The basic user experience
Unlike prior versions of Windows, Windows Vista provides two distinct user interface experiences: a "basic" experience for entry-level systems, and a more visually dynamic experience called Windows Aero. Both offer a new and intuitive navigation experience that helps you more easily find and organize your applications and files, but Aero goes further by delivering a truly next-generation desktop experience.
Computers running Windows Vista Home Basic or those without the hardware needed to run Windows Aero will use the basic user interface. The basic experience has been updated and streamlined so you can work with your programs and files more easily than in previous versions of Windows. For example:
- The refined Start menu helps you instantly find and start any program on your PC.
- New Explorers and supporting features, such as integrated desktop search and Live Icons, help you work with your data in clear and effective ways.
- The new Details and Preview Panes let you see what your files contain without having to open them.
The Windows Aero experience
Windows Aero builds on the basic Windows Vista user experience and offers Microsoft’s best-designed, highest-performing desktop experience. Using Aero requires a PC with a compatible graphics adapter and running a Premium or Business edition of Windows Vista.
A noticeably new element of the Aero experience is the translucent effect of Aero Glass, featuring dynamic reflections and smooth animations. The glass windows create an open, lightweight environment―and more importantly, help you to better focus on your content, rather than on the surrounding interface.
Two exciting new Aero features, Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D, provide a new way to confidently manage the windows on your desktop, so you can see them in a new visually striking, yet convenient way. Beyond the new graphics and visual polish, the Windows Aero desktop experience performs as elegantly and professionally as it looks, with smoother window handling, increased graphics stability, and glitch-free visuals. All of which give you a simple, comfortable, and high-quality experience.
Aero features windows that are truly translucent. In addition to giving the desktop a more polished look and feel, the effect of glass allows you to more easily focus on the contents contained within a window, and also provides better context for the surrounding elements on your desktop while you’re working.
In Windows Vista, windows are dynamic. When minimized, a window will subtly animate to a specific location on the taskbar, making it easier to locate when you need it later.
With Windows Aero, live taskbar thumbnails show you the contents of the windows that are currently open, in the background, or minimized in the taskbar. When you pause your mouse over a window tile on the taskbar, you see the thumbnail of the "live" contents of that window without having to bring it to the forefront of your screen.
Windows Flip is an update of the feature known as ALT+TAB in previous versions of Windows. With Aero, Windows Flip shows you live thumbnails of your open windows instead of generic icons, making it easier to identify the window you’re looking for. It even lets you instantly minimize all the windows on your desktop.
Windows Flip 3D
With Aero, Windows Flip 3D creates a view of your open windows in a three-dimensional stack on your desktop. Using the Windows logo+TAB keys, you can flip through the open windows to quickly locate and select the window you want.
Smoother window performance
When using Windows Aero, open windows glide smoothly on your screen when you move or resize them. There are no redraw artifacts, latency, or "tearing" effects that you sometimes see, particularly in windows that display dynamic content such as video. Using Aero will even reduce legacy graphics driver-related problems on your system, giving you an even more confident and stable Windows desktop experience.
Whether you're using Windows Aero or the basic user interface, the Windows Vista desktop experience provides fast access to the applications and information you want to use. The design of Windows Vista also helps you efficiently navigate across your PC, so you can stay focused on what you want to accomplish.
The Start menu
Often, you know exactly what you're looking for—an application, document, e-mail message, or other type of file—but you can't remember where it is. Using the newly-designed Windows Vista Start menu, you can simply open the Start menu and begin typing in the new Instant Search field found in the lower-left corner. As you type a word or phrase associated with what you're looking for, Windows Vista searches the file names, the file properties (called metadata), and even the information within your files themselves, instantly and dynamically displaying the matching results. The Start menu can search for applications, documents, music, movies, e-mail messages, calendar events, and even your contacts. If it's on your PC, the Windows Vista Start menu can find it!
The Start menu also makes it fast and easy to view and navigate all of the applications installed on your PC. The All Programs view eliminates the cascading menus from Windows XP. This new view instantly populates, and features a nested folder view that takes up less screen space, making it easier to navigate to the application that you want to use.
Windows Vista Explorers
In Windows Vista, Explorers are the main tool for finding, viewing, and managing information and resources, including documents, photos, devices, Internet content, and even system settings in the Control Panel. By providing a consistent visual and functional experience, the Windows Vista Explorers are designed to empower you to better manage your information, with optimal flexibility and control. This is accomplished by streamlining the menus, toolbars, navigation, and task and Details Panes into a single interface that is consistent across all of Windows Vista.
