Microsoft 'Longhorn' Preview

Aron Schatz
April 14, 2003
They never stop working at Microsoft and we have a sneak peak at what to expect in the next Windows. Read the preview to see what to expect when it's released.
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<b>Microsoft "Longhorn" Alpha Preview</b>
Since the release of Windows XP in 2001, Microsoft has been working on their new operating system codenamed "Longhorn". I managed to get ahold of a very early version of Microsoft's next operating sytem codenamed "Longhorn". Before we get into the features of Longhorn I want to stress that this is a very early version of the operating system(Alpha Build 4008), and it isn't expected to be available for purchase until around 2005. With that said, lets check out the future OS.

<b>New Visual Style</b>
Included in the Longhorn Alpha was a new visual style named 'Plex'. Plex is more or less an all blue theme that looks like a revised version of the default Windows XP visual style. One thing that the visual style does take advantage of is a new application programming interface(API), codenamed Avalon. Avalon will allow full motion video right in the UI and should open some new doors in terms of the way information will be presented to the user, which it looks like is Microsoft's main objective in Longhorn. <center>Windows Logon Screen&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Plex</center>

<b>The New, The Old, and Coming Attractions</b>
The Longhorn Alpha includes alot of older stuff from Windows XP, which might or might not change when the final product is released. The Welcome screen is more or less the same as Windows XP, however it does add the date and time on the top of the screen which is a nice feature. The Start Menu and Desktop are also very similar, with a couple added features. The start menu now includes a 'My Contacts' button as well as a 'My hardware' button. My contacts looks like a more user friendly version of the current address book, and my hardware is a revised device manager that makes it easier to see what hardware is installed in your system. <center>My Computer&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Start Menu</center>
Perhaps one of the most talked about additions to Longhorn is the addition of a sidebar. The sidebar takes advantage of XML and lets you display XML-based components in tile form. The sidebar allows you to add tiles including a clock, programs list, frequently used programs, and virtual desktop manager. The sidebar can be placed on any side of the screen just like the start menu, and the start menu can be dragged into the sidebar if you prefer just one bar.<center>Desktop</center>
As mentioned earlier, it looks like Microsoft wants the user to be able to handle and find any information as easily as possible, and thi can be seen in some parts of the Longhorn Alpha. The windows offer a horizontal preview pane that gives you some information about the file and allows you to do other things with the files such as order prints(in the My Pictures folder). In a left pane is a search pane that allows you to filter files in a folder by name, dimensions, and type each alphabetically, which should make finding files a little easier. Another new addition is the Music, and Picture and Video Libraries. These differ from My Pictures and My Music in that they organize your files into year, then sub-folders of months, which would be useful when you have hundreds of pictures on your computer. Another addition is the Parental Controls program. This built in program allows you to set a time period which your children can log on to their account to use the computer. This will limit their access, if you want them to spend more time on other things maybe even...homework. One last part of Longhorn was the addition of options in the Picture previewer(already in XP), to let you fix red eye, change contrast, and select parts of the picture. While these additions are quite small, they are an easy way to touch up your pictures before ordering prints online.<CENTER>
My Pictures&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Parental Controls

So what else is Microsoft planning to do with Longhorn? There is sure to be some major redesign of the user interface after the new API becomes developed further, as well as Microsoft's new WFS(Windows File System) that is database-based which they plan to include in the final release. Another coming attraction is the addition of integrated CD and DVD burning that will follow the Mt. Ranier Specs. For those of you who haven't heard about Mt. Ranier, it will allow the hardware of the CD/DVD-burner to be integrated with the OS and allow you to copy files by dragging them in just like you can do with a floppy drive now without the use of outside software. This is still a early version of Longhorn and the final version will probably have a lot of major changes, from what I can tell though Microsoft is trying to take the enormous amount of information now available through the internet and other sources, and make it as easily accessible as possible by the user. Whether Microsoft will live up to this expectation, only time will tell.


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