The glass effectAs you know, the Graphical User Interface, or GUI, in Windows Vista has undergone a major overhaul. The most prominent example of this overhaul is Windows Aero, which Microsoft describes as the premium visual experience of Windows Vista, because it features a transparent glass design with subtle window animations and new window colors.
This gallery is also available as Greg Shultz's article, Windows Aero - Vista's premium user interface.
Windows Aero is only available in four of the five primary Windows Vista product editions. The Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions provide Windows Aero. Home Basic will provide the Windows Basic user interface. (Keep in mind that, like Aero, Basic will offer all the same intuitive navigation and organizational features, such as the new Start menu and the new Explorers, but just without the visual experience of Aero.)
Even if you have one of the four Windows Vista editions that provide Windows Aero, you have to have a system capable of displaying it. For example, the minimum hardware requirements for Windows Aero are a 1-GHz 32-bit or 64-bit) processor, 1GB RAM, and 128MB video RAM along with a DirectX 9 class graphics processor that supports a Windows Display Driver Model Driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, and 32 bits per pixel.
The Aero name
Before we get into the features, let's take a moment to look more closely at the Aero name. The most obvious take on this new name is that it comes from the word Aerodynamic and connotes a sleek and more efficient user interface. While this sounds very plausible, the official line from Jim Alchin, on the Windows Vista Team Blog is that Aero is really an acronym that stands for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open. Alchin adds that the 45 new sounds that have been included with the RTM version are also a big part of the Aero experience.
The glass effect
The most notable feature of Windows Aero is the glass effect that sports translucent window frames, dynamic reflections, and very smooth animations. This screenshot Windows Color and Appearance tool on the desktop. Notice that the Enable Transparency check box is selected by default and I've adjusted the Color Intensity to its lowest setting. As you can see, I've placed the Windows Color and Appearance tool over top of the Windows Sidebar Clock and a pair of icons to allow you to see the effect of the translucent window frames.
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Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.