Windows Vista Review Part 3

Windows Aero technology

One of the most touted ‘WoW’ features of Vista, the Windows Aero graphics feature brings a whole new level of user experience to window management. If you’ve got anything above Vista Home Premium and you’ve got a decent enough graphics card, then simply push the Window and Tab key together to activate ‘Windows Flip 3D’. What happens is the Aero system takes all open windows and moves them in to a 3D stack view where you view that stack at an angle and can scroll through each window individually. So imagine opening up 30 photographs from your last holiday trip and pushing button on this. Simply move through each of your photos one by one in all its 3D glory.

The Windows Flip 3D feature is often the one you see on most adverts, promotional videos and pretty much all advertising campaigns that Microsoft are running at the moment simply because it’s new, fresh and quite effective. Drawing from the power of your graphics processor even live video continues to play whilst in this mode without any noticeable impact on smoothness of the video. Very slick Microsoft, very slick.

Other aspects to the Aero graphics foundation is a transparent look to your windows, dialogue boxes and panels. The marketing term Microsoft have coined for this is ‘Glass’. It’s a translucent ‘look and feel’ to your desktop which does make things prettier and more polished than its predecessor, XP. The idea behind this is that because what’s behind the window is blurred, you’re more focused on the task at hand. Surely that’s an issue that can be rectified simply by not making the window borders transparent in the first place!

The Alt+Tab has been given a more user friendly name titled Windows Flip. Instead of using the application icon to represent the individual windows you have open, each open window has its own live preview window. Again, drawing on the powers of Aero, live video, pictures, documents and entire windows are previewed live. This new feature can also be found when you rest your mouse on each taskbar item allowing you to get a quick thumbnail preview of the window without disturbing what’s on your desktop already.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important benefit gain from having this feature in Vista is the ability for the desktop and the contents of the desktop to draw itself without the age old problem of ‘tearing’. For example, when an application in XP crashes and you start dragging that window around your desktop, it draws that window hundreds of times in the path that you moved it. Vista finally puts a nail in the coffin on this annoying issue and rightly so.

There seems to be a strange and eery familiarity to some of the ideas that Aero represents. Most noticeable having been a Mac user for a few years now is the Windows Flip 3D feature. Granted, Microsoft are innovating in its own areas and in its own ways but some will perhaps wonder if OS X was never around, would Vista be the same as what it is today?

2007-04-03 Onwah Tsang

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