Windows XP: everything you need to know about the trial version

This operating system (OS) combines an interface similar to Windows Me to the solid source code of Windows 2000, with a dash of MSN Explorer, icons side. Thus, a page of “login” appears at startup. The interface, called Luna, though confusing, provides easier access to frequently used functions: the system tries to guess what you want to do and offers a list of practical actions related (you can, for example, broadcast photos online, quickly create lists of songs or videos, or perform more general file management tasks from each folder).

Microsoft plans to market Windows XP (a special edition and an edition for professionals) in the second half of 2001. The server versions based on the same code will come out soon after under a different name.

Windows XP it is worth to be installed? Yes, because we found that the beta had great potential, even if it requires learning efforts and a relatively powerful computer. You hesitate to invest in the final version? Then read on.

Interface

Windows XP introduced a new interface. It is a bit strange and sometimes puzzling. Luna presentation.

The ease of use is subjective. It’s almost as if you used to type 70 words per minute on a QWERTY keyboard and suddenly you had to use a QWERTY keyboard, you will definitely find annoying relearn the position of each key. This is the same for Windows XP and the new Luna interface. The new OS is supposed to be easier to use but if you already know all of your operating system, the folder structure and files, the wizards, the menu options and the general methodology of XP can appear bewildering. Overall, the changes make sense, but if you are too confused by his new, you have the option to return to the Windows 95 interface.

Inadequate multiuser

When you start Windows XP, the MSN Explorer connection routine is set up. It allows you to open multiple accounts at various levels of use: administrator or standard guest. Each with different security and privilege levels. The profiles resemble Windows 2000. They allow you to disconnect an account easily, while retaining the personal choices of each individual (a person can even leave an application in a profile and it will resume the document where the user s ‘stopped). The system is a bit complex for a single user. And if the system goes to sleep, you need to connect and log in again to restart.

A whole new look

As for Apple Mac OS X, the new Windows desktop was designed to be clearer. Load your useless icons Office and Windows XP will ask whether you want to keep, then place them under a folder. If you wish, you can keep a cluttered desktop.

Among the various changes of the office include the Start button and the Windows taskbar. These resemble Windows 98, except that the button is wider and light green and both are enhanced with a 3D effect (not necessarily useful but fairly intuitive, green for example meaning “go”). The menu options have also been completely revised. The menu itself appears in a smooth and clear framework on two columns. On the left are the most recently used programs and right popular destinations such as My Computer, My Documents and Run. However, the list of recently opened files no longer exists: a big loss if you often work on the same files.

A Computer and a simple Explorer

The new XP workstation illustrates Microsoft’s new approach to task management. The Workstation includes the disk drives by type, be it hard or removable disk drives (CD drive, floppy drive, etc.), and assigns an icon to each of them. It also includes a section for scanners and digital cameras. This organization allows to navigate quickly through the system. The icons on the top edge of the window allow you to browse your hard drive, change the view, do a search on your computer or navigate further forward (forward), back (back) or “higher” level (up) (this is the only icon that can be a problem: it processes the request to the file level “higher”). A sign, left, appearing in all Explorer windows XP, allows you to reach the folders “Tasks” (as search for files or view system information), “Other Places” (My Documents, and Control Panel ) and “Details”, a catch-all link that provides access to information consultation of the current folder. You can also browse the contents of a drive, a folder or a pre-selected document. You do not have to right click to check the date of the last modification of the file. One click to get information in the left panel.

When you open the left panel for the first time, support appears as a balloon (similar to what can be found on Apple’s OS). We especially liked the design files, links to the folder “Tasks” are truly practical and intuitive, and the options in “Other Places” make navigation within your easy and enjoyable system. The fans of older versions of Windows can click on the icon at the top of the window to return to a traditional display.

Incomplete control

If you intend to play with the Windows options, beware! XP’s Control Panel has changed and is a bit disconcerting at first (you can always return to the classic view via a link to the right of the control panel “Switch to Classic View” ( “Switch to Classic View “)). Instead of the traditional icons series (for example, Modems and Security), XP groups the icons by theme, such as “Appearance And Themes” (Display and Themes) or “Performance And Maintenance” (Performance and Maintenance). Click the link and you will be asked to choose a task. In the “Appearance And Themes” folder, a list of options will allow you to change the theme or wallpaper. You can also simply choose a specific control panel and make your changes. If you are comfortable with the classic Control Panel, you’ll definitely very difficult to find your way in the new format.

A very simple search tool

The search tool also changed somewhat. The search mode in “wildcard” still works. But this new version allows search by category such as “Image”, “Music”, “Video” and “Documents” (Word, Excel, etc.). From the Start menu, you can search on the internet. Simply click on “Search”, enter the search term in the window that appears and click “Go”. For technophobes, Microsoft created a small dog waving its tail in the search box. Fortunately, you can disappear.

Internet tools

XP offers more assistants than ever. Learn how this new OS allows you to access the internet where you are.

Windows XP is fully in the stratégie.Net Microsoft (whose goal is simply to connect your operating system with the web). For example, when you click on a folder containing your music files, the system offers broadcast on the web (through the help of an assistant, of course), or buy music online on WindowsMedia .com. But for now, and until the release of the final version, this feature provides access at local network or MSN sites, not to your own FTP site.

XP also includes authentication functions online via the Microsoft Passport service. When you are on the net, you are automatically registered on the sites of partners of Microsoft, Hotmail or MSN.com, for example. Moreover, XP comes with the new Internet Explorer 6 browser.

