Details about Vista, Microsoft’s next generation OS, are appearing faster than the monolith’s lawyers around a company with any similarly labelled products. Consequently, old Willy decided to step out at PDC 2005 to fill us in on a few areas we didn’t already know and spill the beans on Office 12 at the same time.
As far as Vista goes, the biggest news is the change to Sidebar (above). Much like the one seen in the recently upgraded Google Desktop Search, early versions of Sidebar had been designed to customise itself based on an individual’s usage (weblinks, shortcuts, etc). But now Microsoft has had a change of heart and the result court-case-close to Tiger’s Dashboard.
Where Apple has “Widgets”, Microsoft now has “Gadgets” and both are designed to give third party developers a platform to extent Vista functionality. Sidebar Gadgets include such features as World clocks, dynamic content like flight times, software shortcuts and so on. Sound familiar?
Also getting an extended public airing was the 3D technology in Vista’s high end “Glass” mode. Now you can literally flip Windows folders around 360 degrees and view them from behind (surely leading a mass of two sided images which “certain kinds” of website will be keen to exploit!). Perhaps more usefully, it also means you will be able to turn individual Windows to the side to create more desktop real estate then swing them back when needed.
Gates also went on to waffle about IE7 and its ability to use tabs and RSS feeds (hallelujah) and how these would be embedded into Vista, but we’d told you about this ages ago.
As for Office 12, we already knew it was switching all documents to the XML format by default (there is an option to do this in 2003 actually), but we had yet to see the completely redesigned interface. Traditional menus and toolbars are gone to be replaced with a set of graphical command tabs. These tabs change dynamically to only offer options that are relevant to what the user is doing at any one moment. In theory this could be fantastic, though implemented incorrectly and – notably for advanced users – it could prove frustrating.
The process of formatting has also been tweaked so that each programme concentrates on making changes to a document as a whole rather than a small section of text at a time. A “Live Preview” will show you the changes it believes you are trying to make en mass and based on the corrections you make it will learn to adjust approach to match yours. Again, there is a lot of computer guesswork going on here and Microsoft stressed it will be possible to turn the feature off if required.
What is clear with these features, however, is that the company is determined to tie Office 12 very tightly into Vista and some of this advanced functionality will be dependant on running a copy of the new OS. A further theme Gate’s chat illustrates is the desire for its next gen software to second-guess user behaviour and so automate as much of the spadework as possible. This may annoy the hardcore who like to be in control of every little detail, but the masses are sure to approve.
Could we be getting excited at the thought of a new OS and software suite from Evil Lord Redmond? Strange times are these…