Windows Vista Explorer / User Interface Review
The big thing in Vista is the look. While that’s public enough knowledge, there are some subtle changes that have happened since the start of the RC1-branches builds that have greatly enhanced the quality and perfection of Windows Vista’s visual effects. Prior to RC1 branches, Vista’s (in)famous ‘Aurora’ theme was overdone and exuded of nostalgia and clutter. Comparing the old Aurora and MCE ‘stage’ of previous builds to the new Aurora effect. The difference is very subtle, but the effect is colossal.
Other effects such as the copy/move/delete dialogs have undergone major enhancements, while ‘heavy’ animations such as Flip3D and the alt-tab sequence have undergone heavy improvements since the original, with anti-aliasing added in subsequent builds and ending with the perfected Flip3D of RC1 with it’s 8x anti-aliasing effect and anisotropic filtering.
Windows Vista has nice new effects all over the place, when you’re maximizing windows, booting up, shutting down, or looking for some nifty widgets to tell you the time, take notes on, or check out the weather. Glass has finally been improved, as can be seen by comparing the old and the new versions of Windows Media Player 11.
A user interface is something far bigger than just pretty icons and flashy effects, it’s the whole way that the operating system interacts with the user and vice versa. Windows Vista puts a whole new spin on the way an operating system works. It may not be Windows 95 all over again, but Windows Vista can be seen as the “evolution finale” of the graphic desktop. Windows XP was “GUI-Complete” in that one didn’t have to touch the CLI to make things work, unlike Windows 2000 or any and all flavors of Linux, but there were always things like the registry to deal with.
Vista has put a lot more control in the hands of the user, almost any feature can be tweaked and modified to one’s liking, whether it’s the desktop, the audio controller, hard drives, or anything in between; the entire interface to modifying certain parts of the OS has been overhauled and is much easier to use. But again, it’s not perfect. Being able to change tint & opacity of window borders isn’t everything.
Vista RC1 may finally be feature-complete and comfortable to use with everything tied in, but its UI is almost the total opposite. Some aspects of Windows Vista feature a “bars” UI such as Windows Mail with it’s blue bars across the front, and the “balls” that include Windows Media Player and Windows Photo Gallery that are made up of a see-through control bars at the bottom and large, circular control buttons in a bar. Then there’s Aero Express with it’s largely boxy & opaque sky-blue appearance, and then you have MCE with it’s dark blue theme with the really nice rollover effects. Each is, in its own right, a decent enough display, but they don’t really fit together the way one would expect for the default programs that ship with a single OS.
This post on Teching it Easy best explained the mess behind the GUI disunity present in Windows Vista, ever since the “improved” Aero Express theme was launched. But if that was all that was wrong with Vista’s GUI, it’s not a problem. We’ll get used to it the same we got use to the ghastly and garish bright blue of Windows XP (not Royale Blue of MCE!). But it’s not.
The bigger problem is in how Vista makes everything just a hair’s-width too far. Checking available wireless networks requires right clicking the icon in the taskbar, opening the Network and Sharing Center, and choosing to connect to a new network. 4 steps. In XP it was just a double-click away. In Linux it’s right there on the desktop (well, it depends on the flavor, but you get the gist). It’s the same with uninstalling programs, changing the system time, or modifying virtually anything in Windows Vista. It’s easy, it’s all in the same place, it’s all very powerful, and it’s all just a bit too far for comfort.
In earlier builds UAC/LUA was a nightmare to use, but in RC1-branches it almost never comes in the way, and when it does, it’s worth it. But that doesn’t mean that RC1 is suddenly power-user friendly. To the contrary, Vista provides a hell of a lot more features for tweaking, but at the same time, it makes performing any advanced changes to the OS beyond what’s already available quite a painful process. The Control Panel has been revamped, it has a lot more power, but nevertheless, for power users there will be a bit of exasperation involved.