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What's Different About Vista's GUI? 444

jcatcw writes "Paul McFedries, author of Windows Vista Unveiled, thinks that an operating system should be thought of as more than just its user interface, but then again that interface should work well for the user. He thinks the Vista interface rates 'pretty darned good.' The Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) results in positive changes for both developers and users. Developers can do 2-D, 3-D, animation, imaging, video, audio, special effects and text rendering using a single API. The use of vector graphics and offloading work to the GPU result in better animations, improved scaling, transparency, and smooth motion."
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What's Different About Vista's GUI?

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  • by Eideewt ( 603267 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:23PM (#16522693)
    It also lacks my favorite thing in the world: hotkeys to raise, lower, move, and resize windows without fumbling for title bars or the even smaller buttons on them. Linux has had this for how long now? Something like 21 years at least. Microsoft needs to either make window management easy or make it less necessary (like by implementing virtual desktops).
  • by pammon ( 831694 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:30PM (#16522795)
    The author seems rather confused about what "GUI" means. The GUI is the graphical user interface - what the user sees and interacts with. The article mentioned almost nothing about the actual user interface of Vista - only the developer-targeted APIs. Nearly all of the apps that ship with Vista do not use WPF and therefore the actual GUI will not be like what the author describes.

    And the author is simply wrong when he says that "With WPF, everything is drawn with vectors, so you can scale windows and icons as big (or as small) as you want, and the objects will display with no loss in quality." In fact, icons in Vista are generally 256x256 bitmap images. Artists normally prefer bitmaps because it gives them more control over the artwork.
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:39PM (#16522897)

    I believe you are mistaken, MS never sold any OS but Windows..

    Not true. Or have you forgotten DOS ?

  • Re:slow transparency (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:02PM (#16523205) Homepage
    Yeah, I'm sure you were performing on average 2000 bitblts per action on your 386 Pascal program. Just because you wrote an algorithm that probably did a 50% dither on b&w bitmap 10 years ago, then saying it is trivial, is akin to me saying, "Hey, I once ran a 4-minute mile, therefore a marathon is trivial!"

  • by Beer_Smurf ( 700116 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:05PM (#16523233) Homepage
    Are you suggesting that Vista will run on a $25.00 thrift store PC?
    I can tell you that the latest version of OSX and MS Office, will run on a $100.00 used Mac.
    I do it every day on my B&W G3 400.
    You can verify said prices here. []
  • by dan828 ( 753380 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:08PM (#16523283)
    It really baffles me why they haven't added virtual desktop support yet.

    It's been around since NT-- a powertoy called Virtual Desktop Manager toys/xppowertoys.mspx []

  • by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <> on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:17PM (#16523387) Homepage
    That's a major cheat - it just sends hide commands to all the windows on one 'desktop' and show commands to all the windows on the other. It also fails rather badly if one of the apps refuses to be hidden.

    In XP it got a bit silly because all the window animation started up and you'd see all the windows shrinking and growing...
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:18PM (#16523405) Homepage Journal

    Alt-Space, n minimizes. Alt-Space, x maximizes. Alt-Space, m moves (arrow keys, or once you hit an arrow key you can do it with the mouse.) If you can figure out how to activate the taskbar with the keyboard, you can restore windows by hitting enter when they are selected :) Alt-Space, s changes size: You use the arrows to select a drag handle, then use them some more to resize. I realize other people already told you that you could do this, but I just explained how. Actually, the easiest way to restore them is to use Alt-Tab until you get to the one you want. And they already provide virtual desktops (to which you can switch with keystroke combinations) through the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager (MSVDM) Power Toy. So are there any other features which Microsoft already has (the key combinations predate Motif - Microsoft was an original member of the Motif Working Group and helped steer it, in fact) that you would like to ask for?

    I'm no Microsoft apologist but damn, you just don't know what you're talking about.

  • by Ucklak ( 755284 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:25PM (#16523497)
    yeah, and it sucks.

    It doesn't work effectively, you can run Excel on one desktop and Word on the other as you'll have toolbar issues.
    You'll need more than a Gig of ram to be effective to even be comparable to any Unix running just notepad.
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lux ( 49200 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:39PM (#16523675)
    No, that's not all they added. I'm running RC1 at home now, and I have to say that the wireless-targetted TCP improvements alone are worth an upgrade to me.

    I really like the fact that a lot of my hardware drivers are running with reduced privileges over (under?) XP. I think this is why my machine is crashing less now --my sound card is a POS and the drivers used to routinely crash XP. Now it's more stable with beta Vista drivers than it ever was with the "stable" ones.

