April 28, 2008

Why I like Windows Vista

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 9:55 am

Windows Vista has gotten a lot of bad press. Maybe some people were expecting Microsoft to pull a Linux-and-Mac-killing rabbit out of its hat, which Vista is not, but it’s an improvement to Windows in its own right. A few weeks ago I got my first Vista-equipped PC and here are some of things I’m liking about it:

User Account Control–yes, I like it. UAC means simply that you are prompted before you can make a change that will affect other users. I don’t see that as a nuisance; that’s a security feature I want, so I can decide who and what gets to install new programs. This is the first computer where I’ve actually set myself up as a standard user, because I can always input an administrator password (without logging off) when needed. Maybe some software vendors and their users were caught off guard with programs that always needed to be run as an administrator, but running as administrator for is a bug, not a feature (certain administrative utilities excepted).

I like how in Vista the real path to user files is (for example) C:\Users\Public\Photos vs. “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Shared Documents\Shared Photos.” It’s a much more elegant way to say the same thing, reminding me of short DOS and Unix file naming conventions without being cryptic. It’s like they don’t need to show off long file name support any more–names are just as long or short as needed. I also like how the links to these folders are simply displayed in the Start Menu.

I like that the computer goes to sleep and wakes up much faster and more reliably than XP. This is the first computer where I don’t dread a long boot-up to quickly check an e-mail or search–I typically just let it fall asleep, and when I come back it only takes a few seconds to resume where I left off. The Windows Vista Team Blog says “everyone knows that turning a TV off doesn’t really turn it off,” and they wanted to Vista to work the same way. There are reasons some users might want it to work differently, but getting the real TV and cable box to turn on and off together reliably is more of a nuisance in my life right now.

Also, it’s a minor thing, but I think Microsoft has done a better, if not award-winning, job on the visual experience. I like the analog clock, and the way the screen fades in and out quickly when logging on and off. There’s also clearly been some engineering work to support this without compromising response time.

So, should you get Windows Vista on your computer? There are reports of people actively downgrading computers from Vista to Windows XP, which I think is pretty silly. In my judgement, Vista isn’t a reason to go out and buy a new computer (or upgrade one you’re not planning to replace). Vista is an improvement over Windows XP, and it’s helping me enjoy computer, so I’m happy with it.