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This is a list of features new to Windows Vista.

Shell and user interface

Windows Aero

Certain editions of Windows Vista include a redesigned user interface and visual style, named Windows Aero (Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open). Aero is designed to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows versions, including glass-like transparencies and window animations. Windows Aero also features a new default font, Segoe UI, with a slightly larger size, a streamlined style for wizards, and a change in the tone and phrasing of most of the dialogs and control panels.

In addition to the Windows Aero visual style, Windows Vista Home Basic includes an exclusive "Windows Vista Standard" theme which has the same hardware requirements as "Windows Aero", and therefore uses Desktop Window Manager for desktop composition, but does not include the ability to generate live thumbnails of running applications, nor does it allow the transparency of the window frame. As a result, 3D effects and other features associated with live thumbnails are not included with this theme.

Included with all versions, there is a "Windows Vista Basic" theme which does not use desktop composition, and is geared towards lower-end machines that are not able to use Desktop Window Manager; this theme being comparable to Windows XP's Luna theme. Finally Vista includes "Windows Classic" and "Windows Standard" themes which are similar to the classic themes in Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Windows Aero is not available in Windows Vista Home Basic and Starter editions, although Desktop Window Manager is included in Windows Vista Home Basic.

Start menu

The Start menu has undergone major changes in Windows Vista, with the taskbar icon no longer labeled "Start"; rather, it has the Windows pearl orb. At the top level, the Start menu, as in Windows XP, has two columns of menu choices. Under the default configuration, the "Run," and "Printers" options do not appear. However, those items can be added to the Start menu. One major addition is a search box where users may begin typing immediately. The contents of the Start menu itself are indexed and searchable, besides the global search index. If indexing is turned on, the search box returns results on-the-fly as users type into it. This allows the Start menu to act as a fast and powerful application launcher. The Start menu search also doubles as the Run command from previous versions of Windows; simply typing any command will execute it. The Run command can also be added separately to the right column in the Start menu.

Another major change to the Start menu in Windows Vista is that it no longer presents the "All programs" menu as a horizontally expanding cascading list which utilizes the entire screen space. Rather, it is presented as a nested folder view with a fixed size. The list of submenus and single items appears over the left column contents with a Back button below it. Submenus expand and collapse vertically within the list when single-clicked, in a tree-like fashion similarly to Windows Explorer. Single items appear at the top and folders appear at the bottom. However over a folder does not open it, it has to be clicked.

A limitation of the new Start menu is that subfolders inside the All Programs menu cannot be opened simply by searching or double clicking. Also, as more programs are installed, a vertical scroll bar appears between the two columns. A dynamically changing icon showing the user's display picture by default is present at the top of the right column. It changes as users hover over any other item to reflect that item's icon. The Power button's action is configurable through Power options in the Control Panel, though the default setting is to put the computer into Sleep mode. Users can quickly lock their user account by pressing the Lock button. Additional power and account related actions are listed in a sub-menu which appears when the small arrow next to the Lock button is clicked.

Like Windows XP, Windows Vista allows users to switch back to the previous version of Start menu, first introduced in Windows 95.

Windows Explorer

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