    I'm also stoked that the OS benchmarks the hardware so users can target their upgrades at their weakest links more easily. I'm pretty technical, and I usually find myself making what are pretty much educated guesses, so I plan to make use of this feature.

    Finally, I'm going to like it when my family is on it and they call me up and ask me to fix their computers, because Vista tracks some performance and stability heuristics, and has a tool that graphs these metrics alongside software installation/update events. Because, you know: my parents never do *anything* to make their machine slow down or destabilize. Never.

    So, yeah. There are plenty of crunchy bits in addition to the UI improvements. Here's a pretty good list: ws_Vista []

    There are some things I don't like, but I like it enough that I plan on building a new box for it when it ships.
  • Re:A while back... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bunions ( 970377 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:06PM (#16523925)
    That is exactly what I told people afterward, almost verbatim. Because that's exactly what it looked like.
  • by AndrewNeo ( 979708 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:15PM (#16523995) Homepage
    That's why Virtual Dimension [] is your friend. It works a hell of a lot better than Microsoft's PowerToy, though there are a few minor bugs at least you get unlimited virtual desktops. I recommend version 0.93 as I've had problems with 0.94.
  • No, it IS vectors (Score:3, Informative)

    by cbhacking ( 979169 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. ... isiurc_tuo_neeb.> on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:25PM (#16524093) Homepage Journal
    Yep, icons are raster. So are bitmap files. So are rendered jpegs, in most programs. So are sprites in most programs. The point you're missing is that Vista ships these bitmaps off to the GPU to be rendered using vectors (not sure if the raster->vector conversion happens in software or hardware or both, but what comes out is vectors) so you get the advantages of vectors on the display end (they are fast to render using hardware acceleration, too) and the advantages of bitmaps when manipulating your images. Some benchmarks I saw on a machine with a good graphics card had 3x-5x render speed improvements in programs like Photoshop due to the hardware accel.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:38PM (#16524209)
    Does OS X support remote 3D calls? Windows does it with Vista's Remote Desktop, you can even run Aero on a remote PC when the host PC has an underpowered graphics card which can't run it nativly! And before anyone brings up X Windows let me say that it was cool when it was new, but thanks to the engineers at Citrix and Microsoft RDP is way ahead. Hell just today I was using RDP over a connection with 30% packet loss to diagnose the problem, it wasn't pretty but I can't imagine any other remote protocol working is such conditions.
  • by Kilz ( 741999 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:48PM (#16524279)
    "What's the deal with you guys going nuts over system requirements of Aero? I haven't seen any new systems which are not capable of running Aero. All you need is a 128MB graphics card, which is something even basic gaming requires. And it is not just that. I installed Vista on a 4 year old laptop with 8MB video memory and the basic interface of Vista (without Aero) is still way more reponsive than XP. Microsoft has made huge performance improvements in the UI. It just keeps getting better."

    Is that like the requirements for Windows ME? []
    You know the ones that if you have the requirements. Where it takes 20 minutes to even load the OS. Once booted everything moves in slow motion and it takes 15 minutes to start up a web browser.
    Most people know that minimum requirements to Microsoft mean it just barley works. Anything less and the computer wont even show the login.
  • by no1nose ( 993082 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:30PM (#16524553)
    When compared to XP's UI, Vista is way too difficult. They have changed the behavior of common icons (e.g. the network system tray icon does not have a "right-click properties" method of accessing the connection settings). Also, there is no more Start -> Run option. They have replaced it with Start -> "Search". This appears to offer the same functionality as "Run", but does not seem intuitive.

    Another item I was hoping for: multiple concurrent Remote Desktop sessions. I know Microsoft will never do it, but they really should allow Vista "Ultimate" Edition to support the same Remote Desktop model as their server software (one console and two remote sessions simultaneously).
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:52PM (#16524713) Journal
    And they already provide virtual desktops (to which you can switch with keystroke combinations) through the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager (MSVDM) Power Toy.
    They do, but it's not decent. Every IM program borks the desktop. Every popup borks the desktop. Some programs just plain don't work with it. Some wander all over the desktop, probably because they're confused about being at some coordinates but not actually visible or some other logical thing they can't deal with. Others totally freak out to the point of crashing.

    I'm also annoyed that at least last time I tried it I couldn't get it to "go to the workspace to the right", but I'll grant that's a bit more obscure. More important is that Windows wasn't designed for multi-workspace use, and even Microsoft programs work very, very poorly with it.

    Same for "focus follows mouse". It works great, except for all the programs that grab the focus, the programs that won't accept the focus following the mouse, the programs that seem to get confused about being the focused program but not being the top window, etc. Windows wasn't designed for it and it shows.

