New Vista Thoughts

Screenshots of a new build of Windows Vista (formerly known as Windows Longhorn) appeared on Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows a few days ago. Being the desktop voyeur I am, I couldn’t help but pop over and ogle the screens for a while. For reference, here are links to his screenshots: Installation; Desktop, My Computer, and Network; Control Panel and Aero Glass Customization; and Applications.

Once I started to delve into the screenshots a couple of things struck me.

  • Translucency and text can work. If you look at the screens, you will notice that translucency is subdued behind areas that need text, like the Start Menu and location and search fields. In the case of window contents, translucency is completely eliminated, and that looks almost out of place in Vista. Translucent elements are prevalent in Vista, but they are implemented in a fairly nice manner.
  • What did they do to the Start Menu? The Start Menu has been receiving tweaks pretty much since its first appearance. Now they have removed “Start” from the icon that activates the window, and have made the icon into a sphere that awkwardly protrudes from the task bar. This protrusion carries over to the user icon atop the Star Menu (when active). The user icon proudly protrudes from the top of the menu like some royal crest. Let’s hope they kill this whole icon protrusion thing before people come to accept it.
  • Outlook Express has become Windows Mail. Alright, call this Apple copying if you must, but I feel the name change is logical and welcome. “Outlook Express” tells you nothing of the application’s function unless you use Outlook in your workplace. “Windows Mail” is a much more user-friendly name, and it’s nice to see this change.

Overall, Windows Vista seems to be coming along well. Installation is still an ugly process (visually), but I’m sure that will be cleaned up before the public release. After all, installation gives users the first impression of your system. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Microsoft’s default user interface for any of its versions of Windows. (I was a user back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows 98.) However, Vista seems to be gaining a nice sheen previously absent from Windows.

Unfortunately, my mind keeps going back to Whistler. This was a nice evolution of the Windows interface that eventually transformed into the eyesore that is Windows XP. (Oddly enough, both Mac and Windows themers have created themes based on this visual style that never made it into a publicly available version of Windows.) Hopefully, Microsoft will keep these nice touches that are present in current builds of Vista and refine them rather than pulling out something completely different at the last minute. Windows XP is not nice to look at. Vista is, and I hope it stays that way.