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Head to Head: Windows 7 vs Windows Vista

In our latest head to head, Windows 7 faces its immediate predecessor, Windows Vista. Will Vista be able to mount any kind of challenge?

User interface

Windows Vista did modernise the look and feel of Windows compared to XP, which has a rather simplistic and almost child-like look to it in parts when you use it these days, but few of them really added to the user experience. When comparing them side-by-side it does feel as if Windows 7 has finished off the many of the things that were added in Windows Vista but were perhaps not quite complete.

Aero Peek is one of them. Vista introduced Aero Glass, which on compatible hardware offered translucent Windows with rounded edges, and added glowing effects to edges of windows. You also got thumbnail views of open programs when you rolled over them in the task bar, which was quite a nice touch.

There was also the much touted Flip 3D' mode, which brought all open Windows into a carousel view and let you scroll through them via Windows-key + tab. However, there was nothing here of note that really improved functionality.

However, in Windows 7 a lot more thought has been put into things. All the features of Aero Glass are there, but things have been polished off. Rather than a single thumbnail, rolling over the app in the task bar lets you see multiple thumbnails for each app Window or browser tab that's open. Right clicking or left dragging brings up Jump Lists, giving you quick access to recently opened files. You can also interact with the thumbnails. Check out iTunes 9 on Windows 7, which lets you pause, skip and play tracks from the thumbnail. This means there's no need for the clumsy third-party gadgets that Vista offered, most of which looked pretty poor and worked poorly.

The Flip 3D feature is still present, but oddly it's actually worse in Windows 7. You can only use the Windows key+ tab to move through Windows, and the arrow keys no longer work. However, the more useful standard Alt-Tab has been improved. As in Windows 7, when you tab between windows, that app appears and all the others fade away, so you can clearly see what you're switching between. The task bar is also far better in Windows 7. There's no need for a Quick Launch' bar as you can pin apps directly to the Start Menu, and the larger default icons are easier to see.

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