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Longhorn, you, and your customer

I have been playing with the PDC build of Longhorn and I have been thinking to myself, how will this new version of Windows affect me and my potential customers.

-- Themes

I think the surface look of longhorn is definitely pretty slick. The new "Slate" theme is nice, and I hope MS will allow custom skinning a little easier than they did with XP.

-- The Sidebar

I am undecided about the usefullness of The sidebar (or whatever it is called). It clutters up a lot of my desktop, and I am running at 1024x768. I run at this resolution because anyone else who comes and sits at my computer can't read what is on the screen if is set any higher. At this resolution, the sidebar takes up about 15% of my desktop space, and in the vertical part which is most important to me. I don't think that many average users will be too pleased by the amount of space this taskbar extension holds. The good thing is that you can tuck it away nicely, but if people tuck it away all the time, is it still useful?

-- Avalon and the Desktop

Moving to DirectX as the Desktop GUI Subsystem is definitely a step in the right direction, and should have been done long ago. The UI is responsive and the inclusion of 3D effects is a nice touch. Subtle things like a 3D arrow that spins and travels from left to right to show file copying is a nicer visual than the old Flying Files between two folders that was used before. Nothing ground breaking, but it is much crisper and takes advantage of Today's hardware which should be close to Standard by the time Longhorn ships.

-- IE

The inclusion of a download manager in IE is also long overdue. Mozilla lovers will take note that there is still no Tabbed browsing, but I am not a Mozilla user so it doesn't bug me much. Actually I prefer the ability to Alt-Tab between my browser windows any way.



That is the stuff your customers will enjoy, what about you the developer?

-- WinFS and Explorer

This topic covers kind of both sides (developer and customer). The developer now has the ability to record their data in Windows using WinFS and that data will be properly journaled so that you can search both the content and meta-data. In theory this is a great feature. But will anyone be using it? I know that Explorer is totally cluttered up now with detailed information about the File that I have selected. As well there is a bunch of other stuff that just lurks around, that seems to get in my way. Since I started using Windows I have always like to view all my files in the Detail view. But each version of Windows since 98 wants to display files almost like thumbnails and provide information about that file. I know what most of my files are (I put them there). Unless I am cleaning out my system I never look at files that I don't know anyway. Why do I need to give up real-estate on my desktop for useless information about a file I don't care about? Why does an icon for a file need to take 32x32 pixels when I can take up far less in the detail view.

-- XAML

There is the new declarative UI framework called XAML. Again Mozilla users will automatically think "Hey we have this already in XUL". I see the fundamental principles being the same, but this time you can target the CLR, which ships with Windows now Joel. I briefly played with this feature, I guess it is nice, but with visual tools VS .NET what does it really matter. VS .NET hides most of your UI code anyway. I guess if you didn't have VS you could code UI a lot easier by hand this way, but I have no way of telling really. Maybe someone who has done more work with this feature can give a better review.

I would comment about Indigo, but I don't do much stuff in my everyday life that I have ever needed those features of .NET.

I don't have any conclusions, I don't know what the final version of this new Windows OS is going to be like. I think it definitely shows progress in the space, and I also think it furthers the gap from the competitors. But I am not sure if everyone is willing to jump on the bandwagon just yet.

-Gp

Gp
Friday, October 31, 2003

Useful and pertinant info.  Thanks, Gp...

Bill Carlson
Friday, October 31, 2003

WinFS should make file folders largely irrelevant. There will just be a "digital soup" of storage. I think it's pretty exciting stuff.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Friday, October 31, 2003

Themes:  Yes, the Slate theme is nice.  But, ultimately, Themes are nothing more than Time Wasters that serve no purpose.

The side-bar:  More clutter that reduces the usable area of your monitor and serves no useful purpose

A 3D arrow that spins and travels from left to right to show file copying:  Who cares??  Once again, change merely for the sake of change and trying to fix something that isn't broken.



