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Windows Vista's New Features
What can the new OS do?
By Jim Fisher
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Windows Vista has a slew of new features that expand upon the abilities of Windows XP. Premium versions of Vista feature the Windows Aero interface, which adds a slick look and new task switching tools. Instant Search and an improved Internet Explorer allow you to more easily locate information both on your computer and online. These features, however, are only the tip of the iceberg.

Windows Sidebar
The Windows Sidebar, available in all versions of Vista, is a platform for launching mini-applications. Dubbed Gadgets by Microsoft, these applications are designed to give you quick access to sports scores, stock quotes, weather and other information. These applets allow you to customize your desktop experience. By default the sidebar rests on the right side of the screen, taking advantage of the aspect ratio of newer widescreen computer monitors. However, Gadgets can be placed anywhere on a Windows desktop.

Windows Mobility Center
The Windows Mobility Center is a centralized control panels that will make notebook computer users very happy. It gives you access to brightness adjustment, power scheme selection, Wi-Fi settings, audio output settings and more. It also allows you to sync your notebook computer to other machines and adjust the screen orientation to landscape or portrait for tablets. It is included in Home Premium, Business and Ultimate.

Windows Media Center
Included in Home Premium and Ultimate, Windows Media Center is a digital hub that provides access to digital music, movies and photos. Media Center features all the tools you need to view this media, whether it's on a computer screen or HDTV. The application also supports DVR functionality for computers that include a TV tuner card. Owners of Windows XP Media Center Edition are very familiar with this software. Vista's Media Center adds support for 16:9 displays and CableCARD tuners. It also adds a sports tab that provides real-time access to sports scores and Internet broadcasts of selected games.

Windows Movie Maker HD and DVD Maker
Home Premium and Ultimate add support for HD video editing with Windows Movie Maker HD. The application allows you to capture video from your digital camcorder and create fully edited versions of your home movies. It includes the Windows DVD Maker, which allows you to burn standard DVD discs for friends and family to enjoy. Home Basic includes a version of this software that does not support HD video.

Windows Diagnostics
Vista Business and Ultimate incorporate enhanced diagnostic tools. These tools can detect common error conditions and work to protect data in the event of an impending crash. The software can detect a hard drive failure before it occurs, allowing you to backup your data before it is lost. Vista also includes an integrated backup center that can help you keep better track of backups and protect important information stored on your hard drive.

The breakdown of these features offers only a taste of what Vista brings to your computer. If you are excited about what the OS has to offer and do want to upgrade, be sure you choose the version that suits your needs best. Most home users will probably want to focus on Home Premium. The Media Center and HD video editing support make it a very appealing choice in today's digital world. Professional users who aren't as concerned with organizing digital photos, music and video will certainly drift towards Vista Business. Vista Ultimate is available for anyone who needs to do everything under the sun. If you require any further advice or assistance in choosing a version of Vista, please feel free to contact one of the professionals at B&H. We'll do our best to determine which, if any, version of Vista is the right choice for you.

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