I’ve been working with Windows Vista on a daily basis now
for almost a month and for the most part, I’ve been impressed with everything
I’ve encountered so far. Of course, the User Account Control dialog boxes can
be a bit annoying, but I understand what they’re designed to do and so have
accepted them as a necessary evil for protecting my system from the those black
hats on the Internet intent on subverting my computer.

However, I’ve encountered an incongruity with the Windows
Vista’s Personalization interface that seems to contradict the Clear part of Windows
Vista’s Clear, Confident, Connected slogan. And, try
as I might, I haven’t been able to reconcile this inconsistency in the same way
that I’ve dealt with the omnipresent User Account Control dialog boxes. Microsoft
has endowed Vista with awesome new GUI and then made it more difficult to
customize by making the Personalization interface awkward and inefficient. It
just doesn’t make sense!

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Now, keep in mind that my concerns aren’t meant to decry
Microsoft or Windows Vista and I’m not saying that this item is a major problem
with the new operating system. It’s just something that’s been bugging me.

So let me vent my concerns and see if I can elicit any information
that can help me to make sense of this incongruity.

Clear, Confident, Connected

I’m sure that by now everyone is quite familiar with Windows
Vista’s slogan: “Clear, Confident, Connected; Bringing clarity to your
world,” which was first introduced when Microsoft announced that the
official name of the new operating system was going to be Windows Vista at the
Microsoft Global Business Conference in Atlanta, Ga., on Thursday, July 21,
2005. In the Windows Vista Beta 2 Technical Reviewer’s Guide, each of these
three words is backed up with a paragraph that further describes the goal of
each point: Here’s what it says about Clear:

Windows Vista puts a
company’s greatest asset–its people–at the forefront. The user experience in
Windows Vista represents files and information in more intuitive ways, enabling
users to find, manage, and organize the data they work with in ways that make
sense to them.

Although the main gist of the Clear description has to do
with data, it does imply that the user interface is designed so that it makes sense
and is easier to use. Keep this in mind as I continue.

The Personalization interface

To customize, or personalize, the user interface in Windows
XP, you simply right-click on the desktop, select Properties from the context
menu, and you see the Display Properties dialog box–a one-stop multi-tabbed
interface that makes quick work of customizing the user interface. Each one of
the tabs, labeled Themes, Desktop, Screen Saver, Appearance, and Settings,
contains a slew of configuration options. You sequentially select one or more
tabs, change the appropriate settings, and click OK. What could be easier or clearer?

In Windows Vista, you right-click on the desktop, select
Personalize from the context menu, and you see the Personalization interface, a
Web-like page that resembles the Control Panel with a series of icons. The
icons are titled Display Settings, Visual Appearance, Desktop Background,
Screen Saver, Sound Effects, Mouse Pointers, and Theme.

On first glance, this new interface looks good, but once you
begin looking around, the inconsistencies become apparent. For example, when
you click Display Settings, a like-titled
dialog box appears with a single tab containing the same settings contained on
the Settings tab of the Display Settings dialog box in Windows XP. When you
click OK, you’re returned to the Personalization page. When you click Screen Saver or Theme, you see similar one-tab dialog boxes. In this example, you
can see that a perfectly good multi-tabbed dialog box has been broken down into
three single-tabbed dialog boxes increasing the number of places that you have
to go and the number of steps that you have to take in order to customize the

Clicking Sound Effects
also brings up a one-tab dialog box for selecting a sound scheme. Clicking Mouse brings up the exact same
multi-tabbed Mouse Properties dialog box that you find in Windows XP. Another
oddity here is that in addition to being part of the Personalization page, the
controls found in Mouse and Sound Effects are accessible straight from the
Control Panel–while Mouse is identical, Sound Effects is called Sound Events
and in the Audio Devices and Sound Themes dialog box.

Now, clicking Visual
brings up a nice Web-like page for choosing and configuring a color
scheme as well as enabling or disabling the transparent glass feature. However,
this page also contains a link titled Open
Classic Appearance Properties
that brings up a one-tab dialog box contain
the exact same controls found on the Appearance tab in Windows XP’s Display
Properties dialog box. Again, this increases the number of steps you have to
take in order to customize the interface.

Desktop Background is also a very nice Web-like page for
choosing and configuring wallpaper. However, it doesn’t provide access to
configuring Desktop icons–an option that you find at the bottom of the Desktop
tab in Windows XP’s Display Properties dialog box. Instead, you have to return
to the Personalization page and then click the Change Desktop Icons link in the Tasks panel. When you do, another
one-tab dialog box appears.

Beta glitches?

It could just be that these are incomplete items that are
typical in beta software; however, I would have figured that at the Beta 2
stage all of these interface design inconsistencies would have been settled
before the software was released to millions of users. As always, if you have
comments or information to share about these incongruities, please take a
moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.