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Windows Vista Technology Primer

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Get the basics on the features, enhancements, and improvements in Microsoft Windows Vista.
This chapter is from the book

Introduction to Windows Vista

Microsoft Windows Vista is the most significant rollout of the Windows operating system since Windows 95. Windows Vista is different from previous versions of Windows from login to logout. The new operating system with its subsystem and driver model enhancements is a major improvement over its predecessor, Windows XP, in terms of Vista's stability and usability for future Windows versions. The revolutionary architecture of Windows Vista changes the way users work with and manage data on their computers. Key architecture changes include changes to user account controls and privileges, preinstallation and preboot environments, and modularization and disk imaging. All these modifications are meant to improve the user experience in regard to usability, such as finding documents, email messages, applications, or configuration settings. Security is also enhanced with improvements to User Account Control to help prevent installation of prohibited applications and system protection against spyware and malware, with improved versions of Windows Defender and Windows Firewall.

Understanding Windows Vista Versions

Microsoft Windows Vista is the latest release of the Windows operating system and is designed to dramatically improve the computing experience of every kind of PC user—from people at home who use their PCs for simple web browsing, to business people who must organize and act on large volumes of data, to engineers and designers who routinely perform complex mathematical analysis. To meet the specific needs of the broad range of users, Microsoft will deliver five editions of Windows Vista. Each edition is geared toward the needs of a specific type of person. The five editions of Windows Vista available are the following:

  • Windows Vista Home Basic—A budget version of Windows Vista meant for home users with basic computing needs. This version includes a basic set of entertainment features but does not include the capability to join a domain.
  • Windows Vista Home Premium—An enhanced version of Windows Vista meant for home users with elevated computing needs. This version includes an enhanced set of entertainment features but does not include the capability to join a domain.
  • Windows Vista Business—A basic version of Windows Vista for business users. This version includes a basic set of management tools and the capability to join a domain.
  • Windows Vista Enterprise—An enhanced version of Windows Vista for business users. This version includes an advanced set of management features and the capability to join a domain.
  • Windows Vista Ultimate—An enhanced version of Windows Vista that contains all the advanced infrastructure features of a business-focused operating system, all the management and efficiency features of a mobility-focused operating system, and all the digital entertainment features of a consumer-focused operating system. This version also allows joining a domain.

Understanding Windows User Experience (UX)

Windows Vista introduces a breakthrough user experience and is designed to help users feel confident in their ability to view, find, and organize information and to control their computing experience.

The visual style of Windows Vista helps streamline the computing experience by refining common window elements so users can better focus on the content on the screen rather than on how to access it. The desktop experience is more informative, intuitive, and helpful. New tools bring better clarity to the information on the computer, allowing users to see what their files contain without opening them, find applications and files instantly, navigate efficiently among open windows, and use wizards and dialog boxes with added confidence.

Windows Vista provides the following four levels of user experience:

  • Windows Classic—Provides a Windows 2000 look and feel, yet preserves the functionality of Windows Vista. This level of user experience is available on any version of Windows Vista and requires just the core Windows Vista system requirements.
  • Windows Vista Basic—Provides the basic user experience for entry-level desktop systems (see Figure 1.1). The interface is upgraded when compared to earlier version of Windows. The Start menu allows instant search capability and easy access to programs; live icons reveal their contents, preview panes, reading panes, new wizards, diagrams, and dialog boxes. This level of user experience is available on any version of Windows Vista and requires just the core Windows Vista system requirements.
    Figure 1.1

    Figure 1.1 Viewing the Windows Vista Basic graphical user interface.

  • Windows Standard—Provides improved performance and reliability to the basic user experience. This experience level is perfect for mid-level computers equipped with graphics hardware that supports the Windows Driver Display Model (WDDM). The Standard experience uses the WDDM graphics technology to enable smoother window handling, enhanced stability, and a reduction in display glitches while refreshing. This level of experience can be used with any version of Windows Vista, except for the Starter version, and requires the same level of hardware as Windows Aero.
  • Windows Aero—Provides the highest level of visual design and enhanced dynamic effects to the Standard user experience (see Figure 1.2). These new enhancements allow the user to experience user interface essentials such as transparent glass, live taskbar icons and thumbnails, the Windows Flip 3D, and Flip views. The Windows Aero user experience includes additional benefits, such as improved productivity (real-time thumbnail previews, new 3D task switching, interface scaling), enhanced visual quality (fast and effective window redrawing), and visual aesthetics (translucent window frames and taskbar, enhanced transitional effects). Windows Aero is available only in Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows Vista.
    Figure 1.2

    Figure 1.2 Viewing the Windows Vista Aero graphical user interface.

As noted previously, each level of user experience builds on the features of the previous version and is dependent on the Windows Vista version and the computer's hardware.

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