The easiest network

The configuration of a network with Windows XP is much simpler than with previous versions of Windows, and much safer. The new OS has a firewall owner. New integrated wizards help you share an internet connection with all the computers in the house, even if they are not equipped with all Windows versions identical (as far back as Windows 95). The new network will show assistants easy to use, since it is sufficient to access the properties to change the connection. If you want to monitor the status of your network connection, the new dialog box provides you with items such as compression rate and error, very useful in case of problems.

Directory to the web in a snap

But system integration to the web becomes a reality before you even open your browser. Windows XP and is directly linked to the global network from the Explorer. Direct links in My Computer or Explorer allow you to send by email or distribute on the web any document or digital camera. Select the object and click “Publish the selected items to the Web” (when you are not in Explorer, you can click with the right mouse button on a file and use the wizard “Send To “(Send To) and” Web Publishing “(Webcast)).

The wizard then helps you to connect to your personal website, on your local network or on your FTP site. You can also download to your hard disk images directly from your digital camera and Windows XP offers broadcast directly on the web.

Most media

New Media Player and a better photo processing make Windows XP OS dedicated to the image.

For leisure, Windows XP borrows some ideas to Windows Millennium Edition and Apple (including cosmetic change Windows Movie Maker video editing software that resembles the popular iMovie). If you are an addict of the photo, this OS is designed for you.

Pretty tidy pictures

Like Windows Me, XP displays scanners and digital cameras as storage devices in My Computer. In addition, XP handles better than its predecessor images. Connect your digital camera and XP starts a wizard that makes downloading images to your hard drive. The wizard also allows placement or rotate photos, post them on the web or delete them.

The “My Pictures” was also revisited. You can preview some thumbnail images. In addition, you can order prints of your photos directly to an online printing service. Convenient, but a bit annoying if you are not a fan of online commerce. XP also avoids creating duplicates by warning you that you have already copied an image on the hard drive. Printing graphics files has also been simplified with a wizard that asks you to select images to print then processes one by one.

A powerful media player

And if all that relates to the picture is not enough, the 8.0 version of Media Player should convince you. The appearance of the software is a little too “flashy” to our liking – by default, a big blue window and money – but you can separate the toolbar and resize the window to your liking. This application allows more seriously to read DVD and compresses audio CD to WMA files (a proprietary format that combines good sound quality and less heavy than the MP3 files). This digital jukebox is connected to the CD database (CDDB) which identifies the artists and tracks of each CD. When converting CD tracks to MP3, the latter is automatically integrated into a dedicated folder called “My Music” with the names of artists and songs. And if the CD also includes a digital version of the cover, you will see it also. Pretty!

Stability and performance

The Windows 2000 source code is a little heavy, but it brings great stability both hardware and software, who’s complaining?

Reliability and trial are generally incompatible. Windows XP Beta 2 is no exception to the rule. The version we tested time plant to another and it lacks several features, which is normal for a beta. However for a trial version, this beta 2 demonstrated a great satbilité, which bodes well for the final version.

Flashback

Windows XP contains a key features in Windows Me: System Restore, a backup and restore program that allows to go back when that software is a real problem in your machine. This tool can work on most of the essential elements of the system as the registry, without erasing the data changes. A new function, “Driver Rollback” does the same thing for updates to your drivers. Both tools have turned perfectly during our tests, which is the guarantor of a true reliability for the future.

Automatic Updates

When you connect to the Internet, Windows XP automatically makes the Microsoft Windows Update site (another useful feature of Windows Me) and downloads any new update available. The latter will not be installed without your permission, which you are called, once the download is complete. Of course, you can refuse.

A development of this automatic update feature is planned for the final version of Windows XP. The “Dynamic Setup” you will gain instant access to all drivers or updates on the web. But we expect to see it work for you to talk in more detail.

Compatibility Tips

Compatibility with older versions has always been a key issue for the new OS. Your software will run they always? Fortunately, XP thought of the Windows 95/98 / Me. We tested many applications designed for Windows 95 or Windows 3.x without any problems. For applications that are not compatible with the operating system based on Windows 2000, XP suggests using the “Compatibility Mode”, which tries to emulate the registry and settings for older Windows systems. For now, we could verify that it worked, but we do not move forward we further test the final version.

XP should also offer a broad hardware compatibility, but we certainly found some devices that were not properly recognized. The beta 2 refused the installation routine from a USB CD-RW drive that we tested, and recognized it as a simple CD-Rom. The integrated CD-RW drivers from XP also refused to function. That said, XP installed our digital cameras, printers and scanners without any problems.

Updated difficult

Our main concern about XP are the system requirements which is simply amazing. You need, essentially, a computer, new or very recent, 128MB Ram (that’s a minimum, our test computer was equipped with 320 MB RAM), 2 GB of free space and if you go through the update, you must have at least Windows 98. in fact, Microsoft estimates that you get the best of XP with a new machine with the preinstalled OS. What’s still expensive to switch to an operating system that has not yet been proven. Unless you’re planning to buy a new computer when Windows XP is released, the benefits you can expect to get from XP will probably not be as sensitive as Microsoft said. But Windows XP could, as stated the editor, be the version of Windows the largest since the release of Windows 95 … It is not therefore an update to be considered lightly.

For or against?

Examine carefully the advantages and disadvantages of XP before cracking for the new operating system from Microsoft.

The strong points

– A Windows source code stable and safe 2000.

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Weaknesses

– There are significant changes to the Windows oblige regulars interface to learn to use the folder tree.

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Conclusion

Windows XP says a stable operating system and open to the media. But the finished product is a limited version only for the first applicants. The minimum requirements and the adaptation effort it will provide are not a product of the new OS to everyone.

Matt Lake, eLaptopComputer