Review: Windows Vista Business (Upgrade) - First Impressions

Page 3 of 5: First Impressions

First Impressions
Given that the PC Vista was installed on was not state of the art I was remarkably surprised at the general speed of it. Booting took a similar time to XP, although shutdown took a little longer.

Visually, Vista can only be described as sumptuous. The glass effect makes the previously blue bars semi-transparent (except when windows are maximised). When maximising or minimising any windows they shrink down and fade out simultaneously giving everythin a more liquid, organic feel.

When you click on the Windows logo (formally the Start icon) you are greeted with a significantly different start menu to previous versions. The search field is the major change here, and you will soon wonder what you did without it. Enter a keyword and the menu will display a list of files that contain it. Vista; this includes emails, documents, spreadsheets, presentations - any file that can be scanned for a piece of text, or can be linked to the keyword (for example, pictures in a folder that may contain the keyword). Whilst you may say 'Windows has always had a search', this is different - it's fast and it works. It intelligently provides results that are most likely to be what you want first, giving you a link to view more results, either in a particular media category or of all types.

Vista Search

The next visual enhancement you'll notice is Windows Sidebar. This can either sit underneath all windows or can be permanently docked at the side of the screen. There is an ever-growing number of 'gadgets' that can be freely downloaded and plugged in - from weather forecasts, horoscopes and calendars through to system/network monitors, airline flight informationĀ and news readers, and the list is growing daily. I'd previously tried the Google Desktop, which includes an almost mirror image version of the Sidebar, and while I found it useful ended up uninstalling it as it had a detrimental effect on performance. Not so with the Vista Sidebar, which loaded quickly and responded in a timely fashion whenever I interacted with the gadgets.

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The user accounts facility now has the ability to restrict access to the system or individual programs. This is particularly useful for shared computers, especially as more people work from home. For example, you could create an account with time restrictions, or with access denied to specific applications - great for ensuring the kids cannot be on MySpace when you need to be writing that urgent report.

Parental controls

Microsoft stated that Vista was (and is) the most secure version of Windows yet. While that may be true it doesn'tĀ stop security updates being downloaded with a similar regularity of XP. That said, Vista will prompt you for authorisation when anything potential harmful takes place, which can be annoying after a while. I try to remind myself it's there for my protection , but still. The firewall has also been supercharged, now working on both outbound traffic as well as inbound - a welcome upgrade.

There are many other enhancements, most of which fall out of the scope of this review's target audience. Items notable of mention are improved accessibility, better power management for notebooks and improved tablet PC support. The Windows SideShow, currently only supported by very few laptops allows a second, smaller LCD panel, fed by a 1GB flash memory, provide instant access to email, calendar, photos and music - for many this will be little more than a gimic, however it will significantly improve battery life.

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