XP also has some mixed-bag elements that don't clearly fall into the "best" or "worst" groups.
Take networking. XP's Professional edition works well in large enterprise settings, and the Home edition makes it relatively easy for novices to share an Internet connection. But networking for workgroups, departments, and small offices--especially in mixed platform, peer-to-peer environments--seems to have fallen though the cracks, even though the largest number of network seats falls into this category. (Many computer vendors get caught up in serving the 500 largest companies. Hundreds of thousands of other computer-using businesses are out there, just in the United States alone.) Yes, XP can work on these smaller networks, but not without some hair pulling and not as delivered.
Another mixed-bag networking item is XP's built-in firewall. It's a great idea on the surface, but it's anemic. For example, it totally fails as protection against illicit "phone-home" back-channel use of a system's network connection by a virus, worm, or Trojan. To see for yourself, try the free firewall Leak Test.
I'd also count XP's visuals--its look and feel--in the mixed-bag category. I like the way the Taskbar and Tray work to avoid clutter--this is animation with a purpose--but other elements seem gratuitous and without point. It's not just the silly cartoons--the dog that appears when you click Find, for example. You can turn off the dog. It's the myriad other little animations of screen elements that seem designed to make things smoother, but which more often serve to make things slower.
I'm also ambivalent about XP's default color scheme: It's initially fresh and nice, but after a long day of staring at the screen, I find the colors increasingly garish and carnivallike. And while all these elements can be turned off or modified, it's a laborious process.
What's On Your List?
Do you agree or disagree with this list? What other items would you add to either the best or worst side of the ledger? Which items do you consider to be mixed bags?
Please add your choices to the list, and when we're done, we should have a treasure trove of pros and cons about XP, all based on real-life XP-user experiences. It should be highly informative--and fun. Join in!