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Why I prefer Vista over XP

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Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous journal entry. LachlanL made an interesting comment that I feel deserves a full/proper post [smile]

I'd be very interested to hear anyone else's thoughts on this. Feel free to leave a comment!

Original post by LachlanL
Anyway, I noticed that everyone seems to be saying "I wouldn't want to go back to XP", but nobody's really been any more specific on why that is. So, would someone mind enlightening a poor peon like myself of why Vista's way of doing things is so much better than XP's?

In no particular order:

  • Folder/path navigation
    I find it much faster and easier to navigate around my computer using the 'breadcrumb' style menus. Being a proper techie I always had the 'address bar' visible on XP and was often more efficient by manually typing (and using auto-complete) path/file addresses. Now I can do it with a mouse.


  • AERO Glass
    I'm not usually taken by "oooh, shiny" graphical eye candy, but I realised something subtle about the fancy new UI the other day. It's a very dark UI, and a lot of the 'system' parts of the UI (e.g. title bars, frames etc..) are all translucent. When working with MS Word and VStudio the only solid and bright parts of my display are the work area. Everything else is either dark or fading out in some way - basically, it doesn't distract me at all. I was always facinated by the psychology behind visual interpretation, vision and computer graphics and I think the AERO Glass stuff works well in this regard. The fact that it's hardware accelerated and looking pretty is a distant second to what I've come to consider the primary functional/usability improvement.

  • Graphics everywhere stuff
    Probably also related to AERO Glass, but I do like the way that hovering over task-bar entries shows a preview of the window, ALT+TAB shows the actual window and the WINKEY+TAB 3D flicker thing. It's a little touch, but I much prefer it to the static previews and/or just plain icons that appear in the same places on XP.

  • Improved Control Panel and Standard Dialogs
    If you were to line up Win95, Win98, WinME ([sick]), WinNT, Win2K and WinXP next to each other the standard dialogs all look roughly the same. Menu's were laid out roughly the same, the control panel applets look pretty much the same and most things were found in the same place. Within reason if you knew how to use one you'd probably be able to switch to any of the others without thinking too much about it.

    Windows Vista changed this - they've redesigned a huge number of the standard dialogs and moved things around. An example is the "Personalize" option instead of "properties" when you right-click on the desktop. You don't go to the standard display control panel applet, you now go to a new one that lists common tasks - changing the appearance, wallpaper, screensaver and so on. Basically, they've made a departure from tried-n-tested and actually thought about the usability of the OS. A risky task but IMHO it's worked.

I think that covers the big ones to me - the ones that are noticeable when you go back to WinXP. There are loads of other 'under the covers' tweaks and changes that I like, but they're not so much about usability...

Two things that are talked about in Vista that I'm non-plussed about:

  • Search. I use it when I have to, but for whatever reason I've never been too interested in desktop searching. Rarely gets what I want.
  • Windows Sidebar. First thing I do whenever I reinstall Vista (being on the beta meant I've done this lots of times [wink]) is disable the sidebar. Not my cup of tea.

Now, just to balance things out. There is one thing I really DON'T like about Windows Vista. The start menu - specifically the way it opens "into" itself under the default settings. I much prefer the traditional XP/Win9x style of menu's - yes, I know you can re-enable this under Vista but you lose all the other improvements to the start menu area in all-or-nothing fashion [rolleyes]. It's also of immense annoyment that they didn't change the XP behaviour where you can't pin non-executables to the quick-launch part of the start menu. I'd love to pin my DirectX SDK help files to the quick-launch as I use them so often [headshake]
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I must agree with all of your points, except the part about the search. I absolutely love the new indexing. It's, IMO, the best part of the new OS.

There's a VS2k5 plug-in/power toy that enables indexed searches in your source, which is amazingly useful. Even simple things like playing music are a snap with indexing, I just start typing the name of the song I want, and it's right there! not to mention searching your IE's history AND your outlook inbox.

As you can probably assume by now, I really really like this feature.

Regarding the start menu not accepting non-EXE's, it accepts shortcuts. Just add a shortcut to the file you want to some temporary directory, then drag it onto the start menu and it'll let you stick it there. 2 seconds and you're done.

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I like that you can use the search box on the start menu either to search (As it says), or simply as the Run box. You can even use it to easily run control panels/etc.

It's taken me a while to really start using it, but I love it.

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I figured the search comments would be controversial [grin]

It's not that I think there's anything wrong with them, just that the dinosaur in me still seems to prefer doing things the hard way. From using Vista (in some form or another) for a year I've probably used the search features a couple of times...

Maybe I've just got my computer indexed in my head so I don't need to search [cool]

There's a VS2k5 plug-in/power toy that enables indexed searches in your source
Looks like a cool little toy - thanks for the link!

Using the search box on the start menu as a 'run' prompt is a definite neat feature and I do use that. However, I tend to have a 2-layer task bar with the address field across the entire bottom of the screen. This does the exact same job and I don't need to press the start button [razz]


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Well, I think that the negatives you've stated are outweighed by the positives.

I've been using Vista since early/mid-Jan before consumer launch. Haven't looked back yet! I hate to be using a silly buzz word, but the OS feels a bit more "next gen" and current. Doesn't feel like XP where it's sort of same old, same old... Vista took some risks to be the best Windows OS yet, which I think they've done. Obviously there's tons of improvements to be made for next version as well.

