Features of Windows Vista - Part 1

Windows Vista (formerly codenamed Longhorn) has many new features compared with previous Microsoft Windows versions, covering most aspects of the operating system.


Microsoft has listed the following requirements for what they call a Vista Premium Ready PC. A PC that meets or exceeds these requirements will be able to use the new Aero technologies.
a 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
1 GB of system memory
a Direct3D 9 compatible graphics processor with a Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, and a minimum of 128 MB of Video RAM
40 GB hard drive with 15 GB free space
audio output and Internet access

Windows Aero

Windows Aero is the graphical user interface and the default theme in most editions of Windows Vista, an operating system released by Microsoft in November 2006. It is also available in Windows Server 2008, which was released on February 27, 2008. Its name is a backronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open. Intended to be a cleaner, more powerful, more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing user interface than the previously used theme (Luna), it includes new transparencies, live thumbnails, live icons, animations and eye candy. Aero also encompasses a set of user interface design guidelines for Microsoft Windows.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is an application that is part of the Microsoft Windows operating system since Windows 95 that runs on top of the Windows operating system and provides a graphical user interface for accessing the file systems, though is not strictly essential to the running of a Windows computer. It is the component of the operating system that presents the user interface on the monitor and enables the user to control the computer. It is sometimes referred to as the Windows GUI shell, or simply “Explorer”.


Icons in Windows Vista are visually more realistic than illustrative. Icons are scalable in size up to 256 x 256 (64 KB). Required icon sizes are 16 x 16, 32 x 32, and 256 x 256. Optional sizes are 24 x 24, 48 x 48, 64 x 64, 96 x 96, and 128 x 128. Document icons show the actual document contents and several media types are distinguished by icon overlays (video, audio, photos). The icons can be zoomed in and out using a gradual slider or by holding down the Ctrl key and using the mouse scroll wheel. To optimize and reduce the size of large icons, icons may be stored as compressed PNGs. To maintain backward compatibility with earlier versions of Windows, only larger sized icons can use lossless PNG compression.

File operations

In Windows Vista, when moving or copying files, Windows Explorer displays the full source and destination path, size and number of items and the transfer speed in megabytes per second (MB/s). If a conflict or error is encountered, it does not terminate the copy, move or delete operation. Rather, the file is skipped and the rest of the files processed. At the end of the operation, the errors are presented to the user with resolution options (if available). If two files have the same name, an option is available to rename the file; in previous versions of Windows, the only options were to either replace the destination file or cancel the process. The user can also choose to apply the same action to the further conflicts, if any.

When renaming a file (when extensions are being displayed), Explorer only highlights the filename without selecting the extension

Start menu

In Windows Vista, the Start Menu has undergone some significant changes. One of the chief additions is a Search box, where users may begin typing immediately. The contents of the Start menu itself are indexed and searchable, besides the global search index. If indexing is turned on, the search box returns results on-the-fly as users type into it. This allows launching applications relatively quickly than navigating to the shortcut through cascading menus. The Start menu search also doubles as the Run command from previous versions of Windows; simply typing any command will execute it. The Run command can also be added separately to the right column in the Start menu.

Windows Flip and Flip 3D

For all Vista Premium Ready PCs, when using Alt+Tab to switch between open windows, a preview of each open window appears instead of just the program icon. In addition, Windows Flip 3D enables users to flip through a cascading stack of their open windows using the mouse scroll wheel. Windows can be stacked and rotated in 3D to provide views of all of them simultaneously. (The keyboard shortcuts are Win+Tab, which makes Flip 3D disappear after releasing, Ctrl+Win+Tab, which keeps Flip 3D visible after releasing, and Shift+Win+Tab to flip through open windows backward). The window buttons on the taskbar show a thumbnail image of the window, when the mouse hovers over the button.

Other shell improvements

> It is now possible to install and select non-English languages on a per-user basis which transforms the entire shell user interface and applications into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese or Spanish from the next login. This feature is only available in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.

> JPEG files can be natively set as the desktop wallpaper without using Active Desktop (which is no longer supported). Also, the aspect ratio of images is maintained properly while applying them as the desktop wallpaper.

> A new feature known as Previous Versions can revert the contents of any file to an arbitrary point in the past from the file's Properties. The Previous Versions feature utilizes Shadow Copy, a storage backup technology introduced in Windows Server 2003.

> Dialog boxes also display their status on the taskbar. Previously, only windows showed their status on the taskbar.

Windows Sidebar

Windows Sidebar is a new panel which can be placed on either the left or the right-hand side of the screen where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as displaying the weather or sports scores). The gadgets can also be placed on other parts of the desktop, if desired, by dragging. By default, Windows Vista ships with thirteen gadgets: Calculator, Clock, CPU Meter, Currency Conversion, Feed Viewer, Feed Watcher, Notes, Number Puzzle, Picture Puzzle, Recycle Bin, Slide Show, Stocks, and an egg timer. Additional gadgets are published at Microsoft's web site, which offers both Microsoft-created and user-submitted gadgets in a gallery.

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