Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

A Little Bit of Personality

A Little Bit of Personality

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Greetings!  Based on the data we’re seeing we know a lot of folks on MSDN/TechNet/Connect are probably busy using the RC (Release Candidate) for Windows 7.  Thank you!!!  And of course many folks are looking forward to downloading the RC and using it as we expand the downloads—we’re looking forward to the participation and seeing the data that will help us validate the RC.  We’ve talked about making sure that you are “in control” of Windows 7 and one of the ways that people are in control of their PC is to personalize the experience.  With the RC you’re going to see some of the new personalization “elements” in Windows 7.  In this post, Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau of our product design team provide a behind the scenes look at some of the work.  Be sure to check out the links below the images as you can see a lot more work by these talented artists.  Note, these are just thumbnails for this post so be sure to enjoy the full screen images in the RC.  --Steven

PS: Just a reminder, that just as with the pre-beta and beta we’ll be testing out Windows Update and the system for doing patches and updates.  So along with new drivers you might also see some other updates flowing through the system. 

One of the most exciting parts of engineering Windows 7 has been the wide variety of work that gets done over the course of a full product cycle. As evidenced by the variety of topics just in this blog, one can see that we are hard at work at all levels of the product. For fun, we thought folks might enjoy hearing some of the story behind the new personalization work in Windows 7.

As some folks have noticed, we are unveiling some new personalization content (wallpapers, glass colors and sounds schemes) in the RC build which allows people greater flexibility to personalize their experience. One thing we know is that Windows users love to express themselves by changing the desktop background and like many past releases, Windows 7 includes content in the box that allows you to begin customizing your experience immediately.

A picture speaks a thousand words

In developing the personalization features, we knew that we wanted great content for people to express their personal style. Because the desktop background is such a vibrant surface, we wanted to focus on providing quality content that demonstrated how creative people could be with this feature. When folks send us screenshots using the feedback button, we are regularly inspired by the rich diversity and personality of the wallpapers that people choose.

As we thought about how we wanted to approach personalization in Windows 7, we knew one way was to honor our lineage. In the past photography has been featured heavily Windows. Some of that photography has been quite beautiful and has become a proud tradition we wanted to maintain. In addition, we also wanted to explore new territory and expand our visual palette. In the realm of photography, we kept a theme focused on landscape photography which is our tradition, but added new themes for architecture and nature. Much of the this imagery is from our stock imagery partners, but we also had the good fortune to work with a talented local photographer named Will Austin, who has photographed all over the world on many subjects with an emphasis on architecture. Will’s photos provide a little bit of the local flavor of the Seattle area that we are proud to call home.

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Raising the bar of inspiration and delight

With the photography covered, we tried to broaden our coverage to include additional images that would inspire, delight and invigorate people’s imaginations. We wanted to stretch into some new content that felt unique, timely, and with a distinct point of view. Our goal was content that balanced the timelessness of great photography with graphical illustrations that are energetic, modern, and fresh. On top of it all it was also important to achieve a rich variety in the illustrations to appeal to different tastes, genders and ages, color ranges from quiet to loud, and from large compositions to small and detailed.

Inspired by our neighbors in Zune, we worked with an agency called 72 and Sunny to search for illustrators around the world to create one-of-a-kind art work for you to have in Windows 7. In the process of looking through tons of samples, we sought a group of artists whose styles seemed both incredibly varied, to cover the broad diversity we were after, and maintained a common thread that we felt was applicable to the overall tone we were striving to achieve. Then began the fun part, with little more than some simple guiding words (light, energetic, inspiring, optimistic, etc.), the artists went off with a blank canvas to create concept sketches of their original pieces.

Iterate and refine

We still remember the first chance we got to review the artist’s initial sketches and concept work, and right from that moment, we knew that these images were going to be a lot of fun. The next step was to iterate back and forth a few times to make sure certain goals were achieved and get little details just right. For example, a couple of things that were important to us were how the image flowed under the new task bar and striking the right balance between visually compelling, and not too distracting when it came to finding that important file on your desktop. It’s tricky to find the right balance and we were fortunate to have an amazingly talented set of artists and our friends at 72 and Sunny to work with on this project.

