I just bought a new PC – a laptop to be specific. It’s preloaded with Windows Vista, which really never had any appeal to me, but for no very specific reason (other than things like this). Well, after some hands on experience, I think I can say that it’s definitely no walk in the park. What it appears that Microsoft has done with Vista is try to make a user experience that’s extremely sanitized and flashy, but that hides almost all of the real business of being a computer.
The updates to Windows Explorer serve to hide the operating system as much as possible. In addition, it’s been optimized for mouse navigation, to the extent that it’s very difficult to navigate with the keyboard and may actually be quicker with a mouse now. The breadcrumbs feature in the path bar can’t be turned off (screenshot above), which is a huge slap in the face to those that don’t find value in it like me.
The Windows+Tab feature is eye candy and pretty useless – Alt+Tab is still the way to go, and now that it shows a window preview instead of an icon it’s actually a positive enhancement. The Start Menu is not very good of an upgrade, but thankfully it’s only a single option to go back to the classic Start Menu. The desktop gadgets are kind of cool, but aren’t really that novel – things like iGoogle and PageFlakes offer similar functionality, but with portability between computers. The aero glass feature is eye candy – it really offers no useable benefit, so it’s more or less a resource sink.
So, the question is now whether or not Vista is the way to go. In my mind, XP is a superior system. I’m not buying that Vista is more secure than XP – they’re both screen doors in that regard. Vista is definitely slower than XP on a same-spec machine (and XP is getting a speed bump, too!). Vista was not developed with a power user in mind – keyboard navigation has suffered, and there are plenty of useless buttons and features cluttering up the OS. The driver support is still murky at best. However, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is pushing hard for Vista, which means that XP has a finite lifespan. DirectX 10 already isn’t available in XP, for example. What’s next – the next version of Visual Studio or the .NET Framework may not support XP? Win2K is already out in that regard, so it probably will happen at some point.
So, what’s one to do? I’m very much a Windows developer, so I have to have a Windows machine. Is it worth it to put up with Vista? I can’t say – I still haven’t figured that one out.