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Vista: A new look for Windows

Windows graphics go high-end with Vista

You can tell at a glance that Windows has a new outlook in Vista. Its "aero glass" window frames, translucent icons, animation and other high-end graphics offer an immediate change of scenery. The icons are also truly representative images -- a file folder of documents resembles an actual folder, and document icons are images of the actual docs.

Slide your cursor across minimized programs to get a preview of the file running in them, without having to open the app. Enjoy the three-dimensional effects -- but you'll need graphics hardware to support them.

The new interface: Just Windows dressing?

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

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.

Managing the new interface

How do I enable or disable Aero effects?

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.

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

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.

Next: Looking for the Start menu? Look again!