Windows is for the whole world

Finally, we wanted to recognize the global audience of Windows by seeking out illustrators with varied backgrounds and styles with the intention of representing and appealing to people all around the world.

With that, we are honored to introduce the amazingly talented artists and the work that they contributed to Windows 7 personalization.

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Yuko Kondo
From Japan, now resides in London, England

 

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Katharina Leuzinger
Born to Swiss and Japanese parents in Zurich, Switzerland, Katharina Leuzinger now resides in London, England

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Osmand Nosse
Wicklow, Ireland

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Klaus Haapaniemi
From Finland, now based in London, England

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Chris Sickles of Red Nose Studios
Indiana, United States

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Punga
Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Pomme Chan
Born and educated in Bangkok, Pomme Chan now resides in London, England.

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Kustaa Saksi
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Paul Hwang and Benjamin Lee of Nanosphere
Los Angeles, California

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Adhemas Batista
From Sao Paulo Brazil, now resides in Los Angeles, California

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Kai and Sunny
London, England

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Nan Na Hvass
Born to a Danish father and Chinese mother in Swaziland, Africa, Nan Na Hvass now resides in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We hope this post has given you some insight into the Windows 7 content. We also hope that we achieved the goals we set out for ourselves with this element of Windows 7.

-Denise Trabona and Samuel Moreau

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  • (With all due respect to the artists), it's not that I don't appreciate good art but I can see where the effort is going instead of providing half-decent features like for instance, a usable file manager or taskbar. Here I am totally unhappy about how Windows Explorer has turned out to be Windows 7 and Microsoft is interested in enhancing the personalization experience which keeps you in control and lets you vibrantly express yourself.

    Where is the user in control when: (straight from Wikipedia)

    -  The user can't create a secondary file association action which he would in Windows XP.

    -  The user can't set security properties/ACLs/permission on multiple items from Properties because there is no Security tab like Windows XP for multiple files or folders.

    -  The user can't add or remove toolbar actions in Explorer, can't change their order as was possible in Windows XP.

    -  The user can't do anything about metadata unless developers write shell metadata handlers unlike Windows XP.

    -  Useful and powerfull shell extensions like Folder size won't work.

    -  Windows 7 makes it deliberately and extremely difficult to view small useful information like file size and free space when it should be available to the user at one glance. This was available in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot turn off autosorting of files if even he's finding it extremely hard to work with when dealing with large number of files, unlike Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot execute multiple actions on a set of files from the GUI which was possible in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot press Shift to bypass autologon as was possible in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot see set multiple connection icons, cannot customize connection icons, cannot view network activity using indicators, cannot access connection status quickly from the connection icon all of which was possible in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot quickly access the Network Connections folder and actual wired/dial-up connections when it is the most visited places in Windows. It is buried several clicks inside the UI.

    -  The user cannot customize his search using the GUI as could be done in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot disable grouping (placing next to each other) similar taskbar icons, whereas he had a choice up to Windows Vista.

    -  The user cannot disable thumbnail previews as could be done in Windows Vista.

    -  The user cannot disable jumplists in favor of old context menu.

    -  The user cannot group close applications as could be done up to Windows Vista.

    I am getting so sick of the machine-like PR language used here. Microsoft seems to believe they have invented something out of this world by changing Display Properties to "Personalization" and they simply can't enough of it and stop drooling over it since Vista. I don't want more personality, there's no lack of free high quality artwork and "personality" on the internet to help me customize my PC, I want to see genuine concern from Microsoft about certain huge and long-standing issues users have the usability and design of NT 6.x series. Microsoft is only doing lip service and conveniently ignoring these while claiming improved productivity. With so many issues in the core FILE MANAGER! and Taskbar, I don't see how Windows 7 improves upon Windows XP's experience. Windows 7 is a FAILURE to truly address users' concerns. Just because the media and fanboys are showering praise and telling any critics to shut up and shoo off doesn't mean these show-stopping problems don't exist.

    If anyone wants these fixed by RTM, be vocal and send your feedback to Microsoft.

  • The Landscape and US themes are amazing, and it's awesome how you can activate them with a single click!

    Compared to the beta, I'm missing my favorite wallpaper. I was able to copy it from the Beta partition at \Windows\Web\Wallpaper\img9.jpg.

