Microsoft

Are Windows Vista's standard applets an improvement over Windows XP?

Nearly a year and a half after his initial investigation, Greg Shultz takes a look at the updates in Vista's standard applets, compared to those in the last operating system, Windows XP.

In March of 2006, I reported that several of the standard Windows applets in Vista — the first "feature-complete" version of Vista, according to Microsoft — are identical to those in Windows XP and essentially the same as they were in Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 98, Windows NT, and Windows 95.

Here's a look at the updates in the standard Windows applets in Windows Vista compared to those in Windows XP.

Notepad

Notepad has not seen any significant changes. I had hoped that in the final version, Vista's Notepad would have gained support for multiple windows or the ability to add line numbers. Windows Vista's Notepad is essentially identical to Windows XP's Notepad — same menus, same commands, and same limitations.

Since Notepad didn't get the updates I was hoping it would, I've abandoned it in favor of an excellent replacement called Notepad2 from Florian Balmer. It has all the features I'd hoped for and more — and best of all, it's free.

WordPad

I was hoping that the final version of Windows Vista's WordPad would have gained the ability to open multiple windows, create tables, and spell check documents. Unfortunately, like Notepad, WordPad's feature set really hasn't changed at all; the menus, commands, and the toolbar buttons are all the same.

Wanting something different for quick word processor editing tasks, I ditched WordPad in favor of Jarte, a free program from Carolina Road Software. Jarte 3.0, which is designed for Windows Vista, is still a beta, but I've not encountered any major difficulties, and I feel comfortable using it.

Paint

Considering all the advances in graphics over the years, I was sure that Paint would get some additional improvements in the final version of Windows Vista. I was hoping for some photo editing features, but Microsoft didn't go that far; it did add some new features to Paint and Vista's Windows Photo Gallery.

For example, the Edit menu gained the Invert Selection command, which allows you to change the current selection so that everything previously unselected will now be selected and vice versa. While kind of obscure, this is a nice feature to have on hand in some editing situations.

Another new feature is the added capability of the magnifier to not only zoom in to make the image bigger but to zoom out to make the image smaller all via a slider control. This comes in handy when you need to crop a portion of the entire image and need to be able to see the entire image all at once.

In addition, the Color Box is now at the top of the window. The default set of colors in the Color Box have also softened a bit.

The new magnifier and zoom features have restored my faith in Paint, and I'll keep using it. Plus, I'm really learning to like the features in Windows Photo Gallery.

Calculator

The Calculator hasn't changed. In fact, Windows Vista's Calculator looks and feels the same as all the other Calculator applets in previous version of Windows. I've reconsidered my wish for a Calculator upgrade — it is good enough just as it is. So, I'm keeping Calculator around for a while.

Final thoughts

In the big scheme of things, the standard Windows applets are really a small part of what operating systems are all about, but it would still be nice to have some new features.

What's your take?

Will you stick with Windows Vista's standard applets, or will you trade them in? If so, which replacement(s) makes the most sense to you?

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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