    I've tried everything I've ever seen mentioned on Slashdot for multiple workspaces, and they all suck in the same way. My conclusion is that Windows is the common factor, and it's not a stretch to notice the Windows messaging system was fundamentally designed for a 16-bit cooperative multitasking, all-processes-in-one-memory-partition model, and it's still hack-upon-hack on top of that. (Raymond Chen's "The Old New Thing" blog has story after story about "here's why Windows has this wart. It all started in Windows [123].0...") Terminal services seems to work OK, and I had hopes that updating Windows to work with TS would also improve applications w.r.t. multiple workspaces, but it hasn't happened.

    I've tried everything, and quite a few window managers on Linux too. I'm not sure how I could know more about what I'm talking about. Windows's multiple-workspace support is a bullet-point feature, an unsupported Powertoy, something even major application builders don't test for, and unless it's slipped by all the Vista coverage, for practical purposes, Windows does not decent multi-workspace support.
  • Re:No, it IS vectors (Score:3, Informative)

    by pammon ( 831694 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @10:22PM (#16524913)
    I'm not quite sure how a raster image can be "rendered using vectors" (and any more information you had on this would be nifty), but whatever hoops Vista jumps through internally, it still can't allow an image that starts out as 256x256 raster to be scaled up "as big as you want" with no loss in quality.
  • by oddfox ( 685475 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @10:24PM (#16524923) Homepage

    The new UI requires a DirectX 9-capable card and takes advantage of all the features made possible through DX9. I'm not aware of any internals in Vista that utilize DX10, since it's more orientated at allowing games to run better. Some details about DX10 [].

  • by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @10:30PM (#16524969)
    Welcome to the world of OS X.
    Do yourself a huge favor and download Quicksilver [].
    Improve your efficiency and impress your friends at the same time.
    Bind it to something like Cmd-Cmd and install the built in flashlight interface.

    Trust me, and read some reviews and 10-minute tutorials.
  • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:17AM (#16525595) Homepage
    I was going to mod you up for this post, because Quicksilver really is a godsend if I've ever known one. But I thought I should really chime in with plugging TWiT's MacBreak [], which has some wonderful guides on getting a lot out of Quicksilver, specifically on eps. 12 and 17. But, do explain this flashlight interface - it's the first I've heard of it.
  • by MojoStan ( 776183 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:27AM (#16525643)
    When compared to XP's UI, Vista is way too difficult.
    Are you sure Vista's UI is not just different and changing your XP habits is the difficult part? I'm kidding. I'll take your word for it (that Vista's UI is more difficult). I just had to say it because that's what many Mac and Linux fanatics say when Windows users have a hard time adjusting to OS X or GNOME/KDE.

    They have changed the behavior of common icons (e.g. the network system tray icon does not have a "right-click properties" method of accessing the connection settings).
    I'm not certain about this, but you seem to be running XP using a "Computer administrator account" because a "Limited account" doesn't allow the user to change network connection settings. Last time I checked, Vista doesn't run with administrator priveledges by default, so that's probably why you can't access network connection setting anymore. You can use Fast User Switching (Windows Key + 'L') to temporarily logon to your admin account, change your network connection settings, then logoff your admin account.

    Also, there is no more Start -> Run option. They have replaced it with Start -> "Search". This appears to offer the same functionality as "Run", but does not seem intuitive.
    I think the vast majority of Windows users never use the "Run..." command from the Start menu (I think this is an intermediate-advanced function). I also think that a Windows user that's knowledgable enough to be a regular user of the "Run..." command would know the keyboard shortcut (Windows Key + 'R') or could add "Run..." back onto the Start menu by right-clicking the Start button and selecting "Properties -> Customize." TFA [] mentioned this.
  • Not Goofs (Score:3, Informative)

    by abandonment ( 739466 ) <> on Saturday October 21, 2006 @05:53AM (#16526923) Homepage
    >>we use Windows as a platform to run software for r

    which is exactly why Vista will be a major annoyance for anyone trying to do serious work on it. I'm completely in agreeance with the parent - the flying in windows and transparency this, blar blar that are all fine and dandy for the first 5 seconds you are using Vista - it DOES look 'new-ish' and psuedo-fancy...but then try to actually get anything serious done on the OS - the way that windows 'fade' into each other is really counter-productive. When a window pops up that is an actual user-prompt, you don't want it to fade in gently so that you won't notice it (and believe me there will be many a time when you don't notice when a window has changed because of this), you want the window to pop up and say 'hey there - mr computer here, i need your input on something'

    the way Vista is currently is very counter-productive to the whole production side of using a computer, period.

