Understanding the Windows Vista User Experience

When the first PCs hit the streets over 20 years ago, users were saddled with an unfriendly, nonintuitive user interface based on the MS-DOS command line and its ubiquitous C:\prompt. Since then, computer user interfaces have come a long way, firs with the advent of the mouse-driven graphical user interface (GUI) on the Macintosh and later in Windows, and then with the proliferation of Internet connectivity in the late 1990s, which blurred the line between local and remote content and led to the currently emerging era of “cloud computing,” whereby PC-like user interfaces are available on the Web.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of the evolution of state-of-the-art computer GUIs for the masses over the years. Windows 95 introduced the notion of right-clicking on objects in the operating system to discover context-sensitive options; Windows 98 introduced a shell, Explorer, that was based on the same code found in the Internet Explorer Web browser; and Windows XP began a trend toward task-oriented user interfaces, with folder views that change depending on the content you are viewing or have selected.

In Windows Vista, the Windows user interface, or as Microsoft likes to call it, the Windows user experience, has evolved yet again. Assuming you are running a mainstream Vista product edition (Windows Vista Home Basic and Starter editions need not apply) and have the right kind of display hardware, you are presented with a translucent, glass-like interface that takes the Windows user interface metaphor to its logical conclusion. That’s right: In Windows Vista, windows actually appear to be made of glass, just like real windows. (Unfortunately, you can also break Windows as easily as the real thing, a fact driven home by the wide range of electronic attacks we’ve all experienced over the years.)

At a higher level, however, it may be comforting to understand that much in Windows
Vista has not changed since XP. That is, you still press a Start button (though it’s now officially called the Start Orb, I’ll continue to call it the Start button) to launch the Start
Menu, from where you can perform tasks such as launch applications; access the Control Panel, networking features, and other related functionality; and turn off the system. A taskbar still runs along the bottom of the Windows Vista desktop, containing buttons for each open window and application, and a tray notification area still sits in the lower-right corner of the screen, full of notification icons and the system clock. The desktop still contains icons and shortcuts.

Windows still appear to float above this desktop, and all of your familiar applications and documents will still work, especially now that Service Pack 1 is available.

What you see in Windows Vista depends largely on which version of Vista you’re using, the hardware in your system, and your own personal preferences. More confusing, perhaps, is that you likely won’t see options for all four of the user experiences Microsoft offers in Vista. However, the method you use for changing between these experiences is the same for all Vista product editions except for Starter Edition: You need to access the classic Appearance Settings dialog box, which will look familiar if you’re used to previous Windows versions. To access this dialog box, right-click the Desktop and choose Personalize. Then, click the Window Color and Appearance link in the Personalization appearance and sound effects control panel window that appears. Finally, click the link titled “Open classic appearance properties for more color options.” (Whew!)

This old-school dialog box enables you to switch between what Microsoft still calls, disconcertingly, color schemes. Windows Aero is the high-end user experience, and the one you’ll likely want (it’s not available in Vista Home Basic or Starter). Windows Vista Basic is the simplest version of the new user interface, and it is available to all Vista editions, including Starter. Windows Vista Standard (not to be confused with the Windows Standard color scheme) is available only in Windows Vista Home Basic, so many readers won’t see this option.

Windows Classic is available to all Vista editions, and all of the color schemes except for Windows Aero, Windows Vista Standard, and Windows Vista Basic actually utilize the Classic user experience.

Source of information : Wiley Windows Vista Secrets SP1 Edition

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