Our first impressions of Vista - The Good
Now that Vista is installed, we're in Vista for the first time after setting up the initial regional settings, date and time, users and so forth.
By default, each time you load Vista you are greeted with the "Welcome" screen which displays basic information about your computer along with getting started tips for Vista. For advanced users, the screen is pretty much useless although a good addition for new users. The good news is that it can be disabled from starting every time you load Vista. If you're an advanced user or an enthusiast you will likely find yourself wanting to disable a lot of things from loading.
The very first impressions of Vista are a little over-whelming, actually. The RC2 build comes with the fancy Aero interface and things are quite different and a lot of things are in different places to XP (especially when it comes to the start menu) but overall the GUI looks great and is quite a refreshing change to the now seemingly boring and old looking XP GUI. It did take a little while to adjust to the style changes in Vista, such as the transparent color windows, which add a nice touch but does aid in the time it will take one to adjust. Once you've spent only a short time with the new OS, you should feel comfortable with it and if you're a geek like us, you'll probably be quite impressed with the visuals but then wonder where all the various OS settings are hiding. Out of the box, Vista is going to be a great OS for new users who don't want to mess around with settings and so forth and just want things to work but enthusiasts will quickly be looking for the Control Panel to start personalizing to their tastes - and that's likely going to mean disabling a lot of stuff.
One of the really big changes is the ability to flip between applications and that's a big part of the Aero interface. After clicking an icon in the taskbar near the Vista logo (like the "start" button in XP) on the left, you can use the scroll button on your mouse to switch between open windows in a really cool 3D view. I appreciate this feature has been in Vista for a while now but for a first time user of Vista, it's a really neat looking feature and actually very useful, too.
One of the other good features which have been synonymous in Vista builds for a long time is the Windows Sidebar. As the name suggests, this is a bar which can be positioned on either the left or right side of the screen and includes handy little widgets (or gadgets, as Microsoft call them). Included in Vista are a bunch of useful gadgets, the ones I found most useful were the CPU and Memory usage indicator, up-time indicator, weather, RSS feeds and currency converter. All of these gadgets update by themselves and besides looking attractive, work quite well - a lot of them are even desired by us enthusiasts and it's good to see Microsoft adding them. While there are many types of these top and side bars already out for Windows XP and other operating systems, this one is the best I have used. There is even already a program out already which allows you to run a Vista like Windows Sidebar in XP but is nowhere near as good as the latest version in RC2.
Another new feature included in Vista is the section where you can rate and improve the performance of your computer, as Microsoft call it. It is a completely new feature which runs a quick test on different parts of your PC and gives you a rating of your CPU, Memory, Graphics, Gaming Graphics and HDD. You are given a base score which is the lowest ranking out of each individual component - you can then use this score to determine if your computer is able to run certain games or applications. Microsoft has the attention of selling software on their websites or partner websites with information about the required base score to run it. This is not a bad idea for newbies as it will give them a fairly accurate idea of whether or not certain software will work on their PC but when it comes to enthusiasts, they won't give a damn about the score.