Microsoft continues to fill Windows with useless clutter.

An SUV full of Soccer Moms
Friday, October 31, 2003

"Actually I prefer the ability to Alt-Tab between my browser windows any way."

You can Ctrl-Tab between browser tabs with Mozilla/Firebird.

Marc Evelyn
Friday, October 31, 2003

Useless clutter? Maybe, but it makes the C-levels drool, so it gets sales.

As I heard once at a MS tech conference:

"Never underestimate the power of flying baloney."

Chris Tavares
Friday, October 31, 2003

Actually themes can help you work though.  I have a friend who is almost but not quite blind.  He swears by hi high contrast big button theme, and wouldn't be able to use a computer without it.

I myself prefer the ability to theme rather than having to look at whatever the original designer's thought looked nice when they designed the UI.

Steve Barbour
Friday, October 31, 2003

Ctrl-Tab may be the way to do it. But I have been Alt-Tabbing for 7 years now.

Gp
Friday, October 31, 2003

"WinFS should make file folders largely irrelevant. There will just be a "digital soup" of storage. I think it's pretty exciting stuff."

Perhaps I'm a cynic, but it me it seems like force-feeding findfast.exe to the public.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, October 31, 2003

the problem with locked down themes is that you can't tweak them. I want, system wide, my active title bar color to be very different than inactive, but otherwise the default theme is find. can't do this in Windows XP without downloading some reverse-engineered software.

of course it's best if every program uses the same system colors, but that's been around since win 3.1 or earlier. you can even use system colors on your web page if you want.

mb
Friday, October 31, 2003

Ummmm have you tried Display Properties/Appearance/Advanced?

Zahid
Friday, October 31, 2003

the advanced properites don't do anything on themed windows, only unthemed ones and if you switch off themes entirely. talk about misleading UI.

mb
Friday, October 31, 2003

I think the WinFS thing is a neat idea.

As I understand it, instead of having to organize files with good filenames and structured directories (which you could still do), you can attach any number of properties or key words to your files.
So you could make all the files in some project, whatever the kind of thing they are, or wherever they are, all have the same value for a 'project' property.
And so you can just instantly make virtual directories by grouping by whatever property you want.
It's like, is your Customer X Spec under Documents? Or Customer X?  Or Specs?  Right now, you have directories, and have to choose where to classify it.  With WinFS, you can find it by all three, whichever's relevant.
For those of us who already get directories, it may seem awkward.  But lots of people just store *everything* in My Documents or on C:\, and they should eat this up.

andrewm
Friday, October 31, 2003

You *can* alt-tab between windows in Mozilla. Just don't use tabs. Mozilla's tab implementation does not get in the way - if you don't want it, or unaware of it, you'll feel just like in explorer.

Ori Berger
Friday, October 31, 2003

'As I understand it, instead of having to organize files with good filenames and structured directories (which you could still do), you can attach any number of properties or key words to your files.
So you could make all the files in some project, whatever the kind of thing they are, or wherever they are, all have the same value for a 'project' property.
And so you can just instantly make virtual directories by grouping by whatever property you want.
It's like, is your Customer X Spec under Documents? Or Customer X?  Or Specs?  Right now, you have directories, and have to choose where to classify it.  With WinFS, you can find it by all three, whichever's relevant.
For those of us who already get directories, it may seem awkward.  But lots of people just store *everything* in My Documents or on C:\, and they should eat this up.'

I'm not sure it'll help... cf. "People are lazy" in Cory Doctorow's "metacrap" essay:

http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm

It's a tricky issue; google (ie. smart full-text search) seems to be the only way I've found to actually *find* stuff later if you didn't bother manually categorizing it in the first place.

Justin
Friday, October 31, 2003

How long until someone puts together a nice package to data mine files and categorize them for you?  If it can be done with Spam, why not with other kinds of content?  A little training and wham! nice sets of content without having to lift a finger.  Hopefully, anyhow :P

Still waiting
Friday, October 31, 2003

Longhorn is great because it's it has a pretty gui.

