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Windows Vista: Your Favorite Features

#1
This thread was partly "inspired" by a poll, asking existing Windows XP users when they plan to upgrade to Vista, if ever.

My intention is to use this thread as a place where Vista's early-adopters can write about features new to Windows Vista that they find useful, fun or interesting.

In order to keep things organized, I propose that we follow a one-post-per-feature format. In each post, list one feature or aspect of Windows Vista that you like, give a brief description (and a screenshot or two, if you think it might help), why you enjoy using it, and/or how it makes you more productive.

Adding to a feature that someone else has already written about is fine; just include a link to the existing post so that it's easy to refer back.

Let's get started. :)
 
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#2
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

Previous Versions:

My first contribution comes from a blog post that I wrote back in August.

Despite all the usual warnings associated with installing beta software on production machines, staying on the bleeding edge sometimes does have its advantages. Here's a little story to illustrate this point...

Some of you might know that I run the Folding@Home distributed computing client on my main desktop. This machine has been running the monthly Vista builds for a while now. The other day, I accidentally hit the switch on the power strip, and the machine turned off. Since the Folding client was in the middle of writing to the disk when this happened, the checkpoint data file was half-written, and the client had to restart the computation from scratch when the system restarted.

So I went into the Folding@Home directory, and clicked the "Previous Versions" button on the Explorer toolbar. I was presented with a list containing versions of the files as they existed the in the past. I selected the version from the day before, allowed Vista to do its thing, and restarted the Folding client. Now that the checkpoint files were intact, it was simply able to resume from where it had left off the previous day.

Okay, so the Folding data was not really all that critical. But had I accidentally deleted or lost something more important, "Previous Versions" would be the first safety net that I could have fallen back on. And it's always nice to have a safety net... =)
Screenshot:



The Explorer window in the background shows the current Gaim directory on my disk. The Explorer window in the foreground shows a snapshot of the Gaim directory from the previous day. I can choose to selectively restore specific files, completely restore the entire directory, or copy the snapshot to some other location as a permanent backup.

I should add that if there are disk space usage or privacy concerns associated with using Previous Versions, it can be disabled easily by turning off System Restore.
 

Admiral Michael

Michaelsoft Systems CEO
#3
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

Even tho I hate Vista I'm going to say one thing I do like:

Per application volume control.

That is all...
 

kcnychief

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Political User
#4
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

Per Application Audio Control:

(Nice suggestion AM)



This feature really is great - as you can see, the ability to control audio per program is available and really nifty. This comes in handy when you are BLASTING some Yuletide tunes, and don't want the LOUD messages that would go with it when someone sends you an IM or another program makes a sound.

I'll add more features at a later time, but I wanted to voice my love for this one as well :D
 

Grandmaster

Electronica Addict
Political User
#5
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

This comes in handy when you are BLASTING some Yuletide tunes, and don't want the LOUD messages that would go with it when someone sends you an IM or another program makes a sound.
That is one of the most annoying things ever! I might actually enable message sounds again when I get on Vista.
 

Khayman

I'm sorry Hal...
Political User
#6
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

The reliability monitor. I found out about it from Paul Thurott's SuperSite, so i'll leave the explanation to him, needless to say its excellent addition to windows
Windows has long sported a Performance Monitor utility that allows you to monitor, at a very low level, the performance characteristics of your PC in real time using a scrolling set of counters. It's still there in Windows Vista, and it's as useful as ever. But Microsoft has also added an amazing new Reliability Monitor that is, perhaps, even better. What this utility does is monitor the reliability of your system, over time, so you can see both how the reliability is trending over time and what caused the problems you've had. It is absolutely one of my favorite new features in Windows Vista.
On the day you install Windows Vista, your system is assigned a reliability rating of 10, the highest possible score. Over time, things can only get worse: Each day there is a problem--an application that crashes, a hardware device that fails, a Windows component that gives up the ghost, or any other failure--your PC's reliability index goes down. If there are no problems at all in a given day, the reliability index will go up, but slowly. Over time, you'll see a nice graph that visually shows you how your PC has fared over time, along with little icons you can click to discover what the exact problems were. It's wonderful.
For example, I installed Windows Vista on my Lenovo ThinkPad T60 on November 8, 2006. The Reliability Monitor reports that I installed a number of applications that day as well, including Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Standard, Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, Apple Software Update, and so on. The majority of these installs were successful, though a few--like the Adobe Help Center--failed, bringing down my reliability index. More problematic, I had four application failures that day: Adobe Update Manager, Microsoft Outlook, and Internet Explorer (twice) all crashed. I ended the day with a reliability index of 7.66.
The score then went up and down over time like a stock ticker. It hit a low of 2.29 on November 22, when I experienced a bizarre number of recurring RunDLL32.exe failures, all of which displayed an accompanying dialog I had to deal with (the errors were related to some incompatibility with MPEG files I had downloaded and tried to play through Windows Media Player; I only got the behavior to stop when I zipped up the files and deleted the originals). Previous to that, the score was a semi-respectable 6.15, and it's been inching back towards that score ever since.
The Reliability Monitor is an incredible addition to Windows because it both provides an accurate picture of the system's reliability and shows you what, exactly, caused the problem. The only problem with this tool is that it's somewhat hidden in the Computer Management console. To get to it quickly, just open the Start Menu and type "reliability" (no quotes) then tap ENTER. You'll see Reliability Monitor in the left of the window that appears.
 

Attachments

#7
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

Nice ones, chief and Khay! Keep 'em coming.

Network Profiles:

This is a great feature for fellow mobile users who regularly switch between different wired/wireless networks. For each network, Vista saves your configuration settings (DHCP/Static IP, DNS servers, etc.) and restores them automatically when you connect to the same network again.

