Blog: Secrets from the Chef

Windows 7: clothes count for first impressions

Yegor GilyovAuthor: Yegor Gilyov
12 February 2009

Judging by the many online reviews, the brave souls who have downloaded and installed the beta version of Windows 7 are, in general, pleasantly surprised. Your humble servant likewise entered into the ranks of the brave souls. I confirm: it’s actually pleasant to work with No. 7. However, given the many new and different functionalities, and well-written reviews of other authors, allow me to throw in my two cents worth in our particular area of expertise: visual interface design.

The previous version of Windows was, well, just lazy instead of cursed, and only gave the appearance of being so. Even if you don’t take into account old-fashioned PC users, who up to this point in time considered the blue panels of Norton Commander to be an unsurpassed masterpiece of interface design, the number of those who were dissatisfied with the visual style of Aero were plentiful. Some were annoyed by the transparent window frames, others, by the ubiquitous glare — a la Apple Aqua, and yet a third group — by the dark, ink-filled shade of the windows.

“Why do designers load all this stuff on?” — they ask, and they activate Windows Classic in this plaintive litany. The correct answer to this question (although we would prefer not to admit it) is: because they can.

New technical capabilities in the visual presentation of user interfaces are similar to a loaded gun hanging on the wall. Developers have to shoot, and preferably kill somebody. You can make windows transparent? Blam! Done. You can embed complex textures (the gun had already been discharged but it’s a multi-chambered weapon)? Blam! Was anyone injured? Get in the infirmary. Windows can now appear and disappear smoothly? Blam! Nobody was hurt? Well, that was just dumb luck.

Then and only then, when all the shots have been fired and when the smoke clears is it possible to calculate the losses and to try to correct all the obvious oversights in the next version.

This is not a new story, and it will be repeated at each turn in the upward spiral in the development of technology.

The designers at Apple can now be malicious towards their colleagues from Redmond, but it is only because the technological shackles were removed from them a few years earlier, and they have already succeeded in completely cleansing everything of the unbridled horror with which they painted Mac OS X 10.0.

And so, the visual style of the Windows 7 interface — is an evolution of Vista’s style. This is a chance for designers to prove that they weren’t brain-damaged since childhood, and to show when working on Vista, that they just had a minor case of dizziness due to the newly acquired capabilities. Let’s take a look at what happened in the meantime.

For starters, well, let’s start with the Start menu:

Windows 7 Start menuWindows 7

Windows Vista Start menuWindows Vista

We have seen previously that on the menu bar were two white “islands.” Now they have been merged into one. As a result, this menu is a little easier on the eyes. In addition, the menu and the taskbar are no longer such an uncompromising black (at least, by default). Now they have the same color and degree of transparency as the window frames.

Pay attention as well to the halo around the circular Start button. In Vista, a similar halo was only on the window control buttons (Minimize, Maximize, Close).

Windows Explorer makes us happy with the light-blue toolbars. Now they do not stand out as much against the general background, like the previous log of a sea-green color:

Windows 7 ExplorerWindows 7

Windows Vista Windows ExplorerWindows Vista

Column headings have become even simpler, although the previous format could not be described as overly intrusive.

Windows Media Player has been completely transformed:

Windows 7 Media PlayerWindows 7

Windows Vista Media PlayerWindows Vista

If closely scrutinized, there are not too many changes, but the interface is free of contrasting elements, and is much easier on the eyes. A high-altitude overview helps to “cloud” the texture in the background. In this realm of appeasement only album covers and the Play button exist (but that’s the most important button after all, right?). By the way, please note that the main control buttons are not on a transparent background as they were previously.

For “dessert” I left the Superbar. For now we will not speak of its substantial differences from the Taskbar, or about its new functionality. It’s better to take a look at how the backlight button works when pointing the mouse. Not only is the color for each application unique, but it is also alive!

It seems that this is a completely new gun. It was shot for the first time in Windows 7 and struck me right in the heart, because it made good sense, which was unusual. Ah yes, well done folks. That’s the ticket!

So, progress is evident. Even if the final version of the user interface design for Windows 7 does not undergo any changes, enough was already done that it can be pronounced that: Windows has become pleasant to look at.

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