Vista Beta Offers Peek at Aero Interface

Following what many viewed as an unimpressive first showing of the then "Longhorn" OS at this year's WinHEC, Wednesday's release of Windows Vista Beta 1 began to show hints of the Aero interface that will play a large role in the new operating system.

Microsoft also confirmed Wednesday that a feature complete version of the interface will not be included until Beta 2, not due until early 2006.

Most notably, Vista users will notice that windows are now translucent with more animation when opening and closing windows. "Because it is visually intuitive, the glass helps users focus on the task at hand, whether reading a document, viewing a Web page or editing a photo," Microsoft says.

Vista will include better organizational features, such as Virtual Folders and a quick search box very similar to the Spotlight feature now available in Mac OS X "Tiger." Virtual folders are equivalent to saved searches, which will automatically update without user intervention as related data is added and removed from the computer.

Quick search will allow the user to quickly search their hard drive much like the company's MSN Desktop Search already provides, and be able to start wider searches across the entire PC.

Finally, the Start menu has received a bit of a facelift in Windows Vista, now including a search box at the bottom to allow a user to access programs by typing the first few letters of the program's name. Doing so pops up search results within the Start menu pane allowing for faster access to applications than going through the All Programs menu.

The Control Panel has received a facelift along with Pictures and Video. Users will be able to organize, rate and view file information on multimedia files easier than they could in previous versions of Windows.

Microsoft says the enhancements will "give users clear ways to organize and use their information and seamlessly connect to people and devices."

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