Windows Vista Beta 1: A Guided Tour - InformationWeek

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8/9/2005
02:25 PM
Scot Finnie
Scot Finnie
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Windows Vista Beta 1: A Guided Tour

Scot Finnie takes a long, detailed, and expert look at the features, foibles, and functionality of Microsoft's upcoming OS.

Moving And Shaking Names

The names for well-known Windows objects, like My Computer and My Documents, have lost the candy-coated possessive. They're now just Computer and Documents. In Beta 1, I have not found any instance of the word "My" anywhere. It's just gone. And that's the way I like it. But that's just a minor aspect of the changes to the shell "namespace" in Windows Vista; when you dig a little deeper you'll find more profound differences.

The Documents and Settings folder contains a lot less than it used to. It now holds only All Users Application Data, meaning basic application settings that are stored when an app is available to all the users on a given computer — nothing that's been customized by the user.



Windows Vista's namespace changes include a new location for user accounts and a reshuffling of the folders that user accounts contain.
(click to enlarge image)

Where it's really happening now is the new C:\Users folder, which houses individual user account data files and user-customized or -created app data. The contents of the new User folder look much more like what you find in XP's Documents and Settings folder under Win 2000 and XP. When you open this folder, you'll see sub-folders for every user account on your system, including Administrator and any other accounts you've created. There's also a new Public folder, the foundation for a replacement of the old Shared Documents folder from XP's My Computer.

As you delve into a specific user account folder, you'll find other variations. At the same level as the Documents folder, you'll find the special folders Pictures, Music, and Videos. (In XP, My Pictures and My Music are found inside My Documents.) There's also a new Downloads folder, as well as folders for AppData, Desktop, and Favorites. Finally, there's the new Virtual Folders folder, which I'll come back to.

Just how all these things will work together in the final version of the product is not 100 percent clear at this point. But I like the general direction Microsoft is moving in, because there's no reason for end-users to interact with global data, like that found in All Users. What's more, this may help application makers do a better job of exposing data that can be customized, while tucking away data that should not be manipulated. The truth is, the current system under XP has evolved several times over the years, and it's a little out of control. Hopefully, this will be a change for the better.

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