Windows Vista Service Pack 1 became available yesterday and the entire Interweb is talking about it. Some are saying SP1 improves Vista's general meh-diocrity, while others, including our brothers and sisters at CNET.com, are saying .
We're inclined to agree with our Yank brethren. Microsoft's done a decent job with Vista SP1, but it could have done so much more. Don't give us that rubbish about it only being an incremental improvement -- Microsoft threw so much into XP SP2 that it was virtually a whole new operating system.
With that in mind, we've come up with a bunch of things we think should have been included with Vista SP1, and things that could help improve the Windows Vista user experience on the whole. Some of these things may happen with the advent of Vista SP2 -- just after 633 Pig Squadron takes off and Satan starts his own Mr Plow franchise. But we love to fantasise.
You get it in Ubuntu, you get it in OS X Leopard, so why can't you get it out of the box with Windows Vista? The ability to have multiple desktops or spaces, each themed with a specific set of application types can help improve productivity and reduce the amount of clutter. Nobody likes to have a desktop full of icons, and nobody likes trawling their mental Rolodex to remember where they left something. You wouldn't eat, sleep and wash in the same room, so why treat your PC's desktop in the same way?
Better Flip 3D
Flip 3D provided the 'wow' factor Microsoft needed to make Vista interesting. But now all the hype has died down, it's clear that nobody uses the thing. Why bother, when Alt-Tab works better anyway? The problem with Flip 3D is that it can only show a limited number of windows at any one time. Plus the windows at the rear of the flip stack are virtually useless, since you can only see 20-25 per cent of the window. We think we've probably used Flip 3D twice. Once was to take a screen shot of it in action, and the other was to impress a girl.
Better file previews
Microsoft got it half right with its file-preview system. Vista lets you preview some of the contents of a sub-directory by placing thumbnails on the directory icon. And different file types have different icons. But is that the best they could do? If there was some way of previewing documents before you open them, a la Leopard's QuickLook feature, we'd be less likely to open the wrong document by mistake, and we wouldn't clog up our 'recent items' list with things we never meant to open.
Why Microsoft gave us such a half-baked solution for such an important area is beyond us. Yes, Vista lets us create backups of our entire PC, or even just files we specify, but that's really not enough in this day and age. Anyone who's spent 3 hours on the phone to their grandmother trying to explain how to recover a lost file will tell you how inadequate the current solution is. How about a visual representation of the state of your computer on any given day? How about the ability to recover lost files just by typing in a search term? How about accessing lost files directly from the application you last viewed them in? How about ripping off ? There's no shame in it.
Some speed, already!
We've always been concerned about some aspects of Vista's performance. We've learned that file copying and networking can be painfully slow, so we were rather hoping Vista SP1 would speed things up a bit. And it does -- sorta, kida, ish. But not really. CNET.com's lab monkeys have learned that moving files around on the same hard drive is a teeny bit quicker, but writing files to an external hard drive is notably slower with SP1. Boot up and shut down times were about the same, and battery life in laptops was virtually identical, too. Call us greedy, but we were expecting more. Vista was supposed to have started the 'wow' not the 'meh', remember? -Rory Reid