WTF is the computing world coming too?  Get me back to the cli

Obvious
Friday, October 31, 2003

"But lots of people just store *everything* in My Documents or on C:\, and they should eat this up"

Here's the flaw with this premise, however: If someone has problems setting the "directory attribute" (files, of course, aren't actually stored in directories - they're stored on the disk, and a node is inserted into the directory index - it's nothing more than a junction between a file table and a directory table) or the "filename attribute", then who thinks that they're going to go about filling out any other meta-data? This is an idea that has come hundreds of times before, and has been attempted in various incarnations over the past couple of decades, and it never really works out.

There are tools already to index all of the various application specific metadata (such as all of the MS Word properties, or in NTFS all of the extended metadata like comments, keywords, etc), basically achieving exactly what WinFS promises, and you can see how popular they are (hint-they aren't).

I'm not saying that the current file tools are insufficient, but some of the promises of WinFS are things that we are fully capable of doing right now without running a copy of SQL Server on everyone's desktop, and storing files as text fields.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, October 31, 2003

Too true Dennis. Today in NTFS you can go to the "Summary" Properties of ANY file and attach all sorts of attributes. Index Server indexes them. Now the problem is that the Summary Properties UI for regular files in Windows XP/2000 only lets you do stuff with "Title, Subject, Category" etc - but programmatically using the structured storage APIs (StgOpenStorageEx, IPropertyStorage, etc) you can create you own arbitrary properties (FMTID_UserDefinedProperties) and attach them to ANY file. To search for your own "document tags" use the Index Server APIs (e.g the "IXSSO.Query" COM library).

The standard Search window in Explorer does use Index Server if it's switched on -- but just for doing a full text search - rather than targeted at arbirary attributes. It seems as though all the pieces are there (and have been since at least Win2K) - but the Explorer UI hasn't been exploited enought to take advantage of it.

Duncan Smart
Saturday, November 01, 2003

I agree that metadata hasn't worked in the past, and is doubtful to work in the future. I mean, think about it ... metadata is a geek term by geeks for geeks. Nobody is going to understand it. It's going to rely on programs defining it for you. And programs are stupid.

I believe the Mac abandonned metadata for a reason. The reason primarily being that you can't get eveyone to apply it consistently.

Maybe Microsoft, being the 800lb gorilla that it is, can impose it on people. I'm not holding my breath.

It loks like a great idea, and it may turn out to be useful. I just htink that it very much depends on how well Microsoft can implement it in it's first incarnation (ie to extract metadata from existing file type) that will determine it
s future. Anything less than a stellar implementation could confine it to the scrapheap, given the period between OS upgrades these days.

Sum Dum Gai
Saturday, November 01, 2003

Haven't any of you ever listened to music on your PC?  Pop a music CD in your PC and any up-to-date player will magically know the artist name, album name, song names, genre and some other details.  You can use this information to listen to all music by a specific artist, or all music in a specific genre, or one specific album, etc..  I'd say that with regards to music, metadata has been highly successful -- I use it constantly.  Occasionally you encounter incorrect information (for example, Edvard Greig was placed in the "Christian Rap" genre for me) but this is rare and easy to correct.  Some media players take the metadata concept further and monitor usage to allows playlists to be created of songs the user seems to favor, or hasn't listened to in a while, or whatever.

SomeBody
Sunday, November 02, 2003

I'm more concerned that there IS a Christian Rap genre

Damian
Sunday, November 02, 2003

How about Christian Gangsta Rap

pdq
Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"Never underestimate the power of flying baloney."

Have you seen the SIZE of some baloney at Italian cantinas? I'd be worried if one of those was flying on my general direction.

Klodd the Insensitive
Thursday, November 06, 2003

I think the success of Longhorn will primarily depend on how backward compatible it is.

Karthik
Thursday, June 10, 2004

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