    i'm fairly near-sighted, but with XP i can click through and navigate through most of the standard windows prompts literally without reading what they are actually saying - because the fact that i can tell when a window has changed and a dialog has popped up. with Vista, you have to focus - not only on the window that you might be working on at that particular moment, but on the entire screen at all times because you never know when another window or prompt might 'slide up' into view without you knowing...

    it's a serious issue that i think is going to cause alot more eyestrain and general confusion overall.

    as it stands now, basic computer users barely notice when a dialog pops up for them to do something - with vista, things won't pop at all, suddenly you'll find a window locked up because some sneaky dialog prompt has come up and stolen the focus from you. particularly for modal windows, this will be very annoying, very fast.

    another major annoyance with vista are the 'security popups' - they pop up randomly but don't seem to have much point at all. how hard would it be for virus writers to spawn random mouse clicks to bypass these things? i've seen driver installers from large-scale hardware companies (yes Brother I'm looking at you) that have automated mouse-clicking in their driver installations that bypass the 'unsigned driver' prompt in XP - a major no no as far as i'm concerned...having a virus or whatever doing the same thing for these security popups won't be too hard either i'm sure.
  • by r3m0t ( 626466 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:09PM (#16528669)
    Vista (and XP) are perfectly multi-user. They could allow Remote Desktop + Local Desktop session simultaneously. They've just restricted you so that it doesn't hurt their Terminal Server business.
  • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @04:44PM (#16530899)

    Yes Vista has translucent window borders, no, OS X doesn't. It used to have transparent window borders (Not 3D accelerated like in Vista).

    Wrong, OS X's translucent window borders were hardware accelerated through the Quartz Compositor using OpenGL. Apple no longer uses translucent window borders because the effect becomes very tiring. XGL has nothing at all to do with this, especially since Apple was doing this back in 2002 with the introduction of OS X 10.2 Jaguar.

    Microsoft announced Avalon in 2002, which means they've been thinking about the idea for some time. Linux also has XGL. Hardware accelerated graphics are nothing new.

    "Thinking about the idea for some time" doesn't count. Quartz was first unveiled years earlier in the OS X betas.

    I think you're confusing resolution independance with something else. Quartz uses a sudo-vector graphics way of drawing windows, but it is not resolution independant. Vista uses the same way, since the blur is simly a pixel-shader effect.

    Wrong, Quartz has always been resolution-independent, which is why an NSView can send the contents of its view to a printer, which has a higher resolution than the screen. In other words, the same drawing commands used to draw to the screen are used to draw to the printer. Quartz does not use a "pseudo-vector graphics way" of drawing windows, whatever that means. In OS X Tiger, a scaling factor was added for developers to test against, and Leopard will expose this value to the user for modification.

    No arguing there, but Flip3D is nothing like expose, nothing at all like it.

    It's obviously a response to it.

    Security prompts are something Apple did not invent, and the fact that a password is not asked for has nothing to do with whether MS copied Apple, but if Apple had above a measly 5% share, they'd have to start thinking about all the moronic people who wouldn't know what to do.

    5% isn't "measly" and neither is their 15% worldwide install base of 18 million OS X users or their presence in creative professional and academic markets. Regardless, your response barely addresses my point. UAC doesn't even ask for a password, and people will get into the habit very quickly of just clicking "Continue" whenever the annoying box pops up. OS X requires you to pay attention and enter your password, which is more logical and more secure.

    Actually, it's quite different, the different colour, the lines showing the cone, and the different size of the magnet. How many different ways of showing sound via an icon can you think of?

    No, it's not "quite different;" it's exactly the same but in inversed monochrome. It's the same sideways speaker icon with three soundwaves that increase and decrease depending on volume level. Before Vista, the speaker looked different and didn't behave that way, and it wasn't monochrome. OS X had this same icon and behavior for half a decade.

    Most everything in Windows is some inverse of the original MacOS. Vista's taskbar completes this by become black in inverse to the white system menu of MacOS. The clock is still on the right side as are the system tray indicators (did you not notice that the task bar is essentially the Mac OS system menu moved to the bottom of the screen?). And now the system tray icons themselves are inverses of the MacOS versions.

    No it isn't, it's completely different. The only similarity is that they are both round.

    OS X has used a signature round, spinning busy indicator for half a decade, and you're actually arguing that there is no similarity when Microsoft suddenly adopts a round, spinning indicator after years of using the hourglass?

    When OS X boots, it has its standard spinning radial progress indicator (animated segments arranged in a ring

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