The best of Windows Vista

17th Jan 2007 | 00:00

The best of Windows Vista

It's finally here. We look at what the new OS has to offer

Windows is about to change. The last version of the operating system, Windows XP, emerged in 2001, a year when 1GHz was still considered powerful, the hottest new PC feature was a DVD burner, and in which Apple had just released a little white music player called the iPod.

Since then, we've all got used to having more technology in our lives: we take photos with digital cameras, listen to music on MP3 players, store our contact details in mobile phones - and when we need something, increasingly it's the internet to which we look first. Windows Vista has been designed to sit at the centre of this digital world, bringing all the new technologies we use every day into a single, easy-to-use place.

Now that your PC is the place where you store the things that are most important to you - your photos, your daily communications, even your entertainment - it needs to be a much more capable machine, and that's what Windows Vista is set to bring about.

Some of it is built on things that you'll be familiar with - old stagers like Media Player and Internet Explorer - some of it you'll never have seen before, but just about all of it is new, and everything's improved. We take you through the main features...

Putting you in control

When you use Windows Vista for the first time, the thing that strikes you is just how good it looks, and how impressively modern it feels. This is thanks to a slew of graphical features, which enormously enhance the desktop. There's a sense that Windows Vista really is fully employing the vast processing and rendering power of a contemporary PC.

After using it you'll no doubt find that any other software looks horribly outdated by comparison. Fortunately, the massive improvements in Windows Vista over its predecessors don't just extend to its gorgeous new look - there's a whole host of new features, fine-tuning and enhancements underneath the hood that make it a better, easier and more comprehensive operating system to use.

Find what you want

Looking for a specific file no longer involves any waiting - open the Start menu and type in a title, folder name or even a phrase within a file and you're presented with results instantly. If there's certain information you access regularly - for example, every email sent last month or every photo you've tagged with 'holiday' - you can save the search results for even quicker access. It's updated automatically whenever a corresponding file is created or changed.

Get communicating

In a world of games, movies and strange people shouting at each other about nothing over the internet, it's easy to forget that organisation and communication are the bedrock upon which the personal computer was founded. That's why Windows Vista includes a set of excellent tools for email, appointments and contacts, all of which make the most of new instant search technology to ensure you get access to the exact information you need within seconds.

But not only that, getting organised and communicating over the web has never been so secure. This is because Windows Mail includes advanced email protection to stop junk, phishing and viral emails from entering your inbox.

Catalogue photos and videos

The computer has revolutionised photography. Not only can permanent, perfect digital copies of every shot you take be stored forever but they can also be improved immeasurably with the use of photo editing tools. New features in Windows Vista make this easier than ever before. Whether it's printing, editing, managing or archiving, all your memories are in safe hands.

Rather than storing and browsing your photos by their physical location, you can tag every image (either when you first copy it to your PC, or later on) with information of your choice. Every tag you create is listed on the left of Windows Photo Gallery - so, for example, clicking on 'holidays' displays every picture you tagged as being of a holiday. But, because you can add multiple tags to each photograph, the picture of a hill in Hawaii might also appear when you click on a tag you've created called 'Great Outdoors'.

Keep secure

The internet may well be an invaluable resource of chat, advice, entertainment and badly-framed photographs of people's pets, but it's also a pretty dangerous place. If an unsavoury type can spot a way into your PC via the web, chances are he'll use it. That's why Windows Vista has been built from the ground up to ensure it runs only the software you want it to and to keep a constant eye on exactly what's trying to set up camp on your hard drive.

Not all threats are online, though, which is where the Windows Vista Parental Controls come in. This new feature helps you control and log your kids' computer usage and ensure they're not exposed to stuff that they shouldn't be.

A brand new addition to Windows, User Account Controls keep an eye on what's being accessed, and steps quickly in the way of anything with a question mark over it. It'll then present you with a prompt asking if you're happy to proceed, which involves either just hitting 'Continue' or entering an Administrator password if you've set one.

This applies to everything, from installing drivers for hardware devices, to downloading and running programs from the web, and even accessing certain essential elements of Windows Vista.

Surf better than ever before

The all-new version of Microsoft's venerable web browser, Internet Explorer 7 is the best yet. Its slick new interface integrates seamlessly with the sharp design of Windows Vista, both slimming down to a simpler, more intuitive look and feel, and also bundling in tools to help you browse the web the way you want to.

Also, and more importantly, Internet Explorer 7 is safer than ever, with a team of new software doormen equipped to prevent potential online threats from finding their way on to your computer. If their names aren't on the list, they're not coming in.

Listen to the music

Anyone who's used a PC for a little while quickly accumulates a library of digital music numbering in the thousands. And because to err is human, it's very difficult to keep track of what songs you have on your PC, who sang what, and what on earth that track that used a live swan as a percussion instrument was called.

For its eleventh incarnation, Windows Media Player has undergone a near-total revamp in order to ensure caretaking your ever-growing music collection is a pleasure and not a chore. Among its many improved features are integrated web browsing support to view online music stores and the ability to share your music library across other networks. Your music doesn't have to stay on your PC. If you've got an Xbox 360 on the same network as your PC, it can remotely play back music and photos from your Windows Media Player library.

If your PC has Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate Edition, which include Windows Media Center, the Xbox 360 can even play back your movie collection as well, bringing the media prowess of your PC into the living room. Windows Vista lets you know when it's detected any media playback device on your network, and asks you if you want it to access your music, movie and photo library, should you wish to view a slideshow or watch a film. It's all so easy with Windows Vista.

Windows VistaSoftwareMicrosoftMedia CenterInternetGamingDigital homeComputingWindows
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