When you first define a network profile, you also specify whether it's a Public or Private network (see screenshot). File/printer sharing automatically gets turned off when you connect to a Private network, and gets re-enabled when you connect to a Public one. This means that you no longer have to disable all your file shares before you connect to that wireless network at the cafe or airport, and turn them all back on manually when you come back home. Windows Firewall in Vista is also profile-aware, so applications that are allowed to pass through the firewall on a Private network are not automatically granted access on a new Public network.

A very handy feature that makes working with multiple networks less of a chore. :)

Screenshot:

 

madmatt

Bow Down to the King
Political User
#8
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

One of my the features that I really like is the "Network and Sharing Center" and the "Network Map" feature. It allows you to view information about your network including IP addresses, MAC addresses, etc.

You can use this feature to view other computers and devices on your network and to diagnose and repair your connection.

Screenshot of the "Network Map" feature:



The above screenshot is from Vista Ultimate running on VPC 2007
 
#9
Re: Windows Vista: The things that you like...

One of my the features that I really like is the "Network and Sharing Center" and the "Network Map" feature. It allows you to view information about your network including IP addresses, MAC addresses, etc.

You can use this feature to view other computers and devices on your network and to diagnose and repair your connection.
Just some additional info regarding this feature - by default, only Vista machines appear on the network map since this feature uses the new Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol. If you have XP machines on the same local network, you can install the LLTD responder provided by Microsoft so that they appear on the map as well.

Here's another screenshot showing two Vista machines on the map, with one XP box and one Windows 2003 server that don't have the LLTD responder installed (which is why they cannot be placed on the map).

 

kcnychief

█▄█ ▀█▄ █
Political User
#10
Internet Explorer 7 (Differences of Vista version vs. StandAlone)

This is something that I feel may get overlooked, since IE7 is available for Windows XP/2003, but there are two crucial security features that the Vista version has, that other versions will not.

Parental Controls are always something that people with children have to keep in mind, and Microsoft has gone and added an amazing product to their operating system. Parental Controls can be applied to any Standard User account, and must be applied from an Administrator's account. Some of the more documented features include Activity Reporting, Web Filtering, Time Limits, Games (monitoring ESRB ratings), and Application Restrictions.

I have personally implemented these on a machine within my immediate family, and am rather satisfied with the results - especially of the Activity Reporting.

Protected Mode throws Internet Explorer into a state where it has much fewer rights than other running applications, taking leaps and bounds against protecting your system from many different types of attacks. This particular addition is especially beneficial, since attacks that come in through the browser generally run under the rights of the logged in user. As a result of the limited rights IE runs with, this will technically restrict, or block, whatever these attacks try to accomplish.

Great features indeed, if you want more in depth explanations I would suggest reading Paul Thurott's review, Section 5e, Windows Vista Security Features
 

American Zombie

Administrator
Staff member
Political User
#11
Protected mode only works if UAC is turned on and since UAC is so annoying I feel many will turn it off. Not sure if turning off UAC affects parental controls.
 

Mecham

Vista bug finder
#12
The ultimate part of Vista has to be the 3D affect for cascading files, just blows me away.

Not sure why but it does... :lick:

The snapshot looks a little naff because it's a little blocky because of the snapshot for some reason. Never mind it still looks good.

Just in case anybody wants the background I attached it to the thread.
 

Attachments

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kcnychief

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Political User
#15
Thats for windows?
It's not.

Please keep this thread to things people like about Vista. If you want to bash/compare/comment on how it relates versus similar technology on other platforms, please do so in another thread.
 
#17
Here's another one from today's blog post for fellow desktop-search fans. :)

Natural Language Search:

Mike Torres pointed out a great feature of Windows Vista that I've been using since I installed the RTM build on my machines - natural language search.

Most of you who have been following Vista's development and/or have used it know that indexed search is a prominent feature throughout the system. The inclusion of a search box right in the Start menu makes it extremely convenient to instantly find files, emails, contacts, and even launch applications. I'm a big fan of Windows Desktop Search on Windows XP (see my old review), but the tight system-integration and performance enhancements like prioritized I/O make the search experience so much better on Vista. It's definitely up there in my list of favorite features.

Both Windows Desktop Search for XP and the search system in Vista (which is based on WDS 3, by the way) include support for advanced query syntax to build more complex search queries. As a simple example, you can type in "from:john monkeys" to find all emails from John that have something to do with monkeys.

In addition to this, however, there's this gem of a feature in Vista that's disabled by default, and like Mike, I have no idea why! (Perhaps Brandon can shed some light?) Once you enable natural language search, you can perform the same query as the one above using syntax that's...well, much more natural - you can, for example, type "emails from john about monkeys." Power-users might find it more efficient to use boolean operators and properties (less typing!), but if you ever forget exactly what that property name was, you can easily fall back to this simple, natural syntax. And it works really well too!

To enable natural language searches in Vista, go to the Control Panel and type in "folder" into the search box at the top (yup, more search goodness!). Then click the "Change search options for files and folders" item. Check the "Use natural language search" box in the dialog box that appears, and hit OK. You're all set, and you can start playing with natural language search queries right away. :)
Screenshot:

 

Electronic Punk

willalwaysbewithyou
Staff member
Political User
#18
Motion Desktop seems to be wowing people, I mean DreamScene.

As I am not under NDA but do have a copy -- that damn racoon is driving me nuts now, seems to crash the com surrogate (whatever the hell that is) when I try browisng my motion desktops.

Oh and great gadget Netz, might inspire me to reinstall the client :)
 

kcnychief

█▄█ ▀█▄ █
Political User
#19
I am rather fond of the new and improved Event Viewer. I'll post some screenshots and more details when I return home next week, as my work laptop doesn't yet have "the pleasure" of running Vista.

Rubbish!
 

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