Navigation Pane and Search Folders
The Navigation Pane in each Explorer has been redesigned to make it simpler to navigate across your PC and quickly find what you're looking for. The default view of the Navigation Pane is a series of quick links that take you to your Documents Explorer, Pictures Explorer, or Music Explorer. There is also a Searches link that lets you see all of the Search Folders on your PC.
A traditional folder and its contents have specific addresses on your hard drive. In contrast, a Search Folder is really a saved search that runs instantly the moment you click it. Search Folders can automatically organize your files logically, without moving the files on your computer. This makes it easy for you to view your files in many different ways without actually having to worry about where your files are stored on your PC. If you prefer the traditional, folder/tree-based view in the Navigation Pane, you can simply select the folder control found at the bottom of the pane.
The new command bar displays tasks that are relevant to the files displayed in a given Explorer. For example, the Documents Explorer contains command bar tasks that are relevant to documents, while the Music Explorer contains command bar tasks relevant to music files. Unlike Windows Explorer in Windows XP, both the command bar and the navigation pane are available simultaneously—eliminating the need to switch between the two.
New, scalable Live Icons in Windows Vista greatly improve on the generic system icons found in earlier versions of Windows. For applications that have this feature enabled, Live Icons provide you with a preview of the actual contents in a specific file—including documents, photos, graphics, and videos—without actually opening the file. This added visualization of your files will help you work more efficiently, confidently, and productively, since you'll know what's in a file before you open it.
For any selected file, Windows Vista displays a rich set of the file's properties in the Details Pane. With the Details Pane, you no longer need to right-click on a file to open the Properties dialog box. Instead, the basic file properties are always visible in the Details Pane found in each Explorer.
Some Explorers, such as the Documents, Music, or Pictures Explorer, provide an even richer way to preview the contents of documents and media files without opening them. For applications and supporting file formats that have this feature enabled, the rich Details Pane can provide a quick way to "preview" your file without opening it in its associated application. For example, when Microsoft Office 2007 is installed on a PC, using the Documents Explorer you can read the contents of a document, spreadsheet, or presentation without actually opening it.
With both the Windows Vista basic interface and Windows Aero, you can quickly find and organize the information on your desktop, helping to keep you on track and raising your level of productivity. With the innovative storage system of Windows Vista, you can now "tag" your files with properties that are relevant to how you think about those files. You can then run more targeted searches and create personalized views of the search results without worrying about where the files are stored on your PC.
New to Windows Vista are Search Folders, which are searches that run instantly when you click them. Windows Vista comes with several preconfigured Search Folders, like Recent Documents―which instantly shows you all the recently used documents on your computer―and All Attachments, which shows you all the files on your computer that are e-mail attachments.
You can also create and save your own Search Folders. For example, you could design a search for all documents authored by "John" that contain the word "project" somewhere within them. You can then save this search, titled "John Project," directly to the Document Explorer as a Search Folder. Now, any time you click this saved Search Folder, the search runs and the view is populated with the results in a split second. As you add files to your computer that are authored by "John" and contain the word "project," they will automatically show up in the saved Search Folder, regardless of where those files are located on your PC.
With a new tool in Windows Vista called Instant Search, you're never more than a few keystrokes away from whatever you're looking for. Instant Search is integrated throughout Windows Vista, so all you have to do is type a file name, a keyword, or even text contained within a file into an Instant Search field to see fast, pinpointed, organized results. Instant Search is also contextual-it optimizes its results based on your current activity, whether it's searching for applets in the Control Panel, for music files in Windows Media Player, or searching all your files and applications in the Start menu.
From the Start menu
Instant Search is located on the Windows Vista Start menu, so you can find practically anything on your PC with as-fast-as-you-can-type performance. To find a specific file, e-mail message, contact, event, application, or Internet Favorite, simply open the Start menu and begin typing in the Instant Search field. As you type, Windows Vista instantly finds and displays matching items, whether they are applications, Internet Favorites, documents, media, contacts, calendar events, or e-mail messages.
From within Explorers and the Control Panel
Instant Search is featured prominently in the upper-right corner of every Explorer, including Documents Explorer, Music Explorer, Pictures Explorer, and the new Search Explorer. Just as on the Start menu, you just have to type a few letters before the most relevant results are quickly displayed. If the results aren't what you're looking for, Instant Search also provides easy access to tools that can help you design more specific searches, or you can search the Internet using your search provider of choice.
Instant Search also appears in the upper-right corner of the Control Panel in Windows Vista. Type a word or phrase associated with the task you want to accomplish, and the Control Panel will filter down to the most relevant choices available to complete the task. For example, typing "change screen resolution" into the Instant Search field will quickly display all controls related to changing the resolution of your monitor.
You'll also find Instant Search in the new Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Media Player. Anywhere you see the search field, just start typing, and you'll easily find what you're looking for quickly, consistently, and within the context of where you're searching.
