Windows Vista FAQ

User Interface

Q. Will Aero make me more productive, or is it just fluff?
Q. How do I enable or disable Aero effects?
Q. I heard that Windows Vista itself will sometimes decide to disable Aero. What's up with that?
Q. What did Microsoft do to the Start Menu this time?
Q. How do I make Run appear, and how else can I customize the Start Menu?
Q. Does the clock on the right side of the Taskbar have any new features?
Q. Is that thumbnail in the Taskbar actually playing video?
Q. What happened to Alt-Tab?
Q. What's this 3D task-switching thing?

Q. Will Aero make me more productive, or is it just fluff?

A. Some aspects are just fluff; some will make you more productive. Translucent windows and nice animations, for example, may not directly increase your productivity; but they're easier on your eyes, so you might be able to spend more time at the keyboard without tiring. Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D, which let you preview thumbnails of your open windows, and live Taskbar thumbnails should make it easier to find the window you're looking for.

Q. How do I enable or disable Aero effects?

A. Right-click your desktop, and select Personalize, Window Color and Appearance, Open classic appearance properties for more color options. In the Color scheme list, select any non-Aero scheme, such as Windows Vista Basic or Windows Vista Standard, and then click OK.

Q. I heard that Windows Vista itself will sometimes decide to disable Aero. What's up with that?

A. In general, Vista will disable Aero if it determines that it needs to improve performance, recover from a technical issue, or (in the case of laptops in power-saving mode) reduce demands on your battery. According to Microsoft, Java apps are the most common trigger for disabling Aero. Remotely viewing or sharing another machine's desktop can cause Vista to disable Aero, too, and Vista disables Aero when presenting a User Account Control (UAC) elevation prompt.

Q. What did Microsoft do to the Start Menu this time?

A. Microsoft has redone the Start Menu yet again, but this time around you might like the change. Gone is the annoying flyaway menu for the All Programs selection. With Vista, when you click All Programs, applications and folders appear directly above it for easier access. There's also a useful search box for quick searches. The Run link is gone too, unfortunately, but you can make it reappear.

Q. How do I make Run appear, and how else can I customize the Start Menu?

A. Right-click the Taskbar, choose Properties, and click the Start Menu tab. Click the Customize button and you'll be able to add the Run link--and change the Start Menu in many other ways as well.

Q. Does the clock on the right side of the Taskbar have any new features?

A. It may look like the Windows XP clock, but it's much better. In fact, you can put multiple clocks there, showing times from around the world. Click the clock and a much larger clock (along with a calendar) appears. Click Change date and time settings, and customize to your heart's content.

Q. Is that thumbnail in the Taskbar actually playing video?

A. Yes! Hover your mouse over any window minimized to the Taskbar, and a "live" thumbnail will pop up showing the exact contents of that window, including any live video.

Q. What happened to Alt-Tab?

A. Microsoft made it useful. It's now called Windows Flip, and it shows you thumbnails of all your windows as you flip through them, so you can quickly choose the exact window you want to open.

Q. What's this 3D task-switching thing?

A. Now you're talking about some serious eye candy. Windows Flip 3D (Windows-Tab) is Windows Flip with a membership in the Flying Walendas. It stacks your windows in three dimensions, and lets you scroll through them with your mouse or click one to select it. It adds up to sort of a poor man's Expose (from Mac OS X Tiger).

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