    And there appear to be "hidden" themes in \Windows\Globalization\MCT\ !  The one labelled South Africa is especially nice.

  • Like some of the other posters here, I am a bit skeptical about the addition of this kind of artwork.

    At least two of those artworks - those by Klaus Haapaniemi and especially the one by Punga - come across as creepy rather than pleasant. They certainly don't look neutral and IMO are not something that should be included by default.

    I also must concede that one of the posters (the one with the long name) is right - I do not quite see the point of adding many wallpapers by default at all. There certainly is no lack of suitable, free, beautiful wallpapers on the web. Anyone interested in personalizing his desktop will most likely find his pick there.

  • @TheDesperationOfAntiMicrosoft

    Some of those sound like good points, but some are questionable or just flat out false:

    -  Useful and powerfull shell extensions like Folder size won't work.

    Sounds like it would be up to said shell extensions' developers to fix them - or wait to see if they work in the RTM release. Have you reported these issues to the PROPER channels?

    -  Windows 7 makes it deliberately and extremely difficult to view small useful information like file size and free space when it should be available to the user at one glance. This was available in Windows XP.

    I have no idea what this means. These details are all visible on screen by default, in columns, tiles, detail windows, and tooltips. How could it be easier?

    -  The user cannot execute multiple actions on a set of files from the GUI which was possible in Windows XP.

    What does this mean?

    -  The user cannot quickly access the Network Connections folder and actual wired/dial-up connections when it is the most visited places in Windows. It is buried several clicks inside the UI.

    Click the network icon in the notification area, click Network and Sharing Center, click Change adapter settings. I count three clicks. Wasn't it three clicks before?

    -  The user cannot customize his search using the GUI as could be done in Windows XP.

    I see lots of GUI for customizing search. What does this mean?

    -  The user cannot disable grouping (placing next to each other) similar taskbar icons, whereas he had a choice up to Windows Vista.

    False. Just not true at all.

    -  The user cannot disable jumplists in favor of old context menu.

    Jump lists do not replace context menus. The context menus are still there. Jump lists are menus for the shortcut/group, the context menus are still there for each individual instance.

    -  The user cannot group close applications as could be done up to Windows Vista.

    Wrong. Not true.

    Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. And - if you choose to - I wouldn't suggest blindly reposting it.

  • Well, Windows 7 themes are cool and will be no lesser hit than Windows 98 themes =).

    Would we get finishing touches on icons? It could be pretty nice if main icons (like My Computer, Recycle Bin, Folder, etc) were slightly restyled like Windows Update icon was.

    That will make Windows 7 less like Vista :).

  • Hi Guys,

    I don't know if this actually the right please to leave comments on the ui of windows 7. Yesterday I saw a blog about the changes in the UI since RC1 but I lost the link so I put my comments here.

    First off all. Windows 7 Rules, it is actually even better than leopard! And 1000 times better than vista. But there are a 2 things I'd really like to see changed:

    1. I'm a fervent user of dual screen. with areopeek, you made the great feature to span the window horizontally for 50%. But for example on my left monitor it isn't possilble to span the window for 50% on the right side.

    2. My laptop isn't very energy efficient. And windows 7 it (still) gives a shorter battry time than with xp. But I noticed that that I can use my laptop longer on the battery when I disble DWM and the Windows Search service. Is it possible to add an option to set the powerplan so that when I unplug my power cable, the DWM and Windows Seach service will be automaticly disabled.

    Thank you were much. Say it if this the wrong place to post my comments and sorry for my crappy english. I'm Dutch

  • I'm going to repost a few of the bullet points that @TheDesperationOfAntiMicrosoft is spot on. It is borderline insulting to dedicate a post to personalization when key customization features are missing. I really hope that at least one PM from the Windows Explorer group reads this comment and consider most of these issues.

    - The user can't create a secondary file association action which he would in Windows XP.

    - The user can't set security properties/ACLs/permission on multiple items from Properties because there is no Security tab like Windows XP for multiple files or folders.

    -  The user can't add or remove toolbar actions in Explorer, can't change their order as was possible in Windows XP.

    -  The user cannot turn off autosorting of files if even he's finding it extremely hard to work with when dealing with large number of files, unlike Windows XP.

