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(Another) First Look at Vista

By Brian | August 12, 2005 | Share on Facebook

InternetWeek has a pretty good tour of Windows Vista, Beta 1 (with copious screenshots).

There’s very little to go on here (you can’t really have an opinion on an OS without actually playing with it), but there are a couple of things that I find encouraging:

Virtual folders
Longhorn was originally going to ship with Windows File System, which was based on the SharePoint model of storing files. Basically, they were going to hide the Windows Explorer “tree” structure that has become second nature for most people, and ask you to find your files based solely on metadata (author, date, filetype, subject, full-text search, etc.). I believe it was pulled because beta testers couldn’t let go of the tree structure (a group I beta tested SharePoint with actually customized it to put the tree structure back in!), and because people didn’t trust the search functionality to rely on it completely for document retrieval.

Virtual folders seems like a good compromise. They sit side-by-side with the normal tree/folder model, but they aren’t shortcuts/aliases to files – they represent the files themselves (i.e., if you delete a virtual folder, you really do delete the files inside it).

Integrated Search
The article says the search is integrated in the OS, and works well and fast. Of course, all I can do at this point is trust the author, but given that Spotlight was my favorite feature of Mac’s Tiger OS, I’m glad to hear something similar is coming in Windows.

IE 7
Everything we’ve been hearing about (although it’s nice to finally read an article about what it can do, rather than rip it to shreds by characterizing beta bugs as evil security flaws). Tabs, RSS feeds, advanced security options, etc. This is catch-up for Microsoft, but at least it’s there.

Graphical Breadcrumbs
This sounds like a really cool idea. It’s basically the breadcrumbs we’re all used to seeing on the web, but each term in the trail is a menu, giving you options to navigate the tree starting from that point (including the virtual folders). It’s a very simple idea, but it puts the entire tree at your fingertips in a way that even the web doesn’t do. I hope it works as well as it sounds.

Translucent Window Panes
Silly thing, but I think it looks way cool…

Overall, what’s most encouraging to me is that they seem to have taken the opportunity to introduce new paradigms into the OS that weren’t there before (virtual folders, graphical breadcrumbs, and some smaller things like a revamped Start menu and User Account Protection). When I looked at Tiger, I was happy enough with the experience, but felt as though they missed an opportunity to make positive changes in how we interact with the machine – it was simply a nicer, faster version of what we already had (except Spotlight, as I mentioned above, and the Dashboard widgets, which I think are just a novelty). Maybe Vista will learn that lesson. Time will tell…

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