Windows Vista: It’s the little things…

…that make all the difference in the world to me.  I’ve been using Beta 1 a lot recently, and although “most of the stuff that we would expect that tech enthusiasts and consumers will be interested in will happen at Beta 2,” every once in awhile come across a small improvement that makes me much more productive than on Windows XP.  I guess that officially makes me a bithead?

For example, how many times have you copied a bunch of files/folders only to have the whole operation abort because a file was in use:


(I usually get this when copying an open VS project due to those pesky .ncb files.)  I just did this on Windows Vista, and got the following instead:


It lets me fix the issue and retry!  Hooray!  Also, you’ve got to notice the “Repeat my answer each time this occurs” that appears on various dialogs.  No more shift-clicking to get that elusive “No to All” behavior!

Another favorite “little thing” of mine is filtering/searching of the Control Panel as you type:


This feature finally makes the default view better than the classic view!  (Although it works with that, too.)

The same type of searching can be done on your Start Menu programs:


Where’s that event viewer again?  Who cares!

It even works like “Run” if the program is in the path:


It unfortunately doesn’t search control panel items, though.

Even better, that search box gets focus when you click Start (or press the Windows key).  So I can save a keystroke in my frequent [Windows+R cmd Enter] routine by just typing [Windows cmd Enter] instead!

Yes the UI can be awkward at times, but I wouldn’t worry too much.  Check out these screenshots – [1], [2], [3], and [4] – of Windows XP (“Whistler”) Beta 1 from an old review by winsupersite.

Comments (18)

  1. David says:

    That’s definitely a better error message. But:

    1. What does Retry + Repeat really mean? Or Cancel + Repeat? Isn’t a Skip All button what we want?

    2. It’s a little unclear if "Repeat my answer" is for the current operation only or if it disables the message completely, like those "Don’t show this message again" check boxes. I always hesitate to click them if the message is even remotely useful, because sometimes it is not so clear who you get the message back at a later time.

    3. It would be EVEN better if I could also see which program(s) that had locked the file, presented in a list that I could simply click to switch to. Process Explorer tells me that, but it is rather cumbersome. I find this "close any programs that might be using the file" quite offensive when Windows KNOWS which programs that lock the file. Sometimes it really is a mystery, so why should the poor user have to look for them?

  2. Travis Owens says:

    You’re not alone here, I’m one of those "little things" guys too.

    File copying/moving has been one of my pet peeves too. I’m glad to see Vista is using error dialogs that are both more informative and more usefull (by adding rectaive measures).

    On a tangent, what I’d like to see added to dialogs is an easy (obvious) way to copy all the text (and preferabaly images and formatting) to the clipboard so I can paste this to an email, or a word document, etc.

    Think of all the PC users who have had to retype error messages into online forums or emails in attempts to get troubleshooting help. And of course humans being lazy, they won’t type the whole error which can make online searching for the error text hard or impossible and worse yet, they could mistype error codes.

  3. Travis Owens says:


    "Repeat" implies it will repeat your answer if the same type of error pops up again. Although ‘Retry’ with ‘Repeat’ doesn’t make much sense. It obviously implies that I want to retry this step, but repeat if it fails, meaning we would be in an infinite loop. Obviously a little bit of code would say something like "if repeating and this error is the same as the previous error and this file is the same as the previos file then popup new error window".

    In reality the repeat checkbox is outright ignored unless you choose Skip.

    Of course realize that the "Retry" button would be different under different error scenarios and these other scenarios might have a button where Repeat makes sense, think of a virus scanner where you can choose to Skip the virus infected file, fix it or cancel everything.

  4. David, I see your point. On this dialog, "repeat my answer" only seems to make sense for "Skip." I’d expect checking it with "Cancel" to have no affect (since the whole operation should be aborted), and you’d think checking it with retry might cause an infinite loop with no prompt (?!) until I released the file. I do think the "repeat my answer" is nice for something like "Do you overwrite this file? Yes/No" rather than having separate "No to All" and "Yes to All" buttons.

    I also hesitate with some of those "don’t show this again" choices. Ideally there’d be a central place to see all those choices with the ability to change your mind at any time.

    Travis, I agree about copying dialog text. Some dialogs do support Ctrl+C but it would be nice for some sort of built in "copy the text" button. I think the worst thing about not having such a feature is that people often paste huge screenshots into email instead of typing the message!

  5. zzz says:

    I would be pleased if Vista made it a lot easier to use only mouse or only keyboard instead of the current method of having change very frequently between the two – that is unless you have some special keyboard with integrated mouse – this seems to be the scenario Windows is optimized for. Pretty weird since I do not know anyone who uses desktop computer and has such keyboard.

    Is the only kbd/mouse alone scenario your in your normal usability tests? You got to do better job convincing me. And since we are getting more of touch/pen controls this should be a PRIORITY for UI DESIGN.

  6. Dan says:

    Yes this is much better but oh come on… It’s 2005 and we still can’t seem to list the application(s) that have the file open? Have a button to close them for you? Or have an option to copy the file anyway even if it might be risky? We’re still so far away from making software approachable by mere mortals.

  7. Eric W says:

    I’m with Dave. Knowing WHICH program(s) has the file open would be a very big help. But I still like the new interface. Good job.

  8. Andrew says:

    I’m with everyone above. Provide a link to a pulist process window, and an unlocker.exe shortcut.

    How about allowing us to just create additional Actions on the files so we don’t have to ask Microsoft for something that may come in 2008 but was available in 98? A Customize button that would allow you to run a program or URL on the file, with parameters? Now that would be useful.

    I like the search… though Slickrun is the way to go.

    That’s a big honking message box too… guess this is focusing on the baby boomer demographic… 🙂

  9. zzz,

    I own such a keyboard []. The trouble is, the company is no longer in business, so you won’t be able to buy one.

    Sorry to feed a troll, but it had to be said.

    No argument that the dialog is a huge improvement, but I must agree with everyone else, some more information about which application has a handle to the file is needed.


  10. decheung says:

    "Another favorite "little thing" of mine is filtering/searching of the Control Panel as you type:"

    Sadly, Apple shipped that in April. 🙁

  11. Woah! Why are the close, maximise and minimize buttons like 8 feet tall?

  12. Adam Nathan says:

    Ian, I had my laptop in "demo mode" with large fonts et al, so that’s why parts of the UI are so large. 🙂

  13. Mark Hurd says:

    Travis: Alt+Print Screen captures just the active window, and since Windows 2000 Ctrl+C copies the text of standard message boxes.

  14. Brandon Bloom says:

    The new file-in-use dialog is a step forward, but not perfect. Let’s say I am deleting many files, but one of them is in use. When Windows gets to the in-use file, it should wait for the users input, but continue deleting the other files!

    What really should happen is this:

    I say delete files A,B,C, and D. Files B and D are in use. Windows deletes file A, prompts the user "The following file can not be deleted because it is currently in use: (listbox) B." without hesitation, windows should proceed to delete file C and then when it gets to file D, add it to the list box and change the prompt to "The following files can not be deleted because they are currently in use". The user should then have a simple "Select all" button and the options to retry or skip.

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