In Vista's shadow, XP shines
Nov 17, 2007, 12:45 GMT
Washington - Thinking of moving to Windows Vista? Whether you are or not, it's becoming more difficult to ignore Microsoft's latest operating system, as it comes pre-installed on many new computers and generates all the buzz in the papers.
Behind all the fanfare, though, lies a seldom discussed secret: Vista may not be right for everyone - at least not yet, and perhaps not for quite some time. And XP, meanwhile, has just gotten better and better. It continues to be the workhorse operating system that can serve most users the best.
You can spend a lot of money and time preparing your equipment to run Vista, only to find that after all the effort, you really had everything you needed in Windows XP - and then some. So it pays to go into any migration to Vista with eyes wide open. Here's a blow-by-blow rundown of just what you'll be getting yourself into with Vista compared to XP.
--- XP is faster
You can throw a lot of hardware - and money - at Windows Vista and still end up with a computer that is considerably more sluggish than your XP machine.
Part of the issue with Vista is actually perceived sluggishness. The new interface is designed to mask, to some degree, how long operations are taking by distracting you with various visual effects: dialog boxes that open gradually, a pulsating circle that appears whenever some disk action is taking place, animation effects that let you see a minimised application gradually expand when called to the forefront.
At first, the visual effects may very well wow you. But after a while, when you just want to get your work done in the minimum amount of time, you may very well come to long for the snappiness of XP's interface.
The sad thing, too, is that today's dual core and quad core computers can really make XP perform quicker than you've ever seen it perform before. But with Vista, even the best of these boxes provide what appears to be just adequate performance.
--- XP is compatible
Microsoft has gone a long way in ensuring that Windows Vista is compatible with the majority of popular applications in use today. But 'majority' won't mean anything to you if the one or two applications that you consider critical won't work under Vista or won't work as they should.
Virtually every Windows-based program will run under XP. That means that usually you won't need to give a second thought to compatibility. Run Vista, on the other hand, and you'll be visiting the Web sites of manufacturers on a fairly regular basis looking for Vista compatibility information or patches that make current software run properly under the new operating system. You'll also be learning about 'compatibility mode' in Vista - a feature that allows you to specify that an older program should be run in a special mode under Vista that may enable the program to run without issues.
And software won't be your only concern with Vista. Printer, scanner, and other hardware manufacturers may or may not provide Vista drivers for their products. HP, for instance, is not providing Vista drivers for the popular and not-so-old LaserJet 1012 home printer.
--- XP is familiar
The interface of Windows XP may not be nearly as attractive as that of Vista. But that snazzy new look that Vista sports has its downsides, too. First, because a lot of things look and work differently in Vista than they did in XP, you'll spend a good deal of time re-learning common tasks.
Want quick access to some setting in the Display Properties dialog box, for instance? In Vista, you'll learn that the features formerly found in the Display Properties dialog box you're used to are now split up into several dialog boxes accessible from the redesigned Control Panel. There are literally dozens of examples of similar features that you'll have to relearn once you make the move to Vista.
The relearning wouldn't be so bad if the payoff were greater. But what many come to feel about Vista is that the interface changes are among the operating system's primary 'improvements.' In previous versions of Windows, interface changes were just a part of an operating system upgrade that included many, many technological advancements. Because a lot of technical improvements were stripped out of Vista mid-way through the development cycle, however, what users are left with is a new interface that requires relearning, along with a few new features - such as integrated search and security enhancements - that are nice to have but certainly available elsewhere as free add-ins to XP.
--- XP is mature
Millions upon millions of computer users have pounded on Windows XP for years. The result: Microsoft has had plenty of time to fix bugs that were identified after the initial release. Service Pack 2 for XP has been available for XP for some time, and Service Pack 3 - rumoured to include just rollups of bug patches, as well as Internet Explorer 7 - is slated to ship next year.
Compare that type of maturity with Vista, which reportedly was shipped with a long list of bugs still unaddressed, and you'd be hard-pressed to argue that Vista is ready for any type of critical production environment. Most corporations, in fact, won't even consider rolling out a new OS like Vista before the first service pack is released. Should you?
--- XP is flexible
If you really just can't stand the look and feel of Windows XP, there are ways to make it look like Vista - or a lot of other things, as well, thanks to the many 'skins' in circulation. Repositories such as WinCustomize (http://www.wincustomize.com) provide plenty of options for changing the look and feel of XP, and many of these customisations are well tested and reviewed.
Make no mistake: Vista can be fun to work with, and there's no denying that the overhaul that Microsoft gave the interface made the whole operating system more attractive.
But there remain enough issues with Vista that a move to the new software should probably be undertaken only by those who want or need to stay on the cutting edge of technology - and those who understand the risks.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur