen, you can choose a different open application without reaching
for the mouse. There are two methods to accomplish this. The first is by holding
down the Alt + Tab buttons. Each time you press Tab while holding down the
Alt key you advance to the next open program (Alt + Shift + Tab will go in
the opposite direction). The other option is to hold down the Windows Key +
Tab. Currently, this will select the different tabs on the Start Bar. The Vista
version will bring up each open program and tile them on your screen in a 3-D
view, letting you visually flip through the programs like a Rolodex. The Alt
+ Tab method has also been improved to show thumbnail images of the open programs
instead of just their icons.
Microsoft has also taken the hint from other third-party products and beefed
up their photo gallery to add ratings, keywords and other information to your
images. It also includes a basic photo editor that will take care of red-eye
reduction and cropping.
The parental control feature can restrict access to applications and websites
as well as limit the amount of time kids can be logged in. You can also turn
on the ability to log the activity on a particular account.
The security features are the ones a lot of people are most interested in.
These include an improved firewall and spyware software built in, as well as
the ability to encrypt your hard drive. Even with these features, you will
probably still want to stick to your favorite antivirus and protection software.
There are a number of different flavors of Vista designed for small business,
global organizations, home users and game enthusiasts. The business versions
contain tools that allow virtual meetings, Tablet PC support, better security
and automatic data backups. You can also easily retrieve lost files, as well
as retrieve previous versions of the same file.
The New Microsoft Office 2007 is also worth mentioning as it has several
improvements as well. The biggest improvement is the new Ribbon Interface.
It is featured in the core applications of Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint,
Access and the mail editor of Outlook. The Ribbon is the new navigation panel
that contains the command buttons and icons organized as Tabs. Within each
tab, various related options may be grouped together. Some tabs appear only
when certain objects are selected. The Ribbon is designed to make the features
of the application more discoverable and accessible with fewer mouse clicks
as compared to the current menu-based interface.
Microsoft Word and Excel have several changes geared towards collaboration
and data-sharing. Some other improvements are translation tools, a better contextual
spellchecker and a better document-comparison engine. Microsoft Outlook will
feature faster message searching, and multiple calendars as well as improvements
to the existing task manager and includes a new "To Do Bar".
The web editor FrontPage is no longer being developed, and Microsoft has
released a new line of graphics programs called Microsoft Expression.
If everything is running okay with your current set-up, then you shouldn't
fix what isn't broken. If you are considering upgrading soon, then it might
be worth your sanity to hold off on your purchase until the new PCs start hitting
the shelves with stable, glitch-free versions of Vista. Either way, I hope
you have a better idea of the changes coming around the corner.