Get up to Speed on Windows XP

Windows XP

Story Contents


Facts & Figures

Home & Pro Differences

Behind the New Wheel

Folders & Special Folders

Looking at 'My Pictures'

Windows Media Player 8

Internet Explorer 6.0

Functional Improvements

Personal Firewall

Remote Assistance

Backup & Restore

Product Activation

Hardware and Setup

Will Your Programs Run?


Beta Conclusions

Looking at 'My Pictures'

On the previous page, we talked about picture smarts that you can enable for any folder window by adjusting its Properties. Microsoft's designated folder for picture files already has all these picture smarts turned on by default. In addition to the ones we've already described, the new Filmstrip view (with the large preview image) also has the ability to play back a set of images as a full screen slide show. There are several context-menu options for individual picture files (such as Preview, Rotate, Edit, and so forth). Microsoft is including a built-in, full-size, image file viewer that opens automatically when you double-click any image file. The Tiles view shows the dimensions of each image as measured in pixels, a feature that's sure to win favor among website creators.

Links in the My Pictures Task area let you print pictures and order prints from the Internet. Selecting the latter calls up a new Internet Print Ordering dialog box, where you can order professional quality prints from OFOTO or Print@Kodak On-line Finishing.

Windows XP includes a folder called My Music that's optimized for music clips. In its Music Tasks area, the My Music folder offers the option to play the selected file. Or you can elect to play all files in the folder. There's also a "Shop for music online" option.

Windows Me has nothing on XP. The new My Pictures folder handles a lot of different image chores quickly, and with aplomb.
Click to see larger image

Windows Me has nothing on XP. The new My Pictures folder handles a lot of different image chores quickly, and with aplomb.

All of this is multimedia related, of course, and Windows XP simply oozes multimedia. There are a variety of ways to acquire and display images, and Windows Media Player version 8.0, which ships with XP, provides new music features and also the ability to burn CDs. In fact, copying files to CD-Rs and CD-RWs is now built into the XP interface. Right-click on any document, select the Send To option, and you'll see an item called Writable CD. Choose this, and you'll get the CD staging area, where you can add whatever documents you want and then write to your disc. Another new option in the Send To menu is Compressed Folder (also known as a zip file). The feature, which first appeared in Windows Me, helps the multimedia cause by letting you compress the large files multimedia applications tend to spawn.

When you sum it all up, Windows Me users will find that Windows XP Home Edition offers a minor but noticeable upgrade in the area of digital media. Many of these features appeared in Windows Me, but they've been streamlined, enhanced, or amended in Windows XP. What's more, the digital media stuff is 100 percent new to Windows 2000 users. And it appears in both the Pro and Home editions.

Wizard-Like Search Could Become Annoying
Windows XP adds an entirely new Search facility that has pluses and minuses. The biggest plus is that the new search facility adds functionality that helps inexperienced users quickly find only specific types of files, such as images, music, video, or documents like Word and Excel files. XP's Search offers a wizard-like process for making decisions about search criteria. There's even a set of search-result refinement options. This will definitely help first-time Search users find what they're looking for. The problem is that Microsoft has not optimized the process for all the rest of us. Everyone from advanced beginners to seasoned pros is likely to be frustrated in trying to find where to go for "Advanced" search, which is really nothing more than the old Search from previous versions of Windows.

This is starting to be a recurring theme. When an entire user interface is aimed at people who've never used Windows before, you run the risk of annoying all the rest of us. It is possible to design an interface that handles both user levels. In some places, such as the Search facility, it looks like Microsoft forgot to go that extra mile.

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