Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2007

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

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.

Office 2007

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.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2007

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