Windows Aero is the graphical user interface and the default theme in most editions of Windows Vista, an operating system released by Microsoft on 31 January 2007. It is also available in Windows Server 2008, which was released on February 27, 2008 and is part of Windows 7. Its name is a backronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open. Intended to be a cleaner, more powerful, more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing user interface than the previously used theme (Luna), it includes new translucency, live thumbnails, live icons, animations and eye candy. Aero also encompasses a set of user interface design guidelines for Microsoft Windows.
Until the release of Windows Vista Beta 1 in July 2005, little or nothing had been shown of Aero in public or leaked builds. Previous user interfaces were Plex, which was featured in Longhorn builds 3683-4039; Slate, which was featured in build 4051 and was available until build 4093; and Jade (builds 4074, 4083 and 4093, actually an early preview of Aero). Microsoft started using Aero in public builds in build 5048. The first build with full-featured Aero was build 5219. Build 5270 (released in December 2005) contained an implementation of Aero which was virtually complete, according to sources at Microsoft, though a number of stylistic changes were introduced between then and the operating system's release.
Originally, Aero was to have three levels available, one code-named "To Go", which had the Desktop Window Manager (DWM) composition engine (previously known as DCE) disabled. The next was to be AeroExpress, lacking many features of the highest level code-named Aero Glass. However, in December 2005, Microsoft announced that there would only be two levels available, "Windows Vista Aero" and "Windows Vista Basic", with the previous "Express" level integrated into the new "Windows Vista Aero" level. A control panel was added to enable the user to fine tune this functionality, such as being able to turn off the "glass" translucency effect. These levels are provided so that the Aero interface (to some extent) can be used with a relatively low-end graphics card.
Wizard 97 had been the prevailing standard for wizard design, visual layout, and functionality used in Windows 98 through to Windows Server 2003, as well as most Microsoft products in that time frame. Aero Wizards are the replacement for Wizard 97, incorporating visual updates to match the aesthetics of the rest of Aero, as well as changing the interaction flow.
Notifications allow an application or operating system component with an icon in the system tray to create a pop-up window with some information about an event or problem. These windows, first introduced in Windows 2000 and known colloquially as "balloons", are similar in appearance to the speech balloons that are commonly seen in comics. Balloons were often criticized in prior versions of Windows due to their intrusiveness, especially with regard to how they interacted with full-screen applications such as games (the entire application was minimized as the bubble came up) . Notifications in Aero aim to be less intrusive by gradually fading in and out, and not appearing at all if a full-screen application or screensaver is being displayed – in these cases, notifications are queued until an appropriate time. Larger icons and multiple font sizes and colors are also introduced with Aero's notification windows.
The Segoe UI typeface is the new default font for Aero with languages that use Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic character sets. The default font size is also increased from 8pt to 9pt to improve readability. In the Segoe UI typeface, the numeral zero ("0") is narrow, while capital letter "O" is wider, and numeral one ("1") has a top hook, while capital letter "I" has equal crown and base.
The Vista User Experience Guidelines also address the issue of "tone" in the writing of text used with the Aero user interface. Prior design guidelines from Microsoft had not done much to address the issue of how user interface text is phrased, and as such, the way that information and requests are presented to the user had not been consistent between parts of the operating system.
Research done by Microsoft informed them that users were finding Windows difficult to use and understand. Users were dissatisfied or felt insulted or patronised because of the phrasing of some messages. In particular, computer terminology and jargon were overused and used inconsistently, creating a barrier to understanding for newer users.
The guidelines for Vista and its applications suggest messages that present technically accurate advice concisely, objectively, and positively, and assume an intelligent user motivated to solve a particular problem. Specific advice includes the use of the second person and the active voice (e.g. "Print the photos on your camera") and avoidance of words like "please" and "sorry".
Microsoft has listed the following requirements for what they call a Vista Premium Ready PC. A PC that meets or exceeds these requirements will be able to use the new Aero technologies.
The minimum requirements for graphics cards from the major vendors include the Radeon 9500 from ATI Technologies, the GeForce FX series from NVIDIA, and even the Intel GMA 950. Though the last driver from NVIDIA to support the GeForce FX series on Vista was 96.85 http://www.nvidia.com/object/winvista_x86_96.85_2.html, Microsoft's WDDM drivers for NVIDIA graphics continue to support the GeForce FX series; NVIDIA's current WDDM drivers support the GeForce 6 and later series. Though some of XGI Technology's Volari GPUs supported DirectX 9, no Microsoft WDDM drivers shipped with Vista and XGI has exited the graphics card business, so Volari cards apparently will not work with Windows Aero.
Note that though Microsoft has listed 128 MB of Video RAM as a requirement for "Premium Ready" PCs, it does not mean a 128 MB integrated graphics processor is required to run the Aero glass theme. A 64 MB integrated graphics processor, combined with at least 1 GB of system memory, will be able to run Aero at certain resolutions. However, a Vista-specific WDDM driver for any given graphics processor is also required to run the Aero glass theme; these drivers may or may not be available. Users who believe their hardware meets Aero's minimum graphics requirements are encouraged to check their graphics processor manufacturer's website for a Vista-specific driver if they are unable to run the theme.
Windows Aero includes many new visual effects and features that will be available in Windows 7:
The rest of aero has been cleaned up and/or tweaked a little.