Windows Vista for Business Out Today

By Steven Warren

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Windows Vista has been in development for roughly five years and I have been actively involved as a beta tester for the last 12 months. I have seen the good and the bad of Windows Vista (agonized over driver incompatibility, praised security and enhancements to the user interface).

Now that I have had some time working with the official Windows Vista release to manufacturing (RTM), I wanted to share with you my growing love affair with Windows Vista.

First things first, let’s begin with how Microsoft is branding its new editions. They have created six different versions of Vista to handle the needs of private consumers, small businesses, and large enterprises. The versions are packaged as follows: for private consumers - Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Ultimate (with all the bells and whistles).

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For businesses there are Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Enterprise, which handle the business side of Vista such as encryption and virtualization.

The Pros

Now for the fun stuff: I have been working with the Windows Vista Ultimate edition and I would like to share some of the things I love about Windows Vista. For starters, the installation of Vista is aesthetically beautiful to the eye and simplistic by nature.

The installation went very smoothly and in less than 28 minutes I had my new operating system singing. This is half the time it takes to load Windows XP Professional. Before I ever got into the new operating system, I was pleased on this front alone.

My laptop graphics card supports Vista Aero Glass, which is simply the eye candy of Vista. All I can say is a-maz-ing. Every time I work on my laptop, I find myself smiling at how beautiful the interface is. The Start button has been redesigned as a beautiful orb with a windows logo, the Start menu, and the icons, Microsoft did a great job redesigning the user interface.

Once I got past the interface, and starting digging around I found that configuring a wireless connection was a snap and the security that came with Vista was top-notch.

I was able to create a standard account and elevate my privileges to administrator when the need arises. For example, I run as a standard user, and anytime I have to install software, I am asked for the administrator password.

Anytime I have to get into the admin tools or control panel or any area that requires administrative rights, I am prompted for the admin password. Vista was built similar to Linux in that you do not have to run your computer as a root user.

Kudos to Microsoft for finally getting this right.

Also included in Vista is a newly redesigned Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). I love the new user interface that includes tabbed browsing, quick tabs, instant search bar, page zoom, support for RSS, phishing filter, and a protected mode.

Everyone loves the tabbed browsing but I really enjoy the security of the IE7 protected mode. In protected mode, you are safe from hackers. It is impossible for IE7 in Vista to modify user and system files without your input. It basically prevents hackers from taking over your browser and executing code through administrative rights.

Another feature of Vista that I love is Windows ReadyBoost. This technology allows me to place a USB key in my computer and improve performance without adding additional memory to my computer. Once you put the USB key in you are prompted to view the files on your USB key or speed up your system. My laptop already had 2 GB of RAM. I had a 2 GB USB Flash key and my system is screaming speed.

The newly improved Start menu has been working great for me. In the past you had a huge Start menu with tons of programs on it. With Windows Vista, you simply click Start and type the name of the program in the search bar and it finds it within seconds. For example, you could type “word” and it brings up Microsoft Word. You no longer have to navigate through the tree to find the program you want. This is a real time saver.

I am also enjoying Windows Flip 3D, Windows Flip, Live Taskbar Thumbnails, and the Windows Sidebar. If your computer supports Aero Glass, you will be tickled by Windows Flip 3D. It allows you to flip through your open windows in 3D. It is fantastic. The only drawback is that you need Aero Glass support to take advantage of this feature.

Windows Flip is the ALT + Tab combination but it also gives you a graphical presentation as well. Live Taskbar Thumbnails is also a welcomed enhancement to Windows Vista. By simply running your cursor over the taskbar, you get a graphical presentation of each open document.

Windows Sidebar is a sidebar that runs on your desktop that allows you to add gadgets. It is identical to dashboard widgets in Apple’s OS X Tiger. On my desktop, I have a calendar, notepad, stocks, headlines and weather gadgets running. I can also go online and download more gadgets that are helpful to me. This is a feature I am really enjoying.

On the backend, all profiles are no longer stored in documents and settings. You now have a users directory and each profile is stored within this directory. Microsoft has also done away with “My". There are no longer My Documents, My Pictures, etc. It has been replaced simply with Contacts, Documents, Desktops, Downloads, Music, Pictures, etc.

These are just some of the features I have come to love about Windows Vista. Vista has so much more to offer. I believe other people might see value in other areas of Vista such as Windows Mail, Windows DVD Maker, Windows Games, Windows Media Player, Parental Controls, and/or Windows Photo.

These are areas I have yet to explore but as each day goes by that I use Windows Vista, I find myself unlocking more of its mysteries. The more time I spend in Vista, the more I become impressed with what it has to offer.

Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, DatabaseJournal.com and, now, CIO Update. He the author of "The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook" and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.