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Windows Vista - Smart Searching

By Jonathan Bray



  • Recommended by TR
Windows Vista


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Finder's Keepers

But Vista's beauty is not just skin deep. As well as new clothes, Vista gives Windows a much-needed repackaging and reorganisation that actually makes difference to the way you use your PC. The first indication that more thought has gone into ease of use is the improved Start menu. Gone is XP's unwieldy cascading list of applications and in comes a list with a scroll bar, which contains everything within the menu neatly and in a far more elegant manner than simply filling the screen with one huge menu.

More significant than this is the addition of a search box to the Start menu. So what? I hear you mutter. Windows' search tool has always been useless … hasn't it? Not this time. With Vista, Microsoft has dramatically increased the usability and speed of its search. With indexing switched on by default (XP had this but it wasn't turned on out of the box), results are instant. Click Start, then type in the name of an application or file - the search box instantly gains focus so you can search right away - and as you type, matches appear in the Start menu above. Not only does it search files and folders, but also applications, your internet browsing history and even your email.

Type Word, for instance, and Microsoft Word appears at the top of your list; type the first few letters of a folder or file you want to get to and that will appear too. Searches can be saved and stored too, should you want to come back to them later.

In fact, once you've tried getting to your files, applications and email by using the search box to get to them, you'll probably wonder how you ever put up with having to navigate through complicated menus to get to your files. I’m already beginning to forget 'where' things are in XP, because all I need to do in Vista is type a name.

The Path to Enlightenment

Equally dramatic is Vista's upgrade to the way windows are navigated. The most obvious change to Vista's window furniture, after many years of confusing users in the name of backwards compatibility with DOS, is that at last absolute paths have been given the heave-ho.

They've been replaced with a simpler breadcrumb trail, which displays each 'level' of navigation, or folder, as a clickable buttons. Go to a subfolder of your Documents folder (the rather patronising 'My' prefix has been dropped in Vista too), and at the top of your window you get Jon > Documents > Reviews, rather than the old style C:\My Documents\My Documents\Reviews. To clean things up, the Up button has also disappeared, removing the potential for confusion with the back button, which often takes you to a different location entirely.

Those with a fondness for the old ways will be happy know that absolute paths still lurk behind the new interface, however. Click the breadcrumb trail bar and it transforms instantly to text, colons and backslashes.

Vista's windows are also much more intelligent than XP's, dynamically changing depending on their content. Below the breadcrumb trail, for example, a set of dynamic, context sensitive buttons appear - Play, Share and Burn for MP3s, while Slide Show appears at the top of photo folders. The same goes for the content pane - open up a folder with photos in it and you're switched over to a thumbnail view, with columns at the top enabling you to sort by, among other things, Date Taken, or Tags. The same happens with Music folders. Files are displayed with smaller icons and the columns automatically change to display track id information if available.

The standard user folder structure has been improved too. Instead of burying everything in My Documents, the Pictures, Music, Documents, Downloads and Videos folders are all on the same level under your user name. Other small improvements include much easier to use network connection management.

The confusing Network Places of XP has disappeared to be replaced by the Network and Sharing Center, which ties all of Vista's various network views together in one neat interface. There are some big improvements here, not least to the wireless networking element, which makes a previously cumbersome task much simpler, and also the View Computers and Devices window which, with automatic Network Discovery turned on, makes the job of viewing and connecting to other computers on a network so much easier than with XP as to be embarrassing.

Paul Tasker

July 19, 2008, 5:55 am

Initially I wasn't that impressed with vista premium. I thought it slower to use than XP and more resource hungry. But it learns how you use it and now my system runs really quickly. The opposite of XP which slowed to a crawl the longer you used it. Vista service pack 1 seemed to make a huge difference and now if I use a computer with XP it looks and feels dated. The sidebar is great, I have many weather, monitoring and photo slideshow gadgets and its 100% stable. Not once has it crashed, rebooted, or frozen in 6 months of use!!!! I'd be lucky to get through a week with XP!

100% recommended so long as your computers up to it. I'd recommend 2GB memory, makes a big difference.


January 4, 2009, 7:57 pm

So after all that has happened with Vista, any regrets/thoughts TR?


September 16, 2009, 5:09 am

I am using computer since 1994. with DOS. then Microsoft introduced windows 95. open a new ear for PC. then best ever version 98-SE. Windows ME. Windows NT. Windows 2000. finally windows XP with its server pack 2..the best ever WINDOW till today !

I used windows Vista Ultimate for two months but fed up with that. I am using core 2 duo 2.56 with 3'GB RAM. Intel desktop board DG31 PR. but Ultimate gave me worst performance ever. I can not download more then 50 MB software with my broadband 2mbps speed. always gave me problem. very slow can not open more then two programs together its hangs a lot. disconnect many times.

but i believe that its having best security features no doubt its only for multimedia users. that means you can do small amount of work on that. not very graphical work or hard core work with required more speed support. still I prefer to run windows xp with service pack 2. support all software !

mostly I am using chess playing software. that software s required to cop up with operating system and processor to give its best to search best result out of millions games. like GM Kasparove played with deep blue of IBM.

I think Vista's era will come to an end with windows 7. lets hope for the best !

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