Microsoft extols Windows XP’s new look

Microsoft Corp. thinks its next operating system, Windows XP, is such a significant upgrade that the company wants to make it look and feel different.

“We need a better visual experience; we want to take what is possible and make it effortless,” Chad Magendanz, lead program manager of the Windows user experience team, told a crowd of developers at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

To that end, Microsoft is working hard to make the Windows XP desktop look cleaner and less cluttered, he said. For starters, it has removed all of the shortcut icons from the desktop, placing them in the new, simplified Start menu.

If you’re a shortcut fan, you can put those shortcut icons back on the desktop, Magendanz said. But, he added, XP designers would like to see you using the redesigned, more flexible Start menu.

To further reduce clutter, items in the Start menu will be grouped according to how much use them. A similar grouping occurs in the task bar, as items you use all the time take prominence and items you use less often fade from view (they’re still accessible, though).

New OS deserves new look

The entire operating system will sport a new, more spirited look, Magendanz said. From new, sharper-looking icons, to the use of colors to help signify different actions, Windows XP will appear quite different from today’s versions of Windows.

Microsoft designed the new look is to make the PC more inviting; to create a more intimate relationship between you and your computer, he said.

During his keynote address earlier in the day, Brian Valentine, senior vice president of the Windows Division, hammered that point home, noting “XP will dwarf even the launch of Windows 95,” and predicting it to be “the biggest operating system release we’ve done – ever.”

Magendanz said despite its lofty aspirations, the operating system’s new interface won’t require re-learning what you already know. “It’s not here to teach people how to use Windows differently,” he said.

Multiple user access

More than 80 per cent of users share a PC at home, Magendanz said. Current Windows operating systems make it tough for users to set up and use their own configurations. User configurations address each user’s special interface and programs wants and needs.

Under Windows XP, a wizard makes creating and accessing these configurations easier. Three different modes exist: administrator, standard user, and limited, Magendanz said. Administrators and standard users have mostly unlimited access to the system, whereas the limited user cannot install software or hardware. Microsoft designed the limited use configuration for families that want to restrict what children can do on a PC, he said.

The beauty of separate user configurations is that each can also execute separately, he said. So, for example, if you start downloading a large file over the Internet, then sign out, the download will continue as your son logs in and uses his own configuration.

And since Microsoft built the entire OS on the same code base as the company’s more stable NT operating system, you can switch between users all the time without causing system instability.

“This is built on NT–you don’t have to reboot every day,” he said.