Visual Tour: Vista's new UI

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The Task Pane

The Task pane resides just below the Address bar and the Search bar. This pane contains task-related buttons, and its configuration depends on the type of folder you're viewing. For example, in the Pictures folder (see Figure 3.20), there are buttons related to images, such as Preview and Slide Show.

However, all folder windows have the following two buttons:

  • Organize -- This button drops down a menu that enables you to perform basic file tasks (such as renaming, moving, copying and deleting). It also has a Layout command that displays a submenu of options for configuring the folder window's layout by toggling the Preview pane, Reading pane and Navigation pane (discussed in the next three sections), the Search pane and the Classic menu bar.
  • Views -- This button drops down a slider that enables you to change the folder view (such as Details, Tiles or Large Icons).

Yes, the "classic" menus (as they're now called) are still available. If you want to use them only occasionally, press Alt to display the menu bar. (Press Alt again to hide the menu bar.) If you want the menus to remain onscreen in the active Windows Explorer window, click Organize, Layout, Classic Menus. (To hide the menu bar, click Organize, Layout, Classic Menus to deactivate it.) If you want the menus to appear by default in all Windows Explorer windows, click Organize, Folder Options; display the View tab; and activate the Always Show Classic Menus check box.

The Preview Pane

The Preview pane resides at the bottom of the folder window, and it gives you information about either the current folder (if no files are selected), the currently selected file or folder, or the current multiobject selection. If a document is selected (see Figure 3.20), the Preview pane shows the following data:

  • A thumbnail of the document -- Vista's document thumbnails are much more informative than XP's. Here are some examples:
    • Image -- The thumbnail shows a scaled-down version of the image.
    • Video -- The thumbnail shows the first frame.
    • Word document -- The thumbnail shows the first page.
    • PowerPoint presentation -- The thumbnail shows the first slide.
    • Excel workbook -- The thumbnail shows the first worksheet.

  • The document's metadata -- This includes the title, rating, and tags, as well as metadata specific to the document type, such as Genre for a music file and Camera Model for a digital photo. Some of this data is editable, and you can modify that data by clicking the Edit link.

The Preview pane shows information about the selected file or folder.
 

FIGURE 3.20        The Preview pane shows information about the selected file or folder.

The size of the Preview pane is also configurable. You can use two methods:

  • Click and drag the top edge of the Preview pane up or down.
  • Right-click an empty part of the Preview pane, click Size and then click Small, Medium or Large.

The Reading Pane

The Reading pane offers yet another thumbnail view of the selected object. (It should be apparent to you by now that Vista is big on thumbnails.) As with the thumbnail in the Preview pane, the Reading pane shows you the actual content from file types that support this feature, including images, videos, text files and Office documents. Figure 3.21 shows the opening text from a text document previewed in the Reading pane.

The Navigation Pane

The Navigation pane appears on the left side of each folder window and offers access to a few common folders. The top three icons -- Documents, Pictures and Music -- are shortcuts to those folders. The other two items in the Navigation pane are special folders called search folders. Here's a summary of what these three search folders represent:

  • Recently Changed -- Items from your Documents folder that you have created or modified in the past 30 days.
  • Searches -- A collection of search folders, including Recently Changed, Unread Email and Favorite Music. Any searches that you save also appear in this folder.

The Preview pane shows information about the selected file or folder.
 

FIGURE 3.21        The Reading pane shows a thumbnail version of the selected file.

What happened to the Folders list? It's still around, but it's hard to pick out among all the new gewgaws. However, it's easy enough to get at it: Just click Folders at the bottom of the Navigation pane.

Live Folder Icons

Do you ever wonder what's inside a folder? In previous versions of Windows, the only way to find out was to open the folder and take a look at the files. With Vista, however, that extra step might not be necessary. That's because Vista introduces a remarkable new feature called Live Icons; each folder icon is an open folder filled not with generic "documents," but with actual folder content. For example, if you have a folder that you use to store PowerPoint presentations, that folder's icon will show the first slides from several of those presentation files. Figure 3.22 shows an example.

With live icons, the  folder icon is filled with actual content from the folder.
 

FIGURE 3.22      With live icons, the folder icon is filled with actual content from the folder.

Gadgets and the Windows Sidebar

Remember the Active Desktop that Windows 98 foisted on an unsuspecting world? If not, don't worry about it -- it was about as forgettable a technology as Microsoft has ever shipped (with the possible exception of Microsoft Bob). The idea wasn't a terrible one: enable the desktop to support mini-applications downloadable from the Internet. Why not convert the desktop wasteland into something that does more than just provide a home for a few icons? The problem was that the Active Desktop items were ugly, slow, barely functional and hungry: Their appetite for system resources seemed boundless, and just a few of them running at the same time could bring the most powerful system to its knees. Microsoft quietly dropped the Active Desktop and it sank from view, never to be heard from again.

Now, however, Microsoft seems to be trying again. No, the Active Desktop hasn't risen from the dead. Instead, Microsoft is touting a new technology called gadgets, which are, once again, mini-applications. The big different between gadgets and Active Desktop items is that gadgets are much more versatile:

  • You can run Web gadgets from a Web site, such as Microsoft's Live.com site, shown in Figure 3.23.
  • You can run desktop gadgets in Windows Vista's new Sidebar or on the desktop itself, as shown in Figure 3.24. (To display the Sidebar, select Start, All Programs, Accessories, Windows Sidebar.) In this example, the Sidebar is running three gadgets (from top to bottom): Slide Show (images from your Pictures folder), Clock and Feed Viewer (RSS feeds from Internet Explorer). As you can see from the accompanying window, there are a number of other gadgets you can add.
  • You can run device gadgets on external devices.

Websites can implement gadgets, as shown here on Microsoft’s Live.com site. Also, gadgets should prove to be far more robust and efficient than their Active Desktop predecessors because developers can build gadgets using either standard DHTML or the Windows Presentation Foundation.
 

FIGURE 3.23      Web sites can implement gadgets, as shown here on Microsoft’s Live.com site. Also, gadgets should prove to be far more robust and efficient than their Active Desktop predecessors because developers can build gadgets using either standard DHTML or the Windows Presentation Foundation.

Also, gadgets should prove to be far more robust and efficient than their Active Desktop predecessors because developers can build gadgets using either standard DHTML or the Windows Presentation Foundation.

Gadgets running in the new Windows Sidebar
 

FIGURE 3.24        Gadgets running in the new Windows Sidebar.

To see some color views of Vista, check out our Windows Vista RC1 Build 5600 Visual Tour.

See also:

  •  Part 1: Under the hood: What's different about Vista's GUI?

  •  20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista

  •  Visual Tour: 20 Reasons Why Windows Vista Will Be Your Next OS

This article is excerpted from Windows Vista Unveiled, with permission of the Sams Publishing. Copyright 2006 Sams Publishing, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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