The really powerful part is that you can create your own virtual folders based on custom searches built up within the new and powerful search box. This allows not just for searching by a simple match, such as a word in a file, but also for multiple-level searches. You could, for instance, search for all files with the keyword ‘computer’, excluding those with the word ‘Apple’ in their title. Or you can search for photos with a certain star rating, but not those containing Aunt Agatha in the keywords. Once you’ve made the search, you can then save it as a virtual folder. This isn’t static: whenever a file matching the search criteria is added or removed, the virtual folder is updated to reflect this.
But the interface as it stands is initially confusing. If you’ve used Windows Media Player 10 and found its plethora of drop-down menus – indicated only by small arrows – difficult to understand, you’ll know what we mean. The interface is typically Microsoft in that it attempts to give you as many ways as possible to achieve the same end result. This can lead you round in circles, and the idea of novices getting their heads around AND and OR searches to create virtual folders isn’t one we’re terribly confident about.
Make no mistake: the notion of organising and using a computer via virtual folders and search terms is powerful, but as it stands it’s neither intuitive nor consistent. For example, the appearance and function of Explorer windows changes subtly, depending on whether you’ve got to them via the Computer icon, you’re in the Pictures folder or you’re looking at virtual folders. The standard Explorer view onto the All Documents virtual folder contains 13 small arrows leading to drop-down menus that change the view in some way. None of them are labelled with text – you just have to click them to see what they do.
The second snag is that Microsoft is saddling us with more work: if our data isn’t tagged with star rating, keywords and author information – and whose is? – the standard virtual folders get in the way, at least initially. Vista is the beginning of a new era in data organisation, and if it’s going to work we need to be more careful with our drive contents. To get the most out of the interface, we’re going to have to put in some extra work and start tagging documents appropriately so that the Search Engine stands a chance of organising things. At the very least, we’re going to have to set the date and time on our digital cameras.
Sense of security
It may not match translucent frames for sexiness, but security is vital if Windows Vista is to succeed
Microsoft is starting to claim that Vista has been ‘designed from the ground up with security at its core’. This is, of course, a tacit admission that security was somewhat left on the sidelines for the XP release, where the Windows 9x codebase merged with the Windows NT/2000 one. Perhaps ‘collided’ is a better description.
Windows XP, especially in its Home incarnation, has been almost the perfect example of how not to do security – just about everything that could have gone wrong has done so. It starts with appallingly bad default user management, whereby everyone seems to end up running as an Administrator if they want anything to work reliably. It continues with the lack of security built into the firewall, at least in the versions before SP 2, and ends with applications like Internet Explorer 6, which have incubated a whole new era of virus applications and spyware.