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Bleh, I haven't tried Vista yet, and don't have any inclination to try it yet. I'm happy with my quaint little XP lappy *hugs*.

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Wow, thanks Jeffers! That's quite a bit to think about.

Most of the stuff you mentioned seems to be UI conveniences and the only real feature that interests me atm is the search. I guess I'm in the same boat as I was for XP. I couldn't really see anything outstanding that would make me want to switch. Eventually it wasn't what I could do that hooked me in, it was the programs that I couldn't run without it (also I might have been getting perilously close to the point when Microsoft stopped supporting '98).

Eventually I became quite fond of the combined weight of "niceties" in XP. I expect it'll be the same with Vista. Maybe if they decide to put Vista on all the work PCs (not likely! [razz]) I might become enamoured.

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It is definitely the accumulation of a lot of little things. A reminder, I've not used XP, so some of these might've been missed :]


Aero - It's pretty, the shading is functional unlike most Xwindows translucency, and it's speedy. Along with the translucency is a nicer highlighting of button mouseovers, actually usable color schemes, much much nicer sound effects.

Driver changes - Something I've not seen except for the indirectly through the sound card driver deficiency, but there's supposed to be changes to the drivers to make things much more segmented. A long time overdue.

Sudo - Sure, unixlikes have had this for decades, but it's still useful. Better yet, it's non-obtrusive [except when doing all the installs right after OS install].

Revision Control - That's right, revision control built right into the OS. Configurable per drive, vista will keep track of file changes, allowing you to return to earlier revisions.

windows mail - Outlook express got an update with a spam blocker. It's badass, better than any other heuristic spamblocker I've seen.

compatability - vista will nicely run apps pretending to be a previous version so they work.

incremental improvements - The task manager and bits of explorer jump out here to me. Thumbnail views of movies, better view of running services...


Start Menu - This takes a bit of getting used to. I think the ability to just pin things there as needed is better than having everything and it's brother stuffed there... We'll see.

Sidebar - I think that this will be a lot cooler once more of the gadgets exist. Stuff like music controls, IM stuff, email notifications... This would also be more useful at work and/or with a widescreen monitor. For now I just find myself closing it often to free up resources for supcom :D

Not so Good:

Resource Requirements - The new window manager does tend to take a bit of memory. Memory is cheap, but you've been warned.

Sound cards - The driver change rendered a lot of sound card drivers not viable. Sound cards are relatively cheap, but you've been warned.

Unreliability added by explorer and window manager separation - It used to be that even if explorer froze up, you could alt-ctrl-del and restart it. Vista has the problem that explorer and the window manager are separate. If one dies, it's not always able to restart it.

'tis all I can think of at the moment...

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I think that the negatives you've stated are outweighed by the positives.
Indeed, I mostly threw in the negatives as a form of counter balance - they're not seriously big/bad negatives. My only bad experiences with Vista have been around drivers and hardware compatability, but in general this has been a 100x better than with previous OS's - such that I figure MS have done the best they can and, ultimately, it still boils down to the IHV's of which they have no direct control.

I'm happy with my quaint little XP lappy *hugs*.
[lol] Nice choice of picture...

That's right, revision control built right into the OS. Configurable per drive, vista will keep track of file changes, allowing you to return to earlier revisions.
Yup, the journaling features in NTFS are pretty cool.

Most of the stuff you mentioned seems to be UI conveniences
Yup, that was the intention. It's the 'UI conveniences' that I see on a daily basis as an end user. As a 'techie' I understand and appreciate a lot of the hidden features and could quite happily talk about those - but in this instance it's just a case of which usability features I like about Vista and why I've switched...


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For a guy that knows a great deal about DX10, you seem to be "forgetting" that bit in this debate ;-).

I have yet to switch to Vista. No doubt will I do so in the not-so-distant future, because I've played around in it, and I pretty much concur with what you guys/gals are saying. However, the risk of playing with a new and potentially unstable OS during projects and a thesis is a bit too high for my tastes :-).

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Original post by Todo
For a guy that knows a great deal about DX10, you seem to be "forgetting" that bit in this debate
Yeah, but it isn't really part of the usability/interface is it? Yes, it enables richer UI content but its more a feature of the underlying technology.

If I were listing the key technologies and 'under the covers' improvements then it'd obviously be in the list [smile]


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I know this is what pretty much everyone harps on, but some of the new security "features" bug the crap out of me. I guess I can understand needing your explicit permission to run applications and make slightly-critical changes, but it doesn't make it less of a hassle to have to wait for that stupid little dialog to pop up and then tell Vista I really want it to do what I just told it to do.

The part that really bothers me is restricting write access to some areas, even from administrators. An example:
I just got my new laptop with Vista Home Premium, and installed VS2k5 EE and the platform SDK. Now, when installing the PSDK with EE, you need to modify some config files to tell the EE where the PSDK files are and turn on some menu options. However, once the files were open and edited, Vista wouldn't let me save them to the correct directory. I had to save them to my desktop, copy them into the VS2k5 EE directory, and then tell Vista that yes, I really did want to replace the files already in there [flaming]. The whole thing just seems like a terrible user experience to me.

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