    Please, I think several users agree with me on the first bullet point, as proved here:

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itproui/thread/8463dbfe-52f3-4cd2-9118-f07323a83d6e/

    Please, somebody at Microsoft, restore the advanced customization features!

  • We might distinguish between customization and personalization.  This post is about personalization--like picking the color of a car, bumper stickers, and so on.  Customization is more like putting on different shocks, new wheels, changing out engine parts.  Windows supports both of course, and pretty extensively.

    Personalization is "to change something to reflect personality".  Customization is "to alter something to make it fit somebody's wishes".  Of course one person's customization might be another person's personalization and we definitely understand that.

    There are many places where we know people want to do more and more to alter Windows--that is to change the way it works.  We're always trying to balance compatibility and robustness with the set of items that can be reliably customized.  We definitely understand the feedback that some elements of customization have changed from release to release.  We've also done work to listen and add some of the elements that have been discussed.  

    Where we make engineering tradeoffs is in how much customization to provide support for because each new release we run the risk of blocking further advances as the combinatorics of what is allowed can get unmanageable very quickly.

    Many people have enjoyed the ability to personalize Windows and this post was about some of the work we did to allow this broad set of folks to reflect their personality in Windows.

    --Steven

  • Oh come on! Get a real OS all of you people.

    The Illustrations are really, really great, but i don't think they are good wallpaper material. They are intrusive, distractive and really complex. The only things that MS gets mildly right are the ones that they copy from other OSs.

  • Hi Steven

    Nice backgrounds, I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it. Very nice.

    As you can see there are a lot of people here (and on the Internet) that care about Windows 7 and that they vent a lot of anger. Mostly regarding the explorer. And yes they are right.

    MS should reconize that pain (mostly caused by Vista => MS) and act on that, don't you agree? This is not about engineering tradeoffs. That sounds almost like an excuse not to act.

    I really hope that MS listen to the comments on this blog and the other blogs to make number 7 the best ever. We don't mind 3 other rc's.

    Sincerly Ed,

  • Well there was never a post on Windows Explorer on this blog (maybe MS didn't think the file manager was important enough). These are issues since the Vista betas that have been ignored, not a single one I've listed above (XP->Vista) has been fixed, documented in MSDN as to why the change was made or the feature was completely eliminated.

    @nwoolls, let me clarify some of the issues which you (and MS) might not have understood:

    - Developers can only "fix" shell extensions or redesign them if a way exists. In case of Folder size, Microsoft removed the IColumnProvider interface that broke the shell extension. The replacement, the Property system was probably introduced to enumerate properties out of the process and asynchronously, rather than using shell-item specific IColumnProviders, however it doesn't have a way to display dynamic data, only metadata.

    - Not everyone uses Details view and even in Details view, size is only shown in KB instead of MB or GB. Where is the size on the status bar? Why are there now two clicks required just to see size on the Details pane?

    - "Network Connections" was earlier accessible from the Start menu (1 click), or right-click notification area. Same goes for connections/connection status/connection properties.

    - Executing multiple actions on a set of files means selecting more than 1 item in Explorer and performing the same operation on all of them. Even if this had concerns like accidentally triggering some action, Windows XP warned the users before performing the action. Now it is removed altogether.

    - In XP, search parameters could be set using a GUI. Vista reduced the customization from the UI instead forcing the user to remember the advanced query syntax, which isn't even present in Vista's documentation but instead is located online.

    - Try setting your taskbar icons to "Never combine" mode and then try separating two IE windows or any two windows of the same app. Not possible in Windows 7.

    - The user cannot group close applications as could be done up to Windows Vista. In XP/Vista, try holding down Ctrl and click to select multiple taskbar items. That too isn't possible under Windows 7.

    I am not believing everything I read on the Internet and blindly posting. These are serious usability issues several users are having everywhere since the release of Vista (a simple web search will reveal more). Why were things moved around and thrown away if they weren't broken at all?

  • I love the variety of themes in Windows 7, and customizing is one of the first things I do when I install a new version of the OS.

    This is my favorite Windows 7 theme, and I actually wish it was part of the OS: http://blogs.msdn.com/mswanson/archive/2009/01/25/my-windows-7-theme-pack.aspx

  • "We’ve talked about making sure that you are “in control” of Windows 7 and one of the ways that people are in control of their PC is to personalize the experience."

