Microsoft's latest desktop operating system is a huge, confusing beast, full of new features, new bundled applications, a new look and feel, and updated ways of doing familiar tasks. Yep, it's a major Windows release all right, and the sheer number of new things is sure to confuse even the most technically savvy people out there. For this reason, I've decided to start navigating through all of this new functionality, one feature at a time. On an ongoing basis, I'll step through each new feature in Windows Vista, explain what's new and different, and reveal the good and the bad.

It's not going to happen overnight. After all, there are hundreds of new features in Windows Vista. But you have to start somewhere, right? Below, you can find a preliminary list of Windows Vista features I am covering. I plan to update this list as I add new Feature Focus showcases. If you think a particular feature is missing, let me know. If you think I've missed an important point about a feature I've already covered, please let me know. And if you want to see something covered sooner rather than later, do drop me a line. You can reach me at thurrott@windowsitpro.com.

Update: All Feature Focus articles are updated to cover both the original (RTM) shipping version of Windows Vista and Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1).

A focus on Windows Vista features

This exhaustive list of Windows Vista features is derived from Microsoft documentation and my own extensive experience the operating system, dating back over four years. You won't find a more thorough rundown of Windows Vista features in any book, Web site, instructional CD anywhere.

64-Bit (x64) Support

Focus area: System, Core architecture

With Windows XP, Microsoft created specific Windows product editions, or SKUs, that targeted 64-bit processors from Intel and AMD...

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Automatic Disk Defragmentation

Focus area: System, Performance, Reliability

Effectiveness aside, there has always been one crucial feature missing from the Windows Disk Defragmenter: It could never be configured to automatically defragment your system's hard drives...

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Live Taskbar Thumbnails

Focus area: Shell, User interface

Since the dawn of PC graphical user interfaces (GUIs), operating system designers have struggled with window management: How users deal with the open applications, applets, dialog boxes, and other windows...

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Reliability Monitor

Focus area: System, Performance

While Windows has long included administrator-oriented performance and reliability monitoring tools, they were never of much use to end-users, unless of course your idea of excitement is to watch line graphs...

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User Account Control

Focus area: Security, Core architecture

With Windows Vista, Microsoft has finally moved the Windows platform to a security model that competing operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux have employed for years...

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Welcome Center

Focus area: Shell, User interface

As Microsoft has endeavored to make Windows more user-friendly over the years, one of the areas in which the company has focused a lot of energy is the so-called out of box experience, or OOBE...

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Windows Aero User Interface

Focus area: Shell, User interface

Windows Aero is the premium user interface available in most mainstream Vista versions. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, Windows Aero is highly compatible with virtually all graphics chipsets...

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Windows Anytime Upgrade

Focus area: System, Install and deployment

While I've been harshly critical of Microsoft's decision to split Windows Vista into far more product editions than is sane or reasonable, we can at least give the software giant credit for making Vista...

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Windows Calendar

Focus area: Personal productivity

Anyone who's seen Apple's nicely-designed iCal, an Internet calendaring standards-based calendar application for Mac OS X, will immediately understand Windows Calendar...

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Windows DVD Maker

Focus area: Digital Media

Windows DVD Maker is a simple, wizard-based application for creating DVD movies that consist of one of more videos and/or a single photo slideshow with optional musical accompaniment...

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Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D

Focus area: Shell, User interface

In Windows Vista, ALT + TAB has been renamed to Windows Flip and completely overhauled, assuming you're running Aero Glass...

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Windows Mail

Focus area: Personal productivity

In Windows Vista, Outlook Express has been renamed to Windows Mail in order to be more consistent with other bundled applications. Don't be confused by the name change, however...

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Windows Media Center Extender

Focus area: Digital Media

The Media Center Extender experience replicates the Vista Media Center interface to the Xbox 360 and various standalone Extenders and thus, to your HDTV or other television...

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Windows Mobility Center

Focus area: Mobility, Personal productivity

Windows Mobility Center is a dashboard that contains all of the utilities a mobile user could want. And Mobility Center can also be extended by PC makers...

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Windows Movie Maker 6

Focus area: Digital Media

Windows Vista's video editing program, Windows Movie Maker 6, includes all of the features and functionality from previous versions along with some unique new features that make it even more compelling...

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Windows Photo Gallery

Focus area: Digital media

Windows Photo Gallery is an excellent application for viewing, organizing, and editing digital photos. It's also at the heart of Vista's photo acquisition functionality...

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Windows Sidebar

Focus area: Shell, User interface

The Windows Sidebar, a standard feature of all mainstream Windows Vista versions, is a unique environment attached to the side of the Windows Vista desktop that hosts Web-like gadgets, or mini-applications...

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Windows Ultimate Extras

Focus area: Digital Media, Games, Security, Shell, User Interface

Windows Ultimate Extras has never lived up to the promises Microsoft first made about the service and it's certainly not a reason to consider paying extra (ahem) for the most expensive Vista version...

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Windows Vista Basic User Interface

Focus area: Shell, User interface

To satisfy customers who are looking for the most of the benefits of the new Vista user experience but on systems that don't meet Aero's hardware requirements, Microsoft has created the Windows Vista Basic user interface...

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Windows Vista Standard User Interface

Focus area: Shell, User interface

Perhaps the least well understood of the numerous Windows Vista user interface types, Windows Vista Standard is only available on Windows Vista Home Basic, and then only on systems with compatible graphics display hardware...

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More Feature Focus articles coming soon...

Anti-Phishing Technologies
Backup and Recovery Center
BitLocker Full Drive Encryption
Games Explorer and Windows Games
Instant Search
Internet Explorer 7.0
Internet Information Server
Kernel Patch Protection
Network and Sharing Center
Network Projection
Power Management
Previous Versions (Windows ShadowCopy)
Remote Desktop
Setup and Installation Improvements
Subsystem for Unix-Based Applications
Sync Center
Tablet PC Functionality and Touch Screen Support
Themed Slide Shows
Windows Classic User Interface
Windows Defender
Windows Easy Transfer
Windows Explorer
Windows Fax and Scan
Windows Firewall
Windows Media Center
Windows Media Player 11
Windows Meeting Space
Windows ReadyBoost
Windows ReadyDrive
Windows Security Center
Windows Service Hardening
Windows SideShow
Windows Update and Automatic Updates
Windows Vista Fonts
XPS and PDF Document Support