The year of the OS


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In a way the minimum requirements are less important for Vista than the system’s maximum potential, and Vista was designed to take full advantage of the performance available on the most high-end computers. For example, a 64-bit processor is capable of crunching packets of code that are twice as big as 32-bit processors, but since very few programs are written for 64-bit processors a lot of that capacity for performance is never used. Not so with Vista’s 64-bit edition.

While the guts of Vista are solid, there are other intangible benefits.

The look and feel of the new Aero interface is a huge improvement over XP — always a search window where you want one, interactive 3D windows, new ways to browse open windows, customizable functions, and buttons always where you need them — but the real appeal will be in the host of new features available.

One feature you’ll notice right away is Windows Shell, a new type of file organization system that lets you choose how you want to group, stack and link files and folders in your system. Shell recognizes that sometimes users want files to be in two places at once, or serve more than one function.

It’s also easier to move up and down your file hierarchy, retracing your steps as you move around.

The new Desktop Search tool will also be helpful for finding files, with a high degree of specification. A new indexing engine will make it faster to find key words on your hard drive, and sort the results in a way that they’re easier to sift through.

The Sidebar feature is pretty much the same thing as Apple’s Dashboard, essentially allowing the use of little java applets that do everything from tell time to provide updated weather reports.

Other features include a new Windows Mail program, a new contacts application, a new calendar application, a new fax and scan application, the Windows Meeting Space application where you can easily collaborate on applications and files with other users, and various other helpful tools.

Several reviewers have already pointed out that many Vista’s features copy the features already included in Apple’s OSX series of operating systems. Rather than argue against that, I’d say that the similarities are a good thing even if Microsoft loses points for originality — OSX is widely recognized as the best of all the operating systems out there, and it would be silly if Vista couldn’t at least match that functionality.

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