Demo: What's new with the Windows desktop and Start menu?

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Watch this demo to learn about the new Start menu and desktop features in Windows Vista, including Windows Aero and Windows Sidebar.

Read the transcript

The Windows Vista desktop introduces powerful features, from the improved Start menu to Windows Sidebar—along with the new look of Windows Aero—to help you work more efficiently.

The Start button has a new appearance, and the Start menu functions differently than in previous versions of Windows.

For example, the improved All Programs menu now opens from within the Start menu, instead of opening another menu.

You can open any program or folder with a single click.

To close the All Programs menu, click here.

The quickest way to locate programs is to use the Start menu's new Search box.

Start typing and search results will appear.

The Start menu's powerful search capabilities extend beyond finding programs. You can also use the Search box to find just about anything on your computer, including documents, e-mail messages, and other important files.

When you see the program or file you want to open, click it.

By now, you've probably noticed the translucent glass design of window borders. That's part of Windows Aero, the premium visual experience of Windows Vista. Here are some other key features of Windows Aero:

  • Taskbar button previews display a small picture of a taskbar button's corresponding window. This preview appears when you point to a taskbar button, and is helpful if you can't identify a window by its title alone.

  • Windows Flip displays live window previews when you hold down the ALT key and press TAB. Continue pressing TAB to cycle through windows. When you've selected the window you want to open, release the ALT key.

  • Even better, Windows Flip 3D displays open windows in 3D groups when you hold down the Windows logo key and press TAB. Continue pressing TAB to scroll through windows. To select a window, move it to the front of the stack, and then release the Windows logo key.

  • You can also open Flip 3D by clicking the Switch between windows button on the taskbar. Use the wheel on your mouse to scroll through windows, and then click the window you want to open.

Note that Windows Flip 3D, taskbar previews, and other Windows Aero features might not be available if your hardware won't run Aero or your system administrator turned it off.

Another new feature is Windows Sidebar, which you can use to organize and easily access the information that you need the most—without cluttering your workspace.

The things you'll see on Sidebar, such as the clock, are customizable programs called gadgets.

You can add new gadgets to Sidebar by clicking here. Double-click the gadget you want to add…like this.

By clicking this link, you can download more gadgets from the web.

To change the settings on most gadgets, point to the gadget, and then click this button.

You can also customize the way Sidebar behaves.

For example, when you have other windows open, they'll cover Sidebar by default. You might find it helpful to keep Sidebar displayed on top of open windows when you're working instead.

You can do this by right-clicking Sidebar, opening Sidebar Properties, and selecting the check box that determines whether Sidebar is always on top of other windows.

Now when you maximize a window, Sidebar will remain visible.

Finally, let's explore some of the new options you can choose when you're ready to end your work session.

Open the Start menu to access the Power button and the Lock button.

You can lock your computer with the Lock button. When locked, your computer cannot be used until you unlock it with your password.

Rather than shutting down your computer when you're done working, it's a good idea to use the Power button. When you click the Power button, Windows saves your work session, and then puts the computer into sleep mode so that you can resume working quickly.

And if you're using a mobile PC, don't worry—using the Power button won't drain your battery. After your mobile PC has been sleeping for several hours, it automatically saves your work to the hard disk and then turns off completely.

To wake your computer and resume working, just press the Power button on your computer.

Now that you've learned the basics, you can begin to explore how the new Start menu and desktop features can enhance your work.