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- Windows Aero: a new hardware-based graphical user interface, named Windows Aero – an acronym (possibly a backronym) for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than those of previous Windows, including new transparencies, animations and eye candy.
- Windows Shell: The new Windows shell is significantly different from Windows XP, offering a new range of organization, navigation, and search capabilities. Windows Explorer's task pane has been removed, integrating the relevant task options into the toolbar. A "Favorite links" pane has been added, enabling one-click access to common directories. The address bar has been replaced with a breadcrumb navigation system. The Start menu has changed as well; it no longer uses ever-expanding boxes when navigating through Programs. Even the word "Start" itself has been removed in favor of a blue Windows Orb (also called "Pearl").
- Windows Search (also known as Instant Search or search as you type): significantly faster and more thorough search capabilities. Search boxes have been added to the Start menu, Windows Explorer, and several of the applications included with Vista. By default, Instant Search indexes only a small number of folders such as the start menu, the names of files opened, the Documents folder, and the user's e-mail. Advanced options allow to choose for a specific file type how it should be indexed, the properties only or the properties and the file contents or exclude it.
- Windows Sidebar: A transparent panel anchored to the side of the screen where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as displaying the weather or sports scores). Gadgets can also be placed on other parts of the Desktop, if desired.
- Windows Internet Explorer 7: new user interface, tabbed browsing, [RSS, a search box, improved printing, Page Zoom, Quick Tabs (thumbnails of all open tabs), a number of new security protection features, and improved web standards support. IE7 in Windows Vista runs in isolation from other applications in the operating system (protected mode); exploits and malicious software are restricted from writing to any location beyond Temporary Internet Files without explicit user consent.
- Windows Media Player 11, a major revamp of Microsoft's program for playing and organizing music and video. New features in this version include word wheeling (or "search as you type"), a completely new and highly graphical interface for the media library, photo display and organization, and the ability to share music libraries over a network with other Vista machines, Xbox 360 integration, and support for other Media Center Extenders.
- Backup and Restore Center: Includes a backup and restore application that gives users the ability to schedule periodic backups of files on their computer, as well as recovery from previous backups. Backups are incremental, storing only the changes each time, minimizing the disk usage. It also features CompletePC Backup (available only to Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise versions) which backs up an entire computer as an image onto a hard disk or DVD. CompletePC Backup can automatically recreate a machine setup onto new hardware or hard disk in case of any hardware failures.
- Windows Mail: A replacement for Outlook Express that includes a completely replaced mail store that improves stability, and enables real-time search. It has the Phishing Filter like IE7 and a Junk mail filtering which is enhanced through regular updates via Windows Update.
- Windows Calendar is a new calendar and task application.
- Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library management application. WPG can import from digital cameras, tag and rate individual items, adjust colors and exposure, create and display slideshows (with pan and fade effects), and burn slideshows to DVD.
- Windows DVD Maker, a companion program to Windows Movie Maker, which provides the ability to create video DVDs based on a user's content.
- Windows Meeting Space is the replacement for NetMeeting. Users can share applications (or their entire Desktop) with other users on the local network, or over the Internet using peer-to-peer technology (higher versions than Starter and Home Basic can take advantage of hosting capabilities, limiting previous to "join" mode only)
- Windows Media Center, which was previously exclusively bundled as a separate version of Windows XP, known as Windows XP Media Center Edition, will be incorporated into the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.
- Games: Every game included with Windows has been rewritten to take advantage of Vista's new graphics capabilities. New games include Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans and Purble Place. The Games section will also hold links and information to all games on the user's computer. One piece of information that will be shown is the game's ESRB rating.
- Shadow Copy automatically creates backup copies of files and folders, with daily frequency. Users can also create "shadow copies" by setting a System Protection Point using the System Protection tab in the System control panel. The user can be presented multiple versions of a file throughout a limited history and be allowed to restore, delete, or copy those versions. This feature is available only in the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and is inherited from Windows Server 2003.
- Windows Mobility Center is a new control panel that centralizes the most relevant information related to mobile computing (e.g. brightness, sound, battery level / power scheme selection, wireless network, screen orientation, presentation settings, etc.).
- Windows Update: Software and security updates have been simplified, now operating solely via a control panel instead of as a web application. Mail's spam filter and Defender's definitions will also be automatically updated via Windows Update.
- Parental controls: Allows administrators to control which websites, programs, and games each standard user can use and install.
- Windows SideShow: Enables the auxiliary displays on newer laptops or on supported Windows Mobile devices. It is meant to be used to display Device gadgets while the computer is on or off.
- Speech recognition is fully integrated into Vista. It is an improved version of Microsoft Speech Recognition currently working under Office 2003, with a better interface, a rich and flexible set of commands, and an extensive command-and-control capability to activate the computer by voice. Unlike the Office 2003 version, which works only in Office and WordPad, it works for dictation system-wide. In addition, it currently supports several languages: English US and UK, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Japanese.
- New fonts, including several designed especially for screen reading, and new high-quality Chinese (Yahei, JhengHei), Japanese (Meiryo) and Korean (Malgun) fonts. ClearType has also been enhanced and enabled by default.
- Problem Reports and Solutions, a new control panel which allows users to see previously sent problems and any solutions or additional information that is available.
- Improved audio controls allow the system-wide volume or volume of individual audio devices and even individual applications to be controlled separately. Introduced new audio functionalities such as Room Correction, Bass Management and Speaker Fill.
- System Performance Assessment is a benchmark used by Windows Vista to regulate the system for optimum performance. Games can take advantage of this feature, reading the data produced by this benchmark in order to fine-tune the game details. The benchmark tests CPU, RAM, Graphics acceleration (2D and 3D) and disk access.
- Windows Ultimate Extras: The Ultimate Edition of Windows Vista provides access to extra games and tools, available through Windows Update. This replaces the Microsoft Plus! software bundle that was sold alongside prior versions of Windows.
You can get more information off the Microsoft Windows Vista website.
- Windows Mail was demonstrated by the development team in this Channel 9 video.