Windows Vista : Windows Aero

Vista’s most significant overhaul of the user interface can be summed up in a single word: Aero.* That is Microsoft’s brand name for the new look and feel, although its functionality goes beyond just an improved desktop appearance. So, what exactly is Aero? It encompasses many characteristics, including:

Glass. The program windows are now translucent, allowing users to see through programs to get an idea of what’s on the window behind. If you maximize the program, the glass goes away and you get the Vista default application color of gray/black.

Luna was the brand name for the XP visual interface, by the way. One of the big differences between Luna and Aero is that Luna didn’t really add any functionality to the Windows interface, especially when compared to Windows 2000—it just looked different. Aero, on the other hand, does add functionality—Windows Flip 3D, Live Thumbnails, and so on—that isn’t available on a Vista machine that’s not running Aero.

Glowing buttons. This isn’t unique to Aero, but it is part and parcel of the new user experience. Buttons such as Minimize, Maximize, and Close now glow when your mouse hovers over them. You’ll also see this behavior when using certain applications such as those in the Office 2007 suite. The glowing buttons make it just a little easier than before to be certain that your mouse click will carry out the action you intend. In other words, although it’s a subtle difference, it’s there to make the Windows experience more intuitive than ever. You see it even when you’re not using Aero, which I’ll explain in just a bit.

Windows Flip. Hold down the Alt-Tab keys to see Windows Flip in action. (I’ve seen it referred to as Windows Switcher as well. Whatever.) And if you’re thinking, “That’s not new, I could use Alt-Tab in lots of previous Windows versions,” you’re absolutely correct. The difference is that you can now see the program contents rather than just the program icons, which is why, I suppose, it gets its very own feature name now. Windows Flip lets users be more precise when switching between programs. If you’re switching among five different PowerPoint presentations doing cut/copy/paste operations, say, this can really be a timesaver. Try it with a video running in Windows Media Player.

Windows Flip 3D. Taking Windows Flip one step further, Windows Flip 3D arranges all of the open programs in a Rolodex-style layered arrangement, again letting users actually look into each of their running applications. To use Windows Flip 3D, hold down the Windows key on the keyboard and then press the Tab key. Really cool. Impress-the-neighbors cool. (There’s a Quick Launch shortcut for this as well, by the way, but the idea of both Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D is that you can toggle between programs without having to reach for the mouse.)

Technically, all of this new eye candy is part of the Aero appearance setting, which you can change using a technique that should be pretty familiar to users of previous versions of Windows. This will also serve to answer a common question: can I set up my computer to look like an older version of Windows?

Changing from Aero to another theme
Here’s how to change from Aero to another visual interface:

1. Open the Personalization Control Panel application. The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to just right-click an empty space on the desktop and choose Personalize.

2. Choose the Windows Color and Appearance link, opening the Color and
Appearance dialog box.

3. From there, choose the “Open classic appearance properties for more color options” link. You will now see the Appearance Settings dialog box.

This dialog box should look familiar to users with prior Windows experience. With this dialog box, you can make Windows look more like Windows 2000, using the Windows Standard appearance, or even like Windows 98 with the Windows Classic setting.

Yeah, well, I don’t see that dialog box. No, you may not. The Vista Aero appearance takes some significant processing horsepower to make it do its magic. Systems that are more than six months old, or laptops in general, might need an upgrade to unlock Aero’s capabilities.

(Aero is actually part of what Microsoft calls the Windows Vista Premium experience, and if your system is Vista Premium Ready, it should be enabled as the default. If your system is merely Windows Vista Capable, you’ll use the Windows Vista Basic appearance rather than the Windows Vista Aero appearance. The Basic appearance includes solid silver program windows and the redesigned buttons.)

So, if you don’t see the Windows Color and Appearance dialog box I just mentioned, you’re experiencing a new engineering characteristic of Windows Vista. That is, if your system isn’t speedy enough to support a certain feature, Vista won’t even present you with the opportunity to turn it on. In fact, Microsoft even takes this concept one step further. According to Microsoft, a system running Vista will perform faster than the exact same system running Windows XP. Why? Because Vista does a better job of optimizing memory and disk usage, and does not allow graphics options to be turned on that the system cannot support capably.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows Vista Administration The Definitive Guide


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