Full Disclosure: Help Fix Microsoft's Next Windows!

Illustration: John Cuneo
A few weeks ago Microsoft invited a bunch of journalists to dinner with a couple of its Windows honchos, including Jim Allchin, "Mr. Longhorn." Allchin asked what we'd like to see in that forthcoming-someday version of Windows. So I put in my 2 cents. Okay, maybe a quarter.

I started with startup. How come both of my Win XP machines sometimes display a log-in field into which I can type my password--but when I do, Windows demands that I click my icon and retype my password? Why should your very first daily experience with the OS have to be so awful? Allchin nodded sagely and hinted that Longhorn's new graphics engine would change that. Good.

Somebody mentioned how hard it is to switch from an old PC to a new one. Allchin extolled the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard--which I pointed out doesn't always work and doesn't move programs. The latter problem, it appears, will not be solved. But at least Allchin implied that upgrading to Longhorn would be easier than the maddening track from 98 or Me to XP.

Things got downright disappointing when I turned to Longhorn's new search features. When I asked whether the indexing service would work better than XP's, which mostly serves as a way of slowing your machine to a crawl, Allchin mumbled something to the effect that not everybody would use it. When I asked whether we'd be able to use Windows' search tool to find individual e-mail messages, Allchin said that was the intention--implying that it may not actually happen.

And after Microsoft "retired" Office's animated paper clip helper with much fanfare (even though it's still around), why did Windows 2000's usable search function go to the dogs--or at least to Windows XP's animated pooch? I got Allchin to commit to eliminating the bastard pup of Microsoft Bob. But just in case Jim has second thoughts, I'm starting a campaign. If you care about this, send e-mail to killdoggie@pcworld.com, and we'll forward it to him.

Given that Longhorn will sport yet another makeover, I asked whether the Classic View for the desktop, Start menu, and folders would survive. Allchin's "yes" turned out to refer not to the interface we've known since Windows 95, but to the screen-wasting XP look--which is what he seemed to think was on most people's machines. But a quick poll revealed that though Microsoft's people were using XP in its default mode, only one out of five reporters was--in part because several were still in the pre-XP world. I suggested that Allchin ought to reconsider trashing the best-known version of the Windows interface. He said he'd think about it. If you don't want Microsoft to ditch the Classic interface, send your vote to saveclassic@pcworld.com and we'll forward it, as well.

I have lots of ideas on how to fix Windows, and I bet you do, too. So send your grievances to fixwindows@pcworld.com. We'll publish the most egregious--and send every last one to Jim Allchin. Since Microsoft says it listens to its customers, I'm sure he'll be grateful. And if Longhorn is rife with annoyances when it finally ships, we'll know just how Microsoft really feels about us users. I have a sneaking suspicion I know already.

Contributing Editor Stephen Manes has been writing about technology for the past two decades.
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