    This statement at the head of the blog summarised not only MS's attitude to the user since Vista, but also the failure to appreciate what "user control" is.

    Changing wallpapers is *nothing whatsoever*, NOTHING to do with my control over my PC.

    Yes, you've got some pretty pictures up there. News: I've been able to put pretty pictures on my desktop for over 20 years now. "New" users simply aren't aware of a time when the desktop wasn't customisable.

    Desperation has made all the salient points here, and should be lauded for them, not avoided. Engineering is about facing difficult decisions, admitting mistakes, and fixing them. Time to stop running away, time to stop focussing on what Marketing or OEM Sales staff want, and start acknowledging and fixing *VERY MAJOR* architecture, interface and usability issues. "Sort by folder size" is something users have been screaming for for decades - not months, or years. DECADES. Sort it out already.

    What affects my control of my PC?

    Focus Stealing: Under no circumstance should any non-elevated or non-kernel process be able to steal focus from the user. UAC should. Some app telling me that a download is complete, or a connection was lost... no. The functionality should simply not exist. There is nothing more fundamentally annoying than being in the middle of typing or using something, only to have another application steal focus because some ******* developer has decided "hey this is important to my application and screw what the user is doing". I don't think it's a wild stab in the dark to suggest that 99% of the time, the focus-stealing app is not telling you anything vitally important - a virus scanner might, but then, I've always believed that virus scanners should get elevated rights granted to the developers by Microsoft-provided security certification.

    It does not get any more basic in terms of "user control" than "only the user gets to decide what they are doing".

    "Default" folders spammed all over the OS partition and virtually cross-referenced against other virtual folders in an endless loop. eg: "Docs & settings" -> "Users\..." -> "Users\whoevertf\Docs & Settings" -> some other record keeping area.

    Mind bogglingly stupid arrangement. I know that's not a nice way of putting it, but it's true. I brought this up during the discussion of "libraries" where I was accused of "not appreciating the power of libraries" when I pointed out that "Libraries" was nothing more than the "My Music" folder relabelled and made needlessly complicated. I have a "Music" folder already, so I don't need Windows to attempt to organise and tell me where my stuff is. I know where it is - I put it there! More to the point, if the OS gets corrupted, or needs to be re-installed, or the registry goes titsup, guess what happens to the oh-so-useful "Library"? You've got it - it's buggered. Guess what happens to my backed-up "Music" folder if Windows gets hammered? Absolutely nothing.

    This is control. Putting my stuff where *I* want it. Using the application *I* want to, when *I* want. Getting at my files by getting *out* of my way instead of shoving "enhancements" *in* my way.

  • See the TURTLE of enormus girth

    on his back he holds the entire earth!

    Way to flashback on the Dark Tower series!

    But I hope that personalisation can be both simple and advanced, some users just change a background, while some customise WMP's colour, set a specific transparency colour then do the background to match that, then go to the toolbars etc.

    One question: can we have changing transparency colours to match changing backgrounds, no one wants a blue and brown system, I think

  • ""Network Connections" was earlier accessible from the Start menu (1 click), or right-click notification area. Same goes for connections/connection status/connection properties."

    This reflects a different philosophy of networking that was introduced with Vista -- the idea being that it's the /networks/ that you're connected to that are most important; the /device/ you use to connect to it is secondary.

    You really should never need to look at your list of network devices on a day-to-day basis.  You're doing something really wrong (or really 1990s) if that's the case.

    Get your network connections set up right... and then Let It Go.

    If you want quick access to the Network Connections control panel on /your/ Windows 7 desktop, hit the Start button, type "Network Connections" and press Enter (or navigate to it by clicking the Network notification area icon, clicking Network and Sharing Center, then clicking "Change adapter settings").  You'll be presented with an Explorer window with your network connections.  Drag the icon to an empty spot on the taskbar, and it will be pinned to the Control Panel icon on the taskbar.  This will also have the effect of pinning the Control Panel icon itself to your taskbar.    

    Now all you have to do is right-click on the control panel icon, and choose "Network Connections".  That's the beauty of Windows 7.... you can pin short-cuts to pretty much everywhere in the Control Panel, and they'll all be collected in one place.

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