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Top 10 Windows Vista Hits And Misses

In this countdown of where Microsoft has scored and stumbled with Vista, our opinionated writer says yes to the Aero interface and Sidebar Gadgets, no to beefed-up graphics hardware requirements and a tough installation process.

7) Miss: Search & User Security Dialogs

Here's a case where Microsoft tried to do the right thing, but came up short. The Windows Explorer file-directory tool has been outfitted with a new search function. No longer does Explorer morph its left side into a "What do you want to search for?" pane with that annoying little dog at the bottom. Now, the bar for searching through your files is located at the top of Explorer, and its appearance owes more than a little to OS X.

Top 10 Vista Hits & Misses

  1)  Hit: Sidebar & Gadgets

  2)  Miss: Installation

  3)  Hit: The Aero Glass GUI

  4)  Miss: Performance

  5)  Hit: Media Center-ization

  6)  Hit: WMP 11

  7)  Miss: Search, Security Dialogs

  8)  Hit: DRM

  9)  Hit: Flip 3D

10)  Miss: Memory Requirements


        Image Gallery

No matter, the concept is good. Unfortunately, the performance of search in Vista Beta 2 is not. A search for a file name or contents doesn't return any results until it's completed. In contrast, search in Windows XP populates the right pane with results on the fly. Perhaps Vista's wait-til-it's-soup approach is why the search bar has a green "time lapse" indicator, which moves ever rightward as the search nears completion. It's good-looking, but I'd rather see the interim results.

Given that Microsoft has made major fixes since the release of Beta 2 -- most notably the upgrade to the Vista Basic user interface -- it's possible that they'll take another look at search. (The performance of search might also be addressed in the upcoming interim Beta 2 update.) A best-of-both-worlds approach would be the way to go: keep the "progress" bar and post search results as they occur.

One issue that Microsoft is promising to address immediately is its obtrusive User Account Controls, which are intended to prevent spyware and virus-laden programs from installing themselves on your PC. The controls are dialog boxes -- "Windows needs your permission to continue" -- that are supposed to pop up whenever an unknown executable threatens to launch.

Microsoft is redesigning Vista's User Account Control dialogs to be less intrusive. Click image to enlarge and to launch image gallery.

In practice, they pop up so frequently they're the computer equivalent of the airline ticket agent asking you if anyone has handled your luggage. As a result, the controls in their current form will quickly become ignored. They'll be more useful once Microsoft revamps them, but even then they'll be less the backbone than the public face of security in Vista.

Vista's invisible but important security enhancements include a much stronger Internet firewall and administrators' ability to restrict access to removable storage devices like USB flash drives. There's also BitLocker, which enables users to encrypt their entire hard drive. Such security features are more meaningful for businesses considering using Vista than all the GUI eye candy I've written about so glowingly in this review.

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