Advanced Search Pane
For more detailed searches within an Explorer, you can use the advanced filter pane to design a search with multiple search criteria.
For example, you can choose to search a specific location or for a particular content type, such as documents, e-mail messages, or media. You can also add additional filters, including keywords and date ranges. When you've designed a particularly useful search, it's easy to save it as a new Search Folder so later you can instantly repeat that search just by clicking on it.
If you connect external, stand-alone hard drives to your Windows Vista-based PC for storage, backup, or archival purposes, the contents of these drives can also be displayed in your search results. Simply add the hard drives to your search index, and when you create a new Search Folder, the contents of the drives will be included in your results.
Personalized views of your files
The powerful Explorers in Windows Vista extend the benefits of desktop searches to the next level by combining instant searches and the ability to automatically organize content based on file properties like file names, file types, author, or descriptive keywords (or "tags") that you can associate with your files.
For example, if you want to see all of your documents organized by author, the Documents Explorer can help you search your PC and automatically arrange all documents according to who authored them. Or, if you prefer to see files arranged by type—documents, spreadsheets, or presentations—the Documents Explorer can instantly sort and display the results this way as well.
The real power of these new features is that they allow you to organize and view your files in countless, flexible ways. For example, you may have a photo from your vacation, taken at a zoo, with a tiger in it. With Windows XP, you store that photo in a specific place on your PC-maybe a folder titled "Vacation." With Windows Vista, you can tag that photo with three keywords: Vacation, Zoo, and Tiger. Later, you can easily locate this photo by using any of those tags. More importantly, typing a keyword like "Tiger" in the search field will not only yield that one photo, but will generate a dynamic view of all the photos that have been tagged with the Tiger keyword-no matter where they are on your PC. Typing "Zoo" in the search field gives you a view of that same picture, this time alongside all the other Zoo-tagged pictures you may have previously taken.
Enhanced column header controls
Enhanced column header controls take advantage of the extensive use of file properties in Windows Vista. With the enhanced column header controls, you can more easily manage the large numbers of files that may be shown in an Explorer or within your Search Results. The new column header controls have drop-down menus, which can display all of the values across any of the columns of information associated with your files.
For example, choosing the Type column header control will display a list of all the different types of files in your folder. Using simple check boxes, you can choose only files of the specific type you want to see. Selecting HTML Document and XLS File types will filter out all of the other file types on the screen leaving only those files that are HTML Documents or spreadsheets.
Stack and Group By views
The new column header controls also feature two new views that you can use to browse your content. The Stack view displays your content stacked by the values in a specific column. For example, if you select the Authors column header and choose to stack by author, all of your files currently in view will automatically be rearranged into stacks organized by the author's name.
These stacks behave like traditional folders, so you can click to open them and see all of the items located in that stack. Unlike traditional folders, however, stacks have no physical location on your computer. In a sense, they are virtual views of your content. More importantly, if a file has two authors (for example, a document was authored by Tim and Paul), that file is included the stacks for both Tim and Paul, providing you with the ultimate flexibility in how you find and organize your files.
The Group By view is similar to the Stack view, but it takes the content files and places them into groups according to the values of a particular column header. Grouping your files by author will give you a more granular view of which documents belong to which author.
Tagging your files
The powerful new search and organization features in Windows Vista make extensive use of the properties (called metadata or keywords) associated with the files you store on your PC to provide you with dynamic ways to view your content. These properties can include things like the date a file was created, the author of a file, names of people who appear in a photo, or the application that was used to create the file.
For example, Microsoft Office automatically saves certain information on documents that you create, such as your name and the date the document was created. When you add music to your PC, information such as song name, album, and artist are added to the actual music file. With Windows Vista, some of the most useful pieces of information are the keywords that you apply to your saved files. Tagging your files with keywords is fast and easy, and can be applied to a single file or to a group of files all at once.
Adding tags using the Details Pane
To easily add a property to a file, select the file and click the Edit link in the Details Pane. This opens the Properties dialog box, where you can easily add or edit file properties. Many of the entry fields in this box support auto-completion, making it even easier to add properties. You can also tag an entire group of files at once―just select multiple files and add a property to the Properties dialog box. And if you want to make sure that no one sees your personalized properties and keywords when you e-mail a file or post a file to a website, Windows Vista includes a cleaning tool that helps you erase those properties from the file quickly and easily.
Adding tags when opening or saving a file
Windows Vista features a new, common file dialog box for opening and saving files. With applications that use this control, like Office 2007, you can use all of the innovative new searching and tagging features when you open and save files. To add properties when saving a file, simply enter the properties directly into the Details Pane and they are automatically added to the file as you save it.