Vista Gets New Standard UI Theme

While Microsoft has always shown off Windows Vista with its new Aero user interface and "Glass" theme, not all customers will have the required hardware to power the advanced graphics. In turn, Microsoft has spruced up its Standard theme, which had been the subject of many complaints.

Vista beta testers have long voiced their distaste for the Standard theme, even giving it the nickname "scrap metal" due to its lackluster gray appearance. "We heard you loud and clear," wrote Vista community leader Nick White. "In fact, we too wanted something better, and we’ve overhauled this theme with an all new version."

The new theme takes on a light blue color scheme, with a flatter appearance overall. The window control buttons have been made wider, but do not extend to the top window edge as they do with Aero. Inactive windows will appear blueish-gray and will not be transparent as they are in Aero.

Explaining why Microsoft needed to build two themes, White said that "Vista uses the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) to deliver some amazing user experience features collectively called Windows Aero which include; Desktop Composition, Glass window frames with colored glass, window thumbnails and Flip3D."

However, those users with a graphics card that cannot run WDDM will not be able to utilize Aero, which is included with Windows Vista Home Premium, the Business SKUs and Vista Ultimate Edition.

"You’ll get the Windows Vista Basic theme which does not benefit from some of the more graphically intensive features such as desktop composition and glass window frames," White said.

Brandon LeBlanc, a Vista tester who first reported on the change, applauded Microsoft's efforts to improve the Standard theme, but also had some criticisms. "I dislike the way the maximize, minimize, and close buttons are so small. I also dislike how thick the borders are and how there isn't any real transition from the application into the window frame," he said.

Microsoft has not said when the new Standard theme will appear in public Vista builds. It is not part of build 5456, the first